Razer’s new Kishi controller dock for Android phones is exactly the device I wanted. It has all the inputs you need to control modern blockbuster games, which makes it ideal for streaming from a local machine or the cloud. But the Kishi also connects directly into your phone through a USB-C connection. This eliminates the pairing procedure as well as wireless input lag. The best part is that the Kishi uses a more universal design than Razer’s previous smartphone-controller dock, the Junglecat. This means it works with a variety of Samsung, Google, and other Android smartphones.
And this device is a worthy accessory for anyone looking to have more control over mobile games. Streaming games is often still a headache, but the Kishi ensures the controller isn’t a problem.
Razer Kishi works well with most Android phones
The Kishi has a more universal design than Razer’s other attempt at a clamp-style mobile controller. Instead of sliding select smartphones into cases that attach to the Junglecat, the Kishi wraps around most phones regardless of size. The key compatibility issue is the location of the USB-C port. As long as your phone as its USB-C header located in the center on the top or bottom, the Kishi should connect without an issue.
My Google Pixel 3A XL slides right in without issue. It also holds in place securely without feeling like it’s going to flop out.
Once connected, the Kishi gives you the full input options of any modern gamepad. It has analog triggers, clickable sticks, and an 8-direction D-pad. And it’s pretty comfortable.
In my hands, the Kishi feels similar to a Nintendo Switch Lite. The sticks are in an ergonomic position and feel nice in action. I think the D-pad is a little mushy and the face buttons are slightly stiff. Also, the shoulder bumpers are difficult to hit if you use your index fingers on the triggers. But they’re also too close to rest your index and middle fingers on simultaneously.
But overall, using the Kishi in games is great, and it’s ergonomic enough to provide for long play sessions.
A smarter design
What I like most about the Kishi is that Razer designed it to fit with how I want to use it. I don’t want to have to charge a mobile controller. Instead, I should just pull it out, attach it, and get to playing. That’s exactly how the Kishi operates.
By connecting directly into the hardware instead of over wireless, the Kishi is easy to set up. You just plug it in and start playing. It also doesn’t have a battery for charging. Instead, it runs off your phone’s battery. If that starts running low, the Kishi has its own USB-C passthrough port for charging while playing.
And while Bluetooth wireless continues to improve, it is often still noticeably laggy. If you’re also casting a game from your PC or the cloud to your phone, that latency begins to stack. And it helps to eliminate that wherever you can.
One frustrating aspect, however, is that I had to remove the case from my Pixel 3A XL to attach the Kishi. I get why — it ensures a tighter fit. But it still makes it slightly less friendly to using on the go.
The Razer Kishi is quite similar to the Gamevice. The difference is that the former promises more compatibility than the latter. You can get a Gamevice that works with a Pixel phone or one that works with Galaxy devices. And that might make the most since if you plan to stick with one brand. But the Kishi seems like it might have a better chance of ongoing support for your next smartphone purchase. And that might give it the edge.
I also significantly prefer the offset analog sticks on the Kishi. That drastically improves comfort for me.
If you want a comfortable and smart controller dock for your Android phone, the Kishi is ideal.
Razer Kishi is available now for $80. Razer provided GamesBeat with a sample unit for the purpose of this review.