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Review: Razer Kishi V2 refines the “gamepad that clamps to phone” concept

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It's not a Razer device unless it's posed next to a bunch of custom RGB lighting, right? In great news, the Razer Kishi V2 includes <em>zero</em> glaring lights, which we prefer here at Ars Technica.
Enlarge / It is not a Razer gadget until it is posed subsequent to a bunch of customized RGB lighting, proper? In nice information, the Razer Kishi V2 consists of zero evident lights, which we desire right here at Ars Technica.

Razer

Within the years because the phrase “don’t you people have phones” turned a Blizzard-mocking meme, I’ve discovered myself actually enjoying extra video video games on my smartphone. (However not Diablo Immortal, which spawned the meme.) Specifically, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Google Stadia, and different cloud-gaming companies have shined as choices on my cellphone when Wi-Fi or 5G reception is respectable.

Whereas choose video games on these companies have on-screen buttons as choices, I will not play with something lower than a bodily gamepad. Till this month, I relied on a standard, slim 8Bitdo gamepad, particularly when touring, however this required a phone-to-gamepad plastic harness—and, gosh, these issues disintegrate when tossed into my baggage. There’s gotta be one thing higher, proper?

Enter the Razer Kishi V2. On the considerably steep price of $100, this clamp-to-your-phone gamepad just isn’t a slam-dunk advice for anybody who does not frequently play console-styled video games on their cellphone. However it will get nearer to incomes that worth than Kishi’s 2020 version.

A quick primer on the last-gen Kishi

The original Kishi model from 2020. Notice all the plastic stuff on the bottom? That makes it hard to connect certain smartphones.
Enlarge / The unique Kishi mannequin from 2020. Discover all of the plastic stuff on the underside? That makes it laborious to attach sure smartphones.

Razer

Technically, the primary Kishi is even older than that. Razer’s debut Kishi mannequin was a rebrand of the Gamevice gamepad, which launched in 2017 for the iPhone 6 technology. When Razer and Gamevice collaborated on a controller, it got here in two variations: Android, with a USB Kind-C port, and iOS, with a Lightning port.

In both case, customers are anticipated to show their smartphone sideways, then join half to the gamepad’s port. Pull the gamepad’s different half, and a tension-based mechanism will let it stretch to suit over the opposite aspect of your cellphone. As soon as absolutely clasped, you’ve a makeshift Change-like choice to your smartphone: joysticks, triggers, and “bumpers” on each side, a D-pad on the left, and an ABXY button array on the precise.

Kishi V2 (top), Kishi V1 (bottom).
Enlarge / Kishi V2 (high), Kishi V1 (backside).

Sam Machkovech

Like different Gamevice controllers, the 2020 Kishi V1’s finest perks included strong joysticks and an easy-to-fold cut up design in order that you could possibly clasp its halves collectively when disconnected from a cellphone to suit it extra simply in a crowded a bag. However the remainder of its buttons left me fairly unmoved; the strain on the analog triggers felt low cost, and its D-pad and ABXY button array have been mushy.

Worse, the primary Kishi’s extendable strap system provides a specific amount of plastic bulk that is not appropriate with some cellphone fashions (notably the “digicam bump” discovered on newer Pixel telephones) or does not lengthen far sufficient to assist bigger smartphones.

A unique type of moveable gaming “swap”

A high-res peek at the Kishi V2.
Enlarge / A high-res peek on the Kishi V2.

Razer

This month’s Kishi V2, which was made with out Gamevice’s involvement, solves each single criticism on the above record (except solely having an Android mannequin out there as of press time). My favourite half about Razer’s new mannequin is an improve to clicky microswitches, which actually aren’t widespread sufficient in fashionable gamepads. When you’ve ever used a Neo Geo Pocket, you realize precisely what I am speaking about: They’re responsive and noticeably loud.

This results in a dramatic enchancment in responsiveness and luxury for the D-pad, ABXY array, and bumpers. As somebody who likes to pack a couple of favourite 8- and 16-bit video games on an Android emulator, I’m pleased to report that the feeling of tough 2D platforming challenges within the likes of Mega Man advantages from these new buttons’ steadiness of measurement, spacing, and button-press journey. Kishi V2’s analog triggers have additionally been revised, and whereas they get nowhere close to the satisfying default pressure of an Xbox or PlayStation gamepad, their considerably hole urgent sensation is a marked enchancment over the primary Kishi’s tense-yet-flimsy triggers.

A photo to clarify my point about distance between the ABXY array and the joystick; Kishi V2 as compared to a Switch Joy-Con.
Enlarge / A photograph to make clear my level about distance between the ABXY array and the joystick; Kishi V2 as in comparison with a Change Pleasure-Con.

Sam Machkovech

Regardless of liking the button enhancements, I’ve a nitpick. Kishi V2’s ABXY array is 1.5 mm nearer to the right-side joystick than the identical association on an ordinary Nintendo Change Pleasure-Con. In consequence, an adult-sized thumb can count on to by chance contact Kishi V2’s right-side joystick whereas specializing in old-school ABXY button faucets—until you rotate your thumb placement to compensate. Adjusting for this felt a bit unnatural for me, and I may see this being a deal-breaker for sure arms, however I nonetheless desire Kishi V2’s ABXY use case greater than the unique Kishi by a longshot.

Additionally, I desire the Kishi V1’s joysticks, that are the tiniest bit smaller than what you will discover on an Xbox gamepad however in any other case copy these strong joysticks’ thumb really feel and pressure. Kishi V2’s joysticks feel and look equivalent to these discovered on a Change Pleasure-Con, proper right down to the tiny notches in every cardinal route. Thus far, they have been fully serviceable in first-person shooters that require cautious purpose and frequent joystick-pressing clicks. However my testing has not been in depth sufficient to find out whether or not Kishi V2 homeowners ought to count on mechanical failures that resemble the dreaded Pleasure-Con drift subject.

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