One of my biggest worries about Xbox Game Streaming and Project XCloud has been the lack of ergonomics when it comes to mobile gaming. Touch screen controls are an absolute pain to get accustomed to if you're used to a mouse and keyboard, or a gamepad. Millions (billions?) think it's fine, but I sure as hell don't, and neither do the millions of core gamers Microsoft is hoping to entice with its nascent game streaming services.
That's when the Razer Junglecat caught my eye. This Nintendo Switch-like gamepad docks into a compatible mobile phone case, complete with transforming joysticks. The sticks can be docked separately for a more traditional controller experience, or on the sides of a range of specially-designed cases for mobile devices. And hey, it's compatible with Project XCloud.
I took it for a spin, and came away feeling like I'd caught a glimpse at the future of gaming on mobile devices. Though, the experience is not perfected (yet).
Fixing mobile gaming
Bottom line: The Razer Junglecat makes gaming on mobile devices slightly more bearable, emulating the best of Nintendo Switch portability on your cell phone. Providing you have the correct cellphone, that is.
- Great connectivity
- Light and portable
- Easy to set up, with familiar standard controls
- Great battery life
- Quality construction
- Very small, won't be suitable for users with larger hands
- Very limited pool of compatible devices
- Fairly limited pool of compatible games
- Rather expensive
What you'll love about the Razer Junglecat
For fans of the Nintendo Switch, the Razer Junglecat is immediately recognizable. The Junglecat is comprised of two separate joysticks complete with triggers, shoulder buttons, a directional pad, two analog thumbsticks, and ABXY standard buttons. Out of the box, it's immediately compatible with Project XCloud and Xbox Game Streaming.
|Compatibility||Android™ 7.0 Nougat or higher
Windows® 8.1 or higher
|Case compatibility||Razer Phone 2
Samsung Galaxy Note 9
Samsung Galaxy S10+
Huawei P30 Pro
|Battery||Listed 100 hours, charged via USB-C|
|Included||Configuration app, two separate controllers, central dock, cases for mobile devices, USB-C charging cable|
On the underside of each stick is a small switch, which both turns the joysticks on and sets them in pairing mode. You only need to pair the right stick, as the left stick will piggyback on the radio of the right stick for connectivity. You can configure various settings, keybinds, and sensitivity via the included Razer Junglecat app, compatible with Android. The app also lists games that are fully compatible with the Razer Junglecat, which you can also browse over here.
The list includes games that have been tested, and includes many SEGA retro classics, Final Fantasy Android ports, and some headliners like Fortnite and Minecraft. Many games that aren't listed will also work, such as Xbox Game Streaming and Project XCloud, for example. However, many simply won't work at all, which is a shame, and represents the messiness and lack of accessory standardization on Android.
If you're looking at the Junglecat solely as an option for Xbox Game Streaming, though, I'm happy to report that it works extremely well. Although the joysticks are positioned symmetrically, the rest of the controller essentially mirrors the Xbox One, and works out of the box for every game you can stream to your Android mobile device. The beefy 100+ hour battery life is also a boon for portable gaming, as is the size and weight. It's small enough to fit into a pocket, although that has drawbacks on ergonomics for users with larger hands.
On the plus side, the joysticks, buttons, and triggers actuate with clicks and feel solid and responsive in operation, even accounting for the added latency of Xbox Game Streaming and Bluetooth in general.
While I tend to use Xbox Game Streaming to play slower-paced games to offset the platform's streaming nature, the Razer Junglecat also performed well in games that required more precision and complexity, like Monster Hunter World.
The Junglecat can be split in two like the Nintendo Switch, docked together for a more traditional gamepad experience, or docked on either side of an included phone case. The action and docking positions feel very stable and solid, and the Junglecat in general goes a long way to improving the experience of gaming on a mobile device, but there are limitations.
What you'll dislike about the Razer Junglecat
As noted, this thing is pretty damn small. Even as someone with relatively small hands (and no it is NOT true what they say about people with small hands ... I swear), I found it quite cramped to use, particularly over time. I'd also argue it was a mistake of Razer to use symmetrical thumbsticks, given that the Nintendo Switch's are offset. It creates a needless muscle memory gap that has to be overcome for anyone who uses a Nintendo Switch frequently.
Still, it's easy to learn through and get used to the controller's size over time. On build quality, the Junglecat feels solid in general. Each separate joycon feels dense, despite being lightweight for ease of use. The buttons are all very tactile and "clicky," although the shoulder buttons have a fair degree of flex in them, which makes me worry about their long-term survivability. The d-pad is also designed as buttons first, directional pad second, which fighting game fans will want to be aware of. Nothing about the construction felt like a deal-breaker, however, but there are a few other problems worth being aware of.
Unfortunately, Razer only supplies docking cases for four handset models on Android. They are the most popular four handsets on the market, but they don't offer the cases in all territories either.
My review unit had to be imported from the US, for example, since the Galaxy Note 9 case isn't available in Europe. It would be great if Razer would sell the cases separately, or even provide 3D printing plans online for the community to make and sell them, if it doesn't intend to do so itself.
The other problems are more to do with general Android gaming problems than Razer problems. I found myself using the Junglecat mostly as a regular gamepad on my Galaxy Tab A tablet instead of on my phone, which provides a better gaming experience thanks to its larger display. I could simply use my Xbox controller for that, though, which is $60 cheaper than the Junglecat, and feels better to use in the hand.
Should you buy the Razer Junglecat?
When the Junglecat is combined with Project XCloud, it feels like a glimpse at the future.
If you're going to buy this thing, at $100, you'll really want to be invested in mobile gaming on your cellphone. In terms of price, it makes far more sense to simply pick up an Xbox One controller and a cheap mobile phone clip to save some cash.
That said, the portability and immense 100+ hour battery life (charged via USB-C) make a good argument for the Junglecat's price point, even if you're not going to use it with its cellphone docking case.
I've used a fairly large pool of mobile gamepads and third-party controllers in my time, and Razer's are quite easily among the best. In some ways, the joysticks on the Junglecat are better even than Nintendo's Switch joycons, but with both I still find myself yearning to go back to an Xbox controller after a short while.
The Junglecat isn't designed to replace your Xbox One controller, though, it's instead designed to elevate the mobile gaming experience, effectively turning your mobile device into a mini Nintendo Switch. Although I think there's plenty of room for refinement, the 100 hour battery life alone makes this an essential piece of kit for longform portable Android gaming. And make no mistake, when the Junglecat is combined with Project XCloud, it feels like a glimpse at the future.
Fixing mobile gaming
Switch-like controls for your mobile device.
Although the range of compatible devices is limited, the Razer Junglecat is a truly great portable mobile gamepad even undocked.
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