The Backbone One PlayStation Edition is a neat little mobile controller you can use with your PS5. You know, just in case your DualSense carks it and all you have is your mobile. It is a device with personality quirks, however — ones that may colour your opinion of it from the off.
On paper, it has everything it needs to succeed against competitors like the Razer Kishi V2. It boasts solid build quality, USB-C (the iOS version has Lightning), and a 3.5mm headphone hack (novel in 2023). It features a sleek white look that lets it sit neatly alongside the white-and-black PS5.
You don’t only have to use it with your PS5, however. You can use it for Remote Play, and overall, it’s quite good for that. The input lag is surprisingly low but still has issues with fast-and-furious games like Call of Duty or Overwatch 2. Like other streaming solutions that rely on a banger WiFi network, the Backbone One pairs best with simpler games. Titles like Spiritfarer and Kingdom: Two Crowns are the platonic ideal here.
For me, there’s one area where the Backbone One PlayStation Edition truly falters. When used as a Remote Play controller, it approximates the touchpad central to the DualSense’s design using your phone screen. On a DualSense controller, the touchpad springs to life the moment you touch it. Your phone screen, on the other hand, requires two taps for use. That might sound like a minor gripe. In practice, it’s unwieldy and awkward and lacks the intuitiveness and elegance of the DualSense input. It makes you realise how often you use the touchpad, particularly in first-party PlayStation games.
I’ve seen a few people mention this next point, and it’s absolutely true: Despite its branding, the Backbone One is a better and more cohesive device when paired with an Xbox than with a PlayStation. Because the Xbox doesn’t have any demand for a touchpad, one of the Backbone’s core problems instantly evaporates. Indeed, the Backbone One app for Android and iOS features support for both systems. This means you’re set to go regardless of which system you own, PlayStation branding be damned. Also worth noting: though the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S allow for button remapping, the Backbone One app does not.
In terms of its physical design, the device sits comfortably in the hand, and its rounded edges are pleasant. All of its face buttons and triggers match the overall build quality and feel strong and sturdy under pressure. There are some aspects that don’t work for me, however. The D-Pad feels far too mushy to ever be useful for something like a fighter. It also places all of its extra buttons, like Share, Screenshot and Menu, below the normal face buttons. Your thumbs typically sit over these buttons to reach the sticks. This makes adjusting your thumbs to reach them feel like it requires a bit of contortion.
In the end, the Backbone One for PlayStation is … fine. It does exactly what it says on the box, not one thing more. When it works, especially with the Xbox, it is an agreeable little device that gives the Razer Kishi V2 a run for its money. When you run up against its shortcomings, like the mushy D-pad or the fiddly touchscreen integration, it becomes far less charming overall.
At a price tag of $179 Australian dollarydoos, you’ll want to be completely sure you before taking the plunge.