If you’ve jumped on the cloud gaming bandwagon via your Android phone, you’ll likely want a good controller for it.
While Android supports Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to simply pair an Xbox controller to your phone, it’s not always the best solution. Especially when it comes to portability. Sure, grips exist that allow you to attach your phone to your controller, but it’s bulky and top-heavy. More and more specially-made controllers are appearing, and one of the best we’ve seen so far happens to be from Chinese manufacturer GameSir. The company’s X2 mobile controller is excellent in practically every way.
Razer led the way when it released its Junglecat controller in late 2019. Made of two separate controllers that attached to either side of your phone, it made your handset look like a Switch. There was one problem with the Junglecat, though; it technically only fitted a handful of handsets, thanks to needing to attach to a specific case. A few months later, it came out with the Razer Kishi, one connected controller that stretches around your phone.
The GameSir X2 Mobile Controller works in a very similar way – albeit at a cheaper price point. In an eye-catching white design with blue and red accents on the thumbsticks, it stretches to fit almost any handset up to 173mm long. That’s all but the very biggest of phones, so unless you have a Galaxy Note 20 or similar, you should be fine.
One of the best things about the GameSir X2 is that you don’t need to charge it; it connects to your phone via USB-C, so draws power from your phone’s battery. Although not very much power; GameSir claims it uses only 2mAh. According to the official blurb, that’s “six ten thousandths of a 3,000mAh battery’s power per hour”. Essentially, then, it shouldn’t add much extra drain to your phone (though since you’ll likely be only using the controller when you’re playing games, it’s going to drain quicker anyway).
Once you’ve put your phone into the controller, it’s immediately ready to go. It connects directly via USB, so you don’t need to worry about syncing via Bluetooth or any of that stuff. It’s literally plug and play, so it couldn’t be more ideal.
It’s surprisingly comfortable to use. Gripped pads on the back help your hands rest comfortably on either side, and there’s a nice contouring to each end, too, which feels ergonomic and natural in your hands. The thumbsticks and buttons feel premium and are pleasant to use. It’s only let down somewhat by its triggers, which are rather clicky. Unsurprisingly they’re digital, so if you’re playing a racing game, you don’t get the finesse of being able to adjust your acceleration.
Because the GameSir X2 cradles your phone at either end, it muffles the speakers somewhat. Though this is a design flaw with all mobile controllers of this shape, and it’s a side-effect that can’t be helped. The optimal solution is to game with headphones – though if you have a headphone jack (rare on modern phones, granted) you’ll not be able to use it as, again, it’ll be obscured by the controller (providing it’s at the top or bottom of your phone, anyway). Wireless headphones it is, then.
Because of the required USB-C connection, the GameSir X2 can only be used on smartphones with USB-C. If you’re rocking a slightly older handset that still uses micro-USB, you’re out of luck with this one. Yes, adapters do exist, but then your handset and the adapter would have to fit within the span of the X2’s stretch, which seems unlikely.
But providing you do have a phone with USB-C connectivity, the GameSir X2 is one of the best mobile controllers we’ve seen to date. With no need to charge it, it’s ready to go whenever you want to game; just pop your phone into it and away you go. It’s still on the pricy side at $70/£70, but it’s significantly cheaper than Razer Kishi, its closest competitor. If you do a lot of gaming on your phone, be it Xbox Cloud gaming, Stadia, or running an emulator, you’ll be hard-pushed to find another controller as pleasant to use as this one.