Those of us invited to test out Project xCloud and its Xbox Game Streaming from either the cloud or your own console, have until now been told to pair an Xbox One controller with our compatible Android phones. But let's face it, strapping your phone into a cradle perched atop a controller has never been the most elegant of solutions.
The dream of many is something like the Nintendo Switch, but for Xbox. It's something we've talked about before, but now it's a little closer to being a reality. The Razer Junglecat is one of the first third-party controllers we've used with Project xCloud, and it's already my favorite way to play after only a couple of days.
It's basically an Xbox Switch
The Junglecat paired with my Razer Phone 2 looks a lot like a Nintendo Switch. There is zero denying that. But that's totally fine, because I love my Switch Lite, and I know for sure I'm not alone among Xbox fans with an admiration for Nintendo's handheld.
Nintendo did a lot right with the original Switch design, with the detachable Joycons, and it's this that the Junglecat mimics in its own way. The analog sticks and face buttons are in a different location, but the principle is the same. Right down to the little block you can attach each half of the Junglecat to use it as a detached controller.
I don't recommend using the Junglecat in this way because the pieces aren't as big as a Switch Joycon, which makes it more awkward to use. But when snapped to the side of your phone, you've got a lightweight, extremely portable games console. It's comfortable to use, and every aspect of the Xbox One controller can be mimicked by this. The ABXY buttons are even in the correct places, not the Nintendo Switch's very wrong places.
Performance from the Junglecat is identical to that of an Xbox controller.
Its primary reason to exist, of course, is Android gaming, but the Xbox Game Streaming app recognizes the Junglecat as it would an Xbox One controller and to use is flawless in its performance. The sticks feel incredibly close to those of the Switch, so they're good, and the bumpers, triggers, and face buttons are nice and clicky. Performance-wise there is absolutely no difference between the Junglecat and the Xbox One controller.
The big difference in using the Xbox One controller is the convenience. Like a Switch, it's much easier to tote around in a pocket or bag, and personally, I prefer this form factor tenfold over using a phone strapped to a full-sized controller.
Great but not perfect
This isn't a review, because I've only had the Junglecat a couple of days, but there are a couple of things that I'm not fond of, as well as one pretty big elephant in the room.
Starting with the small bits, and at the top of the list is the price. At $100, it's a pretty significant investment, and right now, with xCloud limited to just four games and a small number of markets, it's probably not worth getting just yet if all you want to do is mess around with game streaming. When xCloud is a more polished experience and an actual finished product, that becomes less of an issue, though it's still one of the priciest controllers for any phone.
It's a shame that most phones can't use this thing.
There are also a couple of design choices that I'm not sure about. There's no way to charge both halves of the Junglecat at the same time without using two USB-C cables, for one, and there's also no way to charge your phone at the same time you're playing a game when they're attached to the side of it as there's no power passthrough.
The biggest problem, though, is that while the design is superb, it's impossible to make it available for every different Android phone. The unit I've received from Razer has cases included for the Razer Phone 2, the Samsung Galaxy S10+, and the Huawei P30 Pro. There is a version for the Galaxy Note 9 as well, but that's about your lot for now. Three of those are pretty popular. Still, there's so many different handsets on the market that the Junglecat will never be as universal as just popping a cradle onto a controller.
A future I can get behind
The Junglecat isn't perfect, but right now, it's the closest thing we're going to get to an actual Xbox handheld. And for that purpose, with xCloud in tow, it's very, very good. The controller feels as high-quality as a Nintendo Switch, and so while it's expensive, it's also a quality product.
And I prefer how it feels to game in this form factor over having a phone on a controller. I've never enjoyed that form factor because every phone I've ever tried it on has issues with buttons clashing with the cradle, which means either use it off-center or don't use it at all.
This solves all of that. It's designed from the ground up to be an enjoyable mobile gaming experience. The biggest problem is that not everyone can enjoy it, and that's a shame, but on Android at least, entirely unavoidable.
What the Junglecat does is amp up my own anticipation for the future of Xbox Game Streaming. I love my Switch Lite, but if I can pack this in a bag instead and play The Division 2 or Forza Horizon 4 while I'm out and about, it'll be impossible to put down.
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