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.
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.
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.
The Razer Junglecat is a mobile gaming controller that essentially turns your phone into a Switch.
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Oh, besides having to charge it as two halves, it needs a special case so it supports your phone? Nah, this won't work. The already existing Chinese versions of this probably don't have that problem.
So how do you attach them to the phone properly without such an arrangement? I have a Red Magic 3 phone that has one half of one of these as an attachment, and that still needs special hardware to attach properly to the phone. A first-party accessory. Sure, you can buy a knock off that's going to be poor quality and not actually fit to your phone properly, but personally I prefer to pay more if necessary for a quality product.
Actually quite easily, you could either have each side on a spring loaded backboard, so you can pull them apart but they will move back towards one another effectively "locking" the phone in place, or just have each side freely slide (obviously with some amount of firmness) and have a ledge on the top and bottom of the controller, the top being springloaded so you can pull it out, pop in the phone and then let it come back and hold the phone in place, then you can slide the handles in towards the phone, or even keep them further apart if it's more comfortable. This took me five seconds to think of, all I had to do was think about a car phone holder.
They're exactly like that... In fact, I never quite understood how this Junglecat works otherwise. The article sure doesn't detail it other than mentioning the cases.
So what you're talking about is a kind of wobbly mess? I mean, I get it, if you're not sold on something like this, that's fine. It doesn't make it a bad product.
I'm not sold because it doesn't support my phone. So this product doesn't exist for me.
Not at all, have you never used a phone mount in a car? They literally "grip" the phone, that's like saying that using your hand to hold a phone is a "wobbly mess" it's literally the same principle, pressure is applied to the sides of a device to hold it in place. As an aside, I never said the product was bad I pointed out an alternative means to achieve the same result. You asked a question, I answered it. You then chose to jump down my throat instead of accepting the fact that maybe there is an alternative option that could have been utilised.
Like these holders usually do, with a spring that presses the sides of the phone. It's not elegant but it's universal. Otherwise you get an accesory for just three phones like this one.
I wouldn't be surprised if Razer decided to released 3D printable models for other devices, that'd be the logical thing to do. Or they'll trickle them out and charge people extra.
Also, Richard, to be honest it isn't clear in the article just how the phone trays work. It would be nice that it explained it.
By what I can see there, the case goes on the phone, the controller clips to the case.
At razer HQ
"Hey guys, you know that phone we decided to discontinue? Let's make an accessory for it!"
Of course. You're also forgetting that development time on any product is lengthy. Who knows, maybe there was going to be a Razer Phone 3 in the same form factor that they decided to cancel?
XCloud isn't available in my country. Like so many new Microsoft services and devices... It seems MS will never learn that it's not enough to have a presence in the US, when every competitor has worldwide presence!
Battery/charge management is the biggest issue. The situation of gaming and then having a severely depleted phone battery will be a turn off. The attachments need to be able to charge the phone as well and allow a pass through (with ONE cord) charge. Is the inclusion of a case for the gimped P30 pro odd? Will it be able to have Xbox access without a Play Store?
I suppose it's too much to hope that my Game Vice will be supported at some point? Don't really care about xCloud, more interested in streaming from my One X console.
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