The Backbone One PlayStation Edition was previously only available for iPhone users, and while I know I’m late to review this thing, I’m excited to do so because it’s also available for anyone rocking an Android or Pixel phone. To be honest, it’s a near perfect gaming companion for around the house or on the go, and even for your Chromebook depending on who you are.
The Chromebook gaming companion
A lot of us don’t have Chromebooks that are powerful enough or compatible with Steam, and if you’re anything like me, you already have a massive collection of console games on Xbox, PlayStation and even a bunch of phone games on the Google Play Store that may have come controller compatibility.
Priced at just $99 USD, the Backbone One PlayStation Edition telescopic controller for Android fills that gap, letting you use PlayStation Remote Play into your console, fire up some retro games or Android games of your choosing, and enjoy them without having to take up the space or power of your laptop, akk while providing the portability and handheld nature your Chromebook simply doesn’t have. Oh, and you’ll have the same apps and functionality it has, of course, since your phone runs Android!
How to use the Backbone with a Pixel or Android phone
All you need to do to get started is place your phone in the type-C port on the right side of the controller and stretch the left side controller over to the left side of your phone’s screen and you’re good to go! It uses a spring-loaded mechanism to hold your device in its protective rubber grips and won’t scratch it at all (just be careful of your camera bump while removing it from the accessory). By pressing the orange ‘Backbone’ button (after installing the app, of course), you are launched right into a “game console” of sorts, with a lightning fast navigation, satisfying sounds, and autoplay trailers. Truly, this app rocks, but it is loaded with crap you probably won’t need, making it feel a bit ad-ridden.
The best part about this thing is that Backbone as a company cooperated directly with Sony to brand it with the same look and feel as the DualSense PS5 controller – with a few differences, which we’ll talk about next.
A great controller, but not exactly a DualSense
I previously reviewed the GameSir X2, and while at the time it was fairly interesting, it falls miles short of what Backbone is offering here. This truly feels like you’re playing on a PlayStation controller, but not a DualSense – let me explain.
The back grip is smaller than a DualSense, of course, but doesn’t make my hands as tired after long play sessions as the GameSir X2 or any other telescopic controller (or the Nintendo Switch Lite!),
The buttons are clicky and tactile – exactly like the DualSense controller, and the joysticks are great too. I have no complaints there.
Where I do have a few complaints are the placement of the start and select buttons. If Sony and Backbone wanted to go for a truly perfect muscle memory gamepad 1:1 with the DualSense, they should have placed these buttons at the top instead of the bottom. I constantly found myself reaching for them, only to realize nothing was there and I had to reach below to pause my game or access options.
Buy this instead of the PlayStation Portal
Despite this, I’m finding myself going back to it almost every time I want to play PlayStation Remote Play or a few retro games I have on my Pixel 6 Pro because it’s sturdy (holding it with one hand really shows off the “Backbone” feature, or the bar across the back that holds your phone in place from wobbling or flexing), and the little lips at the front edge of each side of the controller are perfectly positioned to keep your phone screen in place without pressing against it. The design is truly just genius.
The only time I put it down was to play on my Logitech G Cloud handheld, which boasts what seems like a better wifi chip than my Pixel 6 Pro, so the stream quality for Remote Play was more consistent, and the screen was arguably better.
The bumper and trigger buttons aren’t as tactile and don’t recede as much upon being pressed as the DualSense, but I have a feeling that Sony intentionally made sure this wasn’t a one to one creation by Backbone since it’s just come out with its own PlayStation Portal device, which is basically just a DualSense controller split in half with a screen glued in the middle (I’m being hyperbolic, but not by much).
Buy the Backbone, but change your setup
Aside from the better placement of the buttons and the adaptive triggers, haptic feedback and larger screen, most people will likely want to grab the Backbone PlayStation Edition since it’s half the cost of the PlayStation Portal and provides more functionality because, well, your phone is the device and is much more capable than just and only remote play, though it can do that too through the official app.
Still, I recommend you use Remote Play through the Chiaki app or PSPlay app I covered last year.
Did I mention that the Backbone has a 3.5mm headphone jack (didn’t see that one coming, did you?) and a type-c charging port so you can juice up while you’re playing? Yeah, this thing was created with you in mind, and it shows.
As previously mentioned, the Backbone app is pretty impressive, and truly makes your device feel like a game console, but despite the awesome speed and trailer autoplay support on titles in the feed, I’m finding myself going back to my first love, Daijisho, a frontend for retro emulation, and “Console Launcher“, a Switch-style interface for Android games.
At the end of the day, the Backbone One PlayStation Edition is a must buy in my opinion, and I basically threw my GameSir X2 in the junk drawer, and will not be buying the Razor Kishi or any other device, including the PlayStation Portal because of how good this thing feels! As curious as I am to have that device, and as weird, wacky, and wonderful as it looks, I can’t justify spending $200 when I already have it in my hands with the Backbone One for half the price.