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Razer Kishi review: The perfect Xbox companion

A few months ago I took the plunge and tried Xbox Game Streaming on my Samsung Galaxy S9. I didn’t expect it to work at all, and certainly didn’t expect it to work as well as it did. I knew that many Android devices supported Microsoft’s ambitious attempt at console streaming and cloud gaming (the latter is not yet currently available for Xbox in Australia), but I didn’t ever really consider it to be a viable alternative.

Additionally, I’ve never been one to invest in or even really be interested in the Nintendo Switch as a platform in isolation, but I was intrigued about the idea behind portable gaming of current-gen AAA gaming. As an avid Overwatch player, I was admittedly jealous of Switch owners being able to play my favourite game on the train.

razer kishi review

When I first trialled Xbox console streaming — that is, streaming my console to my phone — via the Xbox Streaming Beta app, I was truly astonished at how well it worked. I’ve been using OneCast, a popular third-party app on Mac OS for quite some time, but still craved a truly portable gaming experience, one that didn’t require my using a clunking MacBook Pro. But I knew of the challenges of game streaming, with latency issues a constant plague upon the house of many an inventive and curious gamer such as myself.

Therein lied the immediate issue I faced with console streaming. I could easily hook my controller up to my Android, and stream my console to my S9, but I couldn’t reasonably play a Competitive game in Overwatch, nor dive into a lengthy Destiny 2 strike without battling that slight albeit still obvious delay in reaction timing. There was also the logistical challenge: I had tried multiple controller clips, some of which worked okay, others which simply made gaming on my phone more of a chore than a genuinely fun experience.

Overall, my Xbox streaming experience was okay, and certainly cool, but it didn’t really solve the core issue for me: that was to transition my Xbox experience from my television experience to a truly on-to-go portable environment. I wanted so desperately to find a solution, because I was prepared to invest in this new way of Xbox gaming.

razer kishi review

By pure chance I came across the Razer Kishi. It was perhaps a moment of pure coincidence, or maybe my browser cookies knowing exactly what I wanted, but suddenly the Kishi was more up in my face than Addison Rae whenever I boot up TikTok. Videos were being recommended, articles were being suggested. Broadly, the coverage seemed positive, fairly reasonable, but it was difficult to separate the genuine from the promoted.

That said, it all seemed so positive, and the sheer functionality and operational elements of this plug-and-go Android controller seemed to just work, so I thought I’d give it a shot. And I have to say that, for the most part, the Razer Kishi is perhaps the best gaming peripheral I’ve ever owned, and is certainly something people need to seriously think about purchasing ahead of the release of the Xbox Series X on November 10.

Kishi and Xbox Game Pass

The Kishi is a match made in heaven with the core Xbox experience. Functionality is literally as simple as stretching it out, plugging it into your device’s USB-C port, and then wrapping the opposite side to the other end of your device. It quite literally turns your phone into a portable Xbox.

razer kishi review

As I mentioned above, Xbox cloud gaming is not yet available in Australia, but I can utilise Xbox Console Streaming via the Xbox beta app, which is now available on the Google Play Store. Once it connects, you’re simply streaming your console’s display to your phone, and navigating just as you would with your normal controller on your TV or monitor.

From a latency perspective, there’s a very clear improvement vs bluetooth connectivity. I’m sure the latency is still there and greater than what you’d experience playing normally via the console and your TV input, but it had no negative impact on my online gaming experiences in Overwatch, Destiny 2 and Modern Warfare.

There are zero caveats here: it is quite literally a plug-and-play experience. You’re extremely more likely to have more issues connecting and setting up your Xbox and network for streaming, than you are with the actual Kishi controller.

razer kishi review

From a design perspective, the button mapping is really not unlike that of the Xbox One controller, simply stretched to adjust to the design of the phone. Shoulder buttons are a bit rough with some resistance, and playing Destiny 2 with a single-fire rifle let’s out a constant stream of shave-like sounds. Far from a deal-breaker, but it’s not the slick “click” you get on the actual Xbox controller, rather a “rougher” grind, if you will, as the shoulder button rides up and down. From a functionality perspective though it does work superbly for the most part, and I adapted rather quickly.

Best Games to play with the Razer Kishi

It’s worth knowing, however, that in stretching that mapping of the controller and buttons, there’s some adjusting here that you may never fully adjust to. I am noticing the same issues with response timing and reactiveness on the Kishi as I do on the Switch, namely with games like Overwatch and Modern Warfare. The former is playable, don’t get me wrong, but you can certainly tell that it’s designed to be played with a normal controller. The same goes for Call of Duty. I simply can’t react fast enough on the Kishi with these games.

However, Destiny 2 is the absolute bomb on my S9 with the Kishi. It plays and runs like an absolute dream, and I’ve never found myself in a situation where a quick reaction has led to a wrong button press, or an ackward rearrangement of my hand placement. It may well be the best and only multiplayer game that transitions over to the Kishi without a hitch.

razer kishi review

The same can be said for racing games — I’ve played a bunch of Forza Horizon 4 with my Kishi and it’s been a blast — and the likes of Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and NBA 2K21 all function well without any obvious issues or experience concerns.

It’s that for whatever reason, I couldn’t really refine the way I reacted or played Overwatch, which is a shame, but probably to be expected given you’re fundamentally changing how the game is played. Not so much a Razer issue as it is a player issue: just be mindful that some games may not make for a great transition to the phone and Kishi, whereas other games transition perfectly and offer a legitimate portable Xbox experience.

Kishi Xbox vs Kishi Android

This is something I’ve been asked a few times since receiving my Kishi. There are two Kishi’s on the market: one is known as the “Android” Kishi, and the other the “Xbox” Kishi. The difference between the two is simply aesthetic: the Android version has generic buttons although still has the Y-B-A-X button axis, whereas the Xbox version is an official Xbox offering with the menu and such buttons all marked as such.

razer kishi review

At first thought this may not seem worth the extra $20-$50 for the Xbox version, but I’d argue that it probably is worth the extra just to have the Xbox branding. I don’t mean it from a branding perspective, either: I can see how it would actually make a difference to the experience.

I have the Android version, and for whatever reason my brain just can’t process the location of the menu button. On my Xbox One controller I know where it is without looking, but on the Kishi I have to actually look down to see it, every single time. I’m sure with time I’ll get comfortable, but it’s bit like people who, regardless of how intelligent they are, for whatever reason can’t process their “left” and “right” immediately. My brain is wired to recognise and know the placement of Xbox buttons, and so having generic triangles on the Android version throws me off a bit.

So if you have the choice, I’d recommend investing in the Xbox version. Just a reminder though that from a technical and functionality perspective they are exactly the same. It’s purely aesthetic, which for some of you may actually align with your mechanical understanding and responding to the controller.

razer kishi review

Compatible phones

The Razer Kishi requires Android 8.0 or higher, and the following devices:

Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S9, S9+, S10, S10+, Note 8, Note 9, Note 10+, Google Pixel 2, 2 XL, 3, 3 XL, 4 and 4 XL. Some Android devices with USB-C with similar dimensions may also work.

The Final Verdict

This might seem like an outrageous claim, but I genuinely believe the Razer Kishi is the best Xbox peripheral you can buy right now. As a family man with a young child, and only one television set, it’s been great to be able to turn to the portability the Kishi offers to allow for spontaneous bursts of gaming. It also allows for some Destiny 2 strikes in bed, which, let’s be honest, is just an unbeatable scenario. If you have tested Xbox console streaming or cloud gaming and they work for you, and you have a compatible device, please go out and purchase the Razer Kishi right now. You won’t regret it.

Razer provided a Razer Kishi to Fenix Bazaar for the sake of this review.

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