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ROG Kunai Gamepad Review – Almost a Joy Con
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ROG Kunai Gamepad Review – Almost a Joy Con

by October 16, 2019
Overview
Highlights

The ROG Kunai can be used as a portable gamepad, whether you like it attached to the ROG Phone 2 using its bumper case, or as a standalone unit with the ROG Kunai Holder. It uses USB, Wireless RF or Bluetooth to connect.

Warranty

1 year

Price

RM499

Positives

+ Very lightweight, perfect for long gaming endurance.
+ Works with ROG Phone 1 and any other Android devices.
+ Practically all possible connectivity modes are available.
+ Transmitter works even with a converter.

Negatives

- Still no option to upload Key Mapping and share with other players.
- No perspective "accelerator" option.
- Bumper case doesn't support other devices, even previous ROG Phone.

Pokde Scoreboard
Pokde Rating
Appearance
8.3
Efficiency
7.7
Features
7.2
Materials
7.4
Performance
7.6
Portability
8.2
User Experience
7.7
Value
6.2
Bottom Line

If you have a ROG Phone 2 and you don't have a Kunai, you are terribly missing the best accessory that was designed for it.

7.5
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When the ROG Phone 2 first made its appearance in the global preview, all eyes were on the ROG Kunai Gamepad. Why would they not? It looked aesthetically versatile, it seemed dynamic, and above all, it touted itself as capable of turning your ROG Phone 2 into a Nintendo Switch. I was one of the very interested name in the list as I have been using the ROG Phone and the Gamevice along with the TwinView Dock all this while. If you read the respective reviews, you can see that I highlighted a number of quirks they had that needed fixing. Let’s see if the new generation accessories are any better.

Unboxing the ROG Kunai Gamepad

We got the ROG Phone 2 Super Pack with all the accessories in it. To showcase everything, we have created a simple “deluggaging” (instead of unboxing) video for you guys. Jump to minute 4:39 for the ROG Kunai part.

The box opens up and presents the Kunai controllers and the Kunai Holder gracefully. The Kunai Bumper case is placed underneath and is also included. In the side compartment, a Type-C to Type-A cable is included. Of course, finally we have the user guides.

Appearance

The Kunai controllers themselves, while looking symmetrical, are actually a little different. The surface plastic that blends glossy and brushed finishing are typical of ROG design concepts and visible throughout a massive range of their products. The 5-way analog thumbsticks are positioned at the same exact points at the top of the controllers. The left controller spots a 8-way D-pad while the right controller holds the face buttons with A, B, X and Y etched on them.

Running diagonally on the left controller is a transparent strip that actually has RGB lighting capabilities under it and syncs with your ROG Phone 2.

The front of the controllers hold a total of 4 trigger buttons engraved with L1, L2, R1 and R2 respectively. The left controller’s L1 button has a dim LED underneath that signify’s its connectivity.

Turning the controller around spots a dotted grip area with special M1 button on the right controller and M2 button on the left controller.

At the bottom of the left controller, there is a 3.5mm jack that bypasses the audio into the remote controller for your convenience. That’s a very well thought out design, I must say.

The connection side of the Kunai has six gold plated pins and a spring ball to lock it in position.

The Kunai Holder has even more functionalities that further extends the Kunai controllers. The top facade has a brushed finishing with the top part graced by a 5-buttons triangle.

The center button is the main “activation” button that toggles the Kunai on, off, pairing mode and execution functions. Around it from right to left are the Start button, Function button, Profile button and Select button.

On the front side, you would see a USB Type-C socket with a status LED next to it. Further on the lower side, two trigger buttons L3 and R3 sandwich the Republic of Gamers logo the glosses on the matte surface. On the bottom of the Kunai Holder, there are two more extra buttons, the M3 and M4 for further extending the game controls layout.

Hidden at the back of the controller is the 2.4GHz RF transmitter that can be plugged into USB Type-A ports.

On the other side of this block is a toggle that allows you to switch between Wireless, USB and Bluetooth modes.

Along the block, you would find 6 connecting pins and a notch that secures the Kunai and provides the connectivity and power to them.

The Kunai Gamepad set comes with a Kunai Bumper Case. This case was designed to fit the ROG Phone 2 and secure the Kunai controller on the sides while providing connectivity via a Type-C port that connects to the bottom socket of the ROG Phone. The bumper case is slim and it actually works with the AeroActive Cooler II attached together. I think this is a huge plus point over the Gamevice controller on the last generation ROG Phone.

Specifications

Since there are two parts of the accessories, the gamepad mode and the handheld mode, I have separated the specifications accordingly.

ROG Kunai Gamepad Specifications

Supported PlatformAndroid 4.0 or later
Connectivity– RF 2.4GHz
– USB Type-C
– Bluetooth V4.2
Dimensions141 x 107 x 50 mm
Weight270g
Status LEDYes
Aura RGBYes
BatteryUp to 8 hours in Wireless RF mode
Vibration MotorYes
Key MappingYes

ROG Kunai Handheld Specifications

Supported PlatformAndroid 4.0 or later
Connectivity – USB Type-C
Dimensions50 x 95.7 x 30 mm
Weight50g (L) + 50g (R)
Status LEDNo
Aura RGBYes
BatteryNot Available
Vibration MotorNo
Key MappingYes

User Experience

So I said that the Kunai controllers are “almost” Joy Cons in the title. That’s because they still miss several features that the Joy Con controllers have. First of all, they cannot be used independently. There are no batteries in the individual Kunai controllers and they dont have vibrating components within. That also means that they do not have axial sensors for motion gestures like the Joy Cons have. However, they are definitely lighter than the Joy Cons. Very light in fact!

You have two modes that you can use the Kunai controllers in. The first mode is the handheld mode. You insert the ROG Phone 2 into the bumper case (you will have to remove the primary Aero Case if you are using it), then you slide the Kunai controllers to the sides of this case. The power and connectivity is delivered through USB Type-C. That’s it. You’re ready to use it.

The second mode is the Gamepad mode. You slide the Kunai into ROG Kunai Holder and it becomes a portable remote controller. You can then use it just like any other wireless (or wired) gamepad. It also activates vibration mode once you dock the Kunai into it.

How to connect the ROG Kunai Gamepad

There are choices of connecting over Bluetooth, USB or Wireless RF (Radio Frequency) depending on your receiving device. Note: At the time of writing this article, the Kunai Gamepad was not fully compatible with Windows OS yet. You can pair it, but only the ROG button works which launched the browser and redirects to Google website. I believe there is a pending accessory firmware update. If you are reading this and believe it now works, please let us know and we will update this article accordingly.

Assuming you have fully charged the Kunai holder and the controllers are inserted in;

Bluetooth Mode

  • Switch the toggle at the bottom of the gamepad to “Bluetooth” mode.
  • With the gamepad turned off, long press the ROG button until the status LED blinks in blue. This sets the gamepad into pairing mode.
  • Now search for “ROG Kunai Gamepad” on your device and pair it.
  • If it requests for permissions, you will need to grant them.
  • Once paired, the status LED will turn green.

You are now ready to use the Kunai Gamepad in Bluetooth mode.

USB (Wired) Mode

  • Switch the toggle at the bottom of the gamepad to “USB” mode.
  • Plug the Type-C end of the cable to the Kunai Gamepad.
  • Plug the other end of the Type-A cable to your connecting device.
  • Press the ROG button to turn on the Kunai Gamepad
  • The ROG Kunai Gamepad will automatically establish a connectivity.
  • Once connected, the status LED will turn green.

You are now ready to use the Kunai Gamepad in USB (Wired) mode.

Wireless RF (2.4GHz) Mode

  • Switch the toggle at the bottom of the gamepad to “Wireless” mode.
  • Withdraw the transmitter from the back of the device and plug it into the connecting device.
  • Press the ROG button to turn on the Kunai Gamepad.
  • The ROG Kunai Gamepad will automatically establish a connectivity.
  • Once connected, the status LED will turn green.

You are now ready to use the Kunai Gamepad in Wireless RF (2.4GHz) mode.

You cannot connect the ROG Kunai Gamepad to your ROG Phone 2 via it’s Wi-Fi directly as the ROG Kunai Gamepad doesn’t support Wi-Fi Direct. It doesn’t really adhere to IEEE 802.11 standards anyway, so technically, it’s not really a Wi-Fi module. Apart from the fact that you would need to use the Wi-Fi for the internet on your ROG Phone 2, making that option not practical too. Neither did they utilize the 802.11ad support on the ROG Phone 2 because that one is reserved for the WiGig. But all hope is not lost, because you can still do this.

You can plug a Type-C to Type-A converter to your ROG Phone 2 and then plug the transmitter to it. It will actually detect and work flawlessly. In fact, you can do this with any Android 4.0 and above device. I tested it with my Samsung Note 10 Plus and it worked too. I can navigate around the device once it’s connected. Though the real prowess for the Kunai lies in the software that is embedded with the ROG UI in the ROG Phone 2.

If the game natively support the ROG Kunai, you will immediately be able to use the gamepad including navigating around the game menu. If it doesn’t, then you can customize the layout by placing virtual buttons to trigger the respective area on the screen.

To do this, once you have connected the Kunai Gamepad with your smartphone, run the game and pull out the Game Genie. There will be an option called “Key Mapping” that will automatically appear in Game Genie. Press it and you will be presented with the key mapper. Press the plus button and then either select from the dropdown or press a key on the Kunai to drop the button on the mapper.

Drag this button around to position it where you want it to be. Do this for all the relevant buttons while your enemies kill you because this will be the last time they do that. Once you have mapped, you can choose to either hide the button mapping or show them on the game UI by ticking the checkbox at the top. Like I mentioned in my Gamevice review, if there was an option to upload the Key Mapping to be downloaded by other players, it would have been better. The Nvidia Shield has had this long ago and it’s fun to try various key maps uploaded by different users. You might just find the perfect one.

You can also use only one Kunai controller while still using the touchscreen if you wish. This only works with the left Kunai controller though. You cannot use only the right Kunai controller. You can also couple this with the AirTrigger II on your ROG Phone if you want to. This is essentially useful for MOBA or fast paces FPS games. Why would you do this, you ask?

See, there is one thing that ticks me off and I really think the Kunai Gamepad needs desperately. It’s the “acceleration” mode especially for the thumbsticks, even more importantly for the “perspective control” soft key. You can set the sensitivity to be either fast or slow, but that’s not enough. If there was an accelerator, I could turn the perspective faster when I’m moving around and slow down when I tilt the thumbstick just a tad bit, for aiming purposes for example. So using the touchscreen instead gives me better control over the perspective and I use the AirTrigger II to fire.

If you realize, your ROG Phone 2 came with two long rubber strips which you would be wondering what are they for. Now that you have your Kunai Gamepad paired to your ROG Phone 2, you would want the ROG Phone 2 to be standing on a flat surface. You can stick the rubber strip at the bottom of your AeroActive II cooler and it will make the ROG phone stand with a slight tilt, perfect for gaming with the Kunai Gamepad. Besides, who games at 90° angle anyway, right?

With the rubber strips, it gives you a slight tilt for better viewing angle

Sure, you can also choose to dock the ROG Phone 2 on the Mobile Desktop Dock if you have it too, but the fact that ASUS thought this far to deliver the ultimate gaming experience, it’s amazing!

Here’s another thing that I have a concern about. The Kunai controllers feel extremely light and I have my worries about its durability. Maybe it’s just me because the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons are also fragile at the sliding parts, but overall weight of the Kunai controllers together with the ROG Phone 2 feels decent. It’s something that I cannot summarize until I have used it long enough, but its still a concern. Though I have tried holding the whole set with only one of the controllers and shake it, it holds pretty firmly. Guess we will know on the long run. At least ASUS has made it lightweight and I’m very happy with that.

There is an RGB strip that runs across the left controller. This RGB will sync with your ROG Phone 2’s AURA RGB logo at the back. It doesn’t have its own dedicated settings which I’m totally fine with. It surely gives the Kunai Controller a unique look.

The gamepad itself has a battery built-in and it’s capable of continuous gameplay of up to 5 hours. But I guess this is not much of an issue if considering it can be plugged in via the Type-C port whether for charging only or connectivity at the same time. The ROG Phone 2 setup is far from a farcry when it comes to battery life anyway.

One final thing that I would suggest. The ROG Ultimate Pack comes with a ROG Phone Bag that fits the Kunai perfectly in it. It’s one of the little things that can make a huge impact overall. I did highlight this in my Gamevice and TwinView reviews back then requesting ASUS to make carrying the accessories a little more convenient, so having these available makes a very noticeable impact for me. The ROG Phone Bag itself is worth RM199 but is only exclusive for the Superpack for now. We highly recommend ASUS to make this available separately. I’m sure many people will want to purchase it. You can see this bag in our unboxing video above.

Conclusion

In comparison to the Gamevice from the previous generation ROG Phone, the Kunai is easily a major upgrade. ASUS has put a lot of thought into making the Kunai and I enjoyed every discovery that I had since I started using it. It needs a little software polishing before it becomes the best controller for a gaming smartphone, and I think this will even happen in the coming days as they deliver accessory firmware updates.

The RM499 price is also fairly justifiable if you ask me although it’s about RM150 more expensive than the Gamevice. For the experience that it delivers, and how it’s tightly integrated with the ROG Phone, I think it’s worth the money. I mean, if you buy the 512GB ROG Phone 2 instead of the 1TB version, the money that you would save accounts enough for these babies. Be a smart gamer 😉

What I can say? The ROG Kunai Gamepad is the one accessory you MUST have if you own the ROG Phone 2. Hands down~

About The Author
Super Daddy
A proof that the real fun does not actually ends, but rather begins when you become a daddy. Enterprise Application Co-ordinator, Web Developer, Hardware Enthusiast, Gadgets lover, Android Evangelist, Desktop and Consoles Gamer, Metal Music Guitarist, Audiophile, Networking Freak, Radio Controlled Toys rat, Ferrari Crazy and above all - a daddy in every kid's dream.

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