The Razer Kishi, a mobile controller that connects to your phone via USB-C, has been out in the wild for about a month now. In a saturated market of Bluetooth controllers for mobile gaming, the Razer Kishi offers a refreshing new approach which takes wireless latency out of the equation. Since our first look and hands-on at CES 2020, we could not wait to review this product, especially with how impressed we were with the Razer Junglecat. Now, the time has come to put the Razer Kishi through its paces in its very own review.
Let’s dive right in.
Build and Comfort
The Razer Kishi features the traditional mainstream game controller layout. You have dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, 4 front-facing action buttons, 2 bumpers, 2 triggers, as well as buttons that can function for Back, Start, and Home. Unlike the symmetrical placement seen on the Razer Junglecat or Gamevice products, the analog sticks on the Razer Kishi follow more of an Xbox stick layout, where the sticks are arranged at different heights on the face of the controller.
The Razer Kishi compresses into a small and portable form-factor when not in use. When you are ready to connect it to your phone, you simply disengage these locks on the back which allows you to stretch out the sides of the controller. The Razer Kishi expands and contracts onto your mobile device, while connecting to your phone via a USB-C port. As long as your phone has a USB-C port close to the center on the bottom of your device, you should be good to go with the Razer Kishi.
While expanding, the Razer Kishi stretches far enough to wrap around even the largest of today’s smartphones. Whether it be as big as a Samsung Galaxy Note10+ or as small as Samsung Galaxy S20, the Razer Kishi has it covered.
The Razer Kishi with the Samsung Galaxy Note10+…
The Razer Kishi with the Samsung Galaxy S20…
Once your device is plugged into the Razer Kishi, the controller turns on automatically and is ready for use. If you are looking to play any game that natively supports controller usage, there are no additional setups required. The Razer Kishi is powered by your phone and starts working immediately. If you are near a power supply, and wish to charge your device while you play, you are welcomed to do that thanks to the Razer Kishi’s pass-through port. Just plug a USB-C power cable into the pass-through port and continue gaming without any regard to your phone’s power level.
As far as comfort and feel goes, the Razer Kishi sports a no-nonsense build, with bouncy tactile buttons and bumpers that are satisfying to press. The controls are as responsive as you would expect from a “wired” controller input, with all aspects of the controller being easy to reach for and finagle. Being as big into fighting games as I am, I am particularly impressed with the Razer Kishi’s d-pad. It is large, snappy, and highly accessible, making all styles of special move inputs easy to pull off.
In terms of phone grip, I found that the larger your device is, the more solid id the hold that the Razer Kishi has on your device. For example, the controller felt naturally sturdier with the Samsung Galaxy Note10+ than it with the smaller Samsung Galaxy S20. That did not mean that the grasp was uncomfortably loose with the S20, it was simply looser in comparison. All of my gaming sessions for the purpose of this review were in fact done with the Razer Kishi and the Samsung Galaxy S20. In terms of comfort, all of my various gaming sessions went swimmingly with this combo.
I did notice that the Razer Kishi seemed to but heads with my InvisibleShield Ultra VisionGuard+ screen protector. After many of my gaming sessions, I would notice that some of my screen protector was being pushed or folded down along the top. This was most likely due to the internal grips on the left side of the controller rubbing against the top of the screen protector. However, this was more of a mild inconvenience, where I was able to rub the screen back into place in seconds. I did not notice this with the Samsung Galaxy Note10+, which had a harder and more shell-like screen. From what I can guess, this seemed only be an issue with smaller devices that used rubbery or “film” screen protectors. That or perhaps my screen protector was loose from the start.
Right off the bat, in terms of usability and responsiveness, I will say that the Razer Kishi impressed on all fronts. Starting off with some AAA titles, I booted up the Xbox Game Streaming app on my S20 to play some Xbox One games while connected to my home wifi. First up, I went with the first-person shooter, Destiny 2.
The thumb sticks and their placement allowed me to enjoy a close to natural Xbox One controller experience. Basic movement, pressing down on the left analog stick for sprinting, and aiming all felt very comfortable with the Razer Kishi. In terms of acquainting myself with the controller’s layout, the Razer Kishi offered practically no learning curve whatsoever.
This was particularly welcomed in an almost-there experience with the Xbox Game Streaming app, where I still feel that first person shooters like Destiny 2 and Gears of War still have some noticeable latency via the app. With Bluetooth controllers, depending on the controller or the level of Bluetooth connectivity, that latency would only be more noticeable.
However, controller to device latency is taken out of the equation when using the Razer Kishi, thanks to its direct connection with your device. This controller truly allowed for the best Xbox Game Streaming gameplay that I have experienced so far.
Where I truly fell in love with the Razer Kishi was with its capacity to handle fighting games. The Razer Kishi houses a highly accessible D-pad coupled with snappy and firm front-facing buttons. This allowed for a very comfortable fighting game experience where pulling off special move inputs felt second-nature. While we are still on the Xbox Game Streaming app, I gave Tekken 7 a hardy bit of play time.
Here, input actuation was much more digestible than it was with FPS’s. As a shameless King of Fighters fanboy, I had no issues relearning Geese and getting close to the level I was with him when he first dropped as DLC.
Continuing with fighting games, then I moved onto Street Fighter IV Champion Edition for Android.
As it was with Tekken 7, quarter-circle, half-circle, dragon-punch, and other standard special move input flowed out with ease. If you like playing fighting games on your USB-C-ready mobile device, the Razer Kishi has you covered.
I decided to push the envelope with games that did not natively support controller usage. I rather missed how the Razer Junglecat’s companion app included the Octopus overlay, which lets you map on-screen touch controls to your connected controller. The Octopus overlay was not included in the Razer Kishi’s companion app this time around.
So, I went ahead and downloaded the paid version of the stand-alone Octopus app. Fair warning, the Octopus app wants practically every permission imaginable, and I was able to get away with not granting controls like voice, camera, contacts, and calendar. I threatens with potential crashing and what-not, so use this at your own risk.
Getting past the permission complaints and errors, I was still able to map controls to the Razer Kishi just like I did with the Razer Junglecat. Just drag and drop Octopus controls over in-game ones, map them to your Razer Kishi, and you now are playing a non-controller game with the Razer Kishi. This allowed me to continue to comfortably play my current favorite mobile game, King of Fighters ALLSTAR. Now live PVP matches do not have to be met with frantic fat-fingering of onscreen controls!
I am no stranger to Bluetooth controllers for mobile gaming, having used and reviewed so many mobile gaming accessories. That said, the direct connectivity of the Razer Kishi alone pushes this controller above the rest. Never having to worry about input lag or device pairing is a luxury with any gaming peripheral. On top of that you have a controller that is comfortable to hold, easy to handle, and just fun to use.
At $79.99, the Razer Kishi for Android is a solid buy for any mobile gamer. It is a highly portable product that lets you take your mobile gaming to the next level. Since it is powered by your device, you never have to worry about charging the controller before you use it. It is especially handy for anyone looking to play via Xbox Game Streaming, where the only latency you have to worry about is between you and the streaming servers.
You can check out the Razer Kishi for Android for yourself by clicking here.
If you are an iPhone user, do not worry about feeling left out! You can check out the Razer Kishi for iPhone for $99.99 by clicking here.
† As usual, there are no affiliate links contained within this post. We were provided a Razer Kishi for Android for review purposes and were not compensated for this review.