Mobile gaming is still finding its way. We’re definitely getting higher caliber mobile games than we’ve ever had. However, there is still a long way to go. Software controls are still a little clunky with a lot of genres, particularly shooters and platformers. It is still more preferable to play with a hardware controller over software controls.
The Razer Raiju Mobile controller may be a positive step in that direction. We had the opportunity to play with Razer’s latest piece of mobile gaming hardware over the weekend and we’d like to share our thoughts with you.
The Razer Raiju Mobile is a mobile gaming controller with a cradle for your smartphone along with both wired and wireless options. The front is your standard modern controller layout with a d-pad, two joysticks, and four buttons. The bottom-center of the front houses four more buttons, including the typical start and select buttons as well as a home and back button for controlling your Android phone. Moving around the back shows two hidden buttons right around where your fingers rest while holding the controller. There is also a switch back there where players can switch between two Bluetooth modes or wired mode. The top houses a ridiculous six shoulder buttons — four normal buttons and two triggers.
The top-center of the device houses a phone cradle that tilts up to 60 degrees, while a phone is actively resting in the cradle. The controller is housed in textured plastic, which actually feels really nice. Obviously we don’t recommend dropping this from any height onto any surface, especially with the added heft of a phone in the cradle. Like any plastic controller, we imagine that it does not have good relationships with hardwood floors.
The Razer Raiju Controller comes with two USB Type-C cables in the box. The first is a longer cable for connecting your controller to a power source. You also get a shorter cable for direct connections to your phone for use in wired mode. Both cables come with some snazzy caps for dust prevention. Razer claims the device gets up to 23 hours per charge with up to a four hour charge time.
There are two modes for the Razer Raiju Controller, the first of which is your standard Bluetooth mode. The controller can remember two total devices, and you can switch between those two with the switch on the back. The pairing sequence is simple enough and works exactly like Bluetooth headphones. Just hit the home and start buttons to initialize pairing mode and you’re off to the races.
The Bluetooth pairing worked on the first try without any difficulties. We did notice that switching from wired to Bluetooth and back again — as one is wont to do during testing — can mess up the connection. However, turning the device off and back on again always fixed it. There is also an official app for the Razer Raiju Mobile controller. It allows you to re-map several of the controller’s buttons and adjust the sensitivity of the joysticks. It’s super basic, but it worked well and we thought it was a nice touch.
The Razer Raiju Mobile controller has an excellent feel. Most of the controller is covered in a textured plastic and it adds some grip. Each joystick has a rougher, rubberized coating for even better grip and all of the individual buttons are glossy plastic. The back of the controller is textured differently for better grip. You can see from the image above that it’s about as big as an Xbox One controller and a little larger than a PlayStation 4 controller. It has a good weight to it, even with a phone as large as the Galaxy Note 9 nestled in its cradle.
The cradle itself has no noticeable problems. It clicks as you adjust it and stays wherever you leave it. It fit all of our tester devices without any problems, although the Galaxy Note 9 was a bit of a squeeze. Once the phone is in the cradle, you can move the cradle forward to change the angle if you need to. Each button has a light, satisfying click that leaves no doubts that you actually hit the button. The triggers have a smooth pull very similar to the second generation Xbox One controllers. There is also an optional hair-trigger mode for actuating the triggers more quickly. The switches for that mode are on the back of the controller.
Holding the controller is simply delightful. I am a 5’10” male with mostly average measurements. My hands fit firmly around this thing and I experienced no noticeable discomfort, even over a longer playing session. If I had nitpicks, I’d say that I prefer the more meaty button presses of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers versus the light click of the Razer Raiju Mobile buttons, but this is just a preference.
We played a few games from Razer’s list of supported games. including Riptide GP Renegade, Final Fantasy IV, and Alto’s Odyssey. For kicks, we also tried out the ePSXe emulator as well as the unsupported Gunstar Heroes, just to see how it’d react. Here are our observations:
- Games with official support use the controller beautifully with no discernible issues. The button layouts were generally logical and it never took long to figure out the controls. Some games seem to like to use multiple buttons for the same action, but this wasn’t a problem during our testing.
- Games and emulators not on Razer’s compatibility list are a mixed bag. Gunstar Heroes failed conclusively while ePSXe worked, but it required quite a bit of tedious configuration. Straying outside of Razer’s compatibility list results in a mixed experience overall.
- We found that we frequently hit buttons on accident. In particular, the two paddle buttons in the back are super easy to press as are the non-trigger shoulder buttons. Thankfully, those buttons don’t really do much in any of the games we tested, but this thing is seriously covered in buttons.
- Speaking of the paddle buttons, they actually don’t get use from the games. They let you adjust the sensitivity of the joysticks on the fly. This is configurable in the Razer Raiju Mobile app, although we really only noticed a difference when our paddles were set to a very different sensitivity from our default setting. These are definitely better for quick, large adjustments rather than subtle ones. Additionally, two of the shoulder buttons as well as the start and select buttons are configurable in the mobile app as well.
- The hair trigger setting on the controller also worked as expected.
- It doesn’t just work for the Razer Phone 2. We tested it with a Samsung Galaxy Note 9 as well as a Pixel XL and it worked fine.
It feels like we should have said more here. However, there just isn’t much to say. When the game supported the controller and everything connected properly, the experience was basically flawless. It’s not a panacea for mobile gaming’s horrible record of controller support, but that’s hardly Razer’s fault.
Recommendations and price
We’re going to just pull the band-aid off quickly. This thing costs $149.99. The Xbox One controller (pictured above) was $99.99 and a PlayStation 4 controller runs for $59.99. Then again, the Xbox One Elite controller with hair trigger locks also costs $149.99 so there is some context to support the Raiju Mobile’s price tag. Even so, it’s difficult to recommend this to casual gamers at that price. There are a few instances where we might recommend this to someone:
- Those with multiple devices who also play a bunch of games. For instance, this controller should work well with Android TV as well as most mobile and tablet devices. One game controller for all of your devices may be worth the investment to some people.
- Hardcore mobile gamers who want a controller with uncommon features like button re-mapping and hardware hair trigger locks.
- Anyone who plays a sizable number of the games on Razer’s supported games list and wants a controller they are sure will work with those titles.
Of course, this is basically a first impressions post, so we can’t comment on anything like long term durability. The uncommon features, sleek looks, plentiful buttons, and excellent feel while gaming make a compelling case for the more hardcore mobile gamer much like the Xbox One Elite controller does for Xbox’s more hardcore player base. For better or worse, Razer knows exactly what kind of consumer they’re targeting with those features at that price. Casual mobile gamers may want to try something a little bit cheaper.
The Razer Raiju Controller is definitely a positive force in the mobile gaming industry. It’s also priced outside of the sensibilities of most casual mobile gamers. Still, this is an excellent controller with no major flaws out of the box with an excellent feel and experience. Of course, we can’t comment on the long term durability of it because we only had it a few days. If you happen to be one of the folks that don’t mind the price, you can learn more from Razer’s website!