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BackBone One PlayStation Edition review

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9.8Expert Score
BackBone One PlayStation Edition review: Better than the Vita

The BackBone One turns your iPhone into the ultimate portable gaming machine, though the PlayStation connection is a little weak.

Design
9.5
Performance
10
Pros
  • Incredible build quality
  • Intelligent design
  • Works with lots of services
Cons
  • Can't use a case while playing
  • Some iPhones need an adapter

The BackBone One wasn’t the first mobile gaming controller to convert your smartphone into a portable gaming machine. But its combination of intelligent design and build quality quickly made it one of the best mobile gaming controllers on the market.

It offers a more traditional, tactile experience when playing mobile games. Plus, with the rise of cloud gaming platforms, you can also enjoy your current console or PC games anywhere you can get a stable Internet connection.

I’ve been playing with the PlayStation Edition of the BackBone One since December. While it does have some limitations, it has quickly become an essential accessory for my phone.

Design

Backbone One Playstation edition

The BackBone One PlayStation Edition is effectively the same product as the original BackBone One, except with PlayStation styled buttons and colour-scheme. 

This is a mobile game controller with an extendable bar across the back that is designed to wrap around your iPhone.

I say iPhone because while there is a model for Android devices, the PlayStation branded version is currently only available for those using Apple hardware.

There is a pretty significant catch here, though. To use the BackBone, you’re going to need to take your phone out of its case.

If you don’t use a case, then inserting and removing your phone will be no trouble at all. But if you use a phone case, you need to understand that there is no way that your phone will fit into the controller while it is still in the case.

Backbone One Playstation edition

Additionally, certain iPhone models will need an adapter to fit the controller comfortably. There are adapters for the most recent models in the box.

The controller’s button layout pretty closely mirrors that of the PlayStation’s DualSense controller. You get two analogue sticks, places high on the left and low on the right-hand side, like an Xbox controller. 

The left handle boasts a four-directional D-Pad, plus dedicated sharing and screenshot buttons. The right handle has the PlayStation’s ▲ ■ ● ✖ buttons, the Options menu button and a dedicated BackBone shortcut button.

Backbone One Playstation edition

On the top of each side of the device are twin shoulder buttons, L1, L2 and R1, R2.

At the bottom, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Lightning port for power passthrough to your device.

Powerful without power

It’s worth noting that the controller doesn’t feature an integrated battery, instead using your phone’s power to work. That means you can always plug it in and start playing.

Given how easy it is to burn through battery life while playing with the BackBone, the Lightning port passthrough is essential.

There’s no vibration or motion controls here, though you won’t miss it given the versatility of the controller itself.

Backbone One Playstation edition

BackBone One software

One thing that isn’t apparent immediately is that Backbone’s product is as much a software offering as a hardware one.

When you first connect your phone, you’re prompted to download the BackBone app, which acts as a hub for your mobile gaming experience. 

The app itself is easy to navigate and does an impressive job of combining your different gaming options. From Apple Arcade games to playing your PlayStation games remotely, to Xbox Game Pass and more, you can easily navigate the massive library of games playable with the BackBone One.

The software is also required to take advantage of the live broadcasting component of the controller. This allows you to stream your gameplay effortlessly, with little more than a button press.

The catch is that the software requires an annual subscription. While the first 12 months is included in the purchase of the controller itself, subsequent years will set you back $79.99 per year.

Backbone One Playstation edition

Performance

There is so much to love about the BackBone One PS Edition.

For a start, the controller feels great in your hand. It’s more compact than the Nintendo Switch, yet more ergonomic than the old PS Vita.

The buttons feel solid. Not only from a tactile perspective, but the on-screen response to your commands feels fast and efficient.

The analogue sticks also feel great. I played a lot of Rocket League Sideswipe, and my little car spun around just as I moved my analogue stick. 

The fact you also have L3 and R3 buttons, with a satisfying click when you push them in. It really helps convince you this is a proper portable gaming experience.

Backbone One Playstation edition

A recent update to the controller added a shortcut to access the PS Remote Play app on your phone, further connecting this model to the PlayStation service.

Remote play

While it doesn’t reflect on the controller’s performance, I am not convinced that Sony has quite nailed remote play for PlayStation. Even on my fast home network, there were still plenty of judder and dropouts, making it nigh on impossible to play any competitive game.

On a 4G mobile connection, it was even less reliable. 

On the flip side, just because this is the PlayStation Edition of the BackBone One doesn’t stop you from using it for things like Game Pass Ultimate. With Game Pass, you can play Xbox games directly from the cloud.

As a service, Game Pass was is more reliable. Though you will have to get used to having PlayStation buttons when the on-screen instructions offer Xbox buttons instead.

And more appropriately for iPhone users, the BackBone One is a perfect partner for the thousands of controller-supported games on the App Store, as well as Apple Arcade.

Whether it’s something like Call of Duty Mobile or Star Wars: KOTOR, the BackBone One works like a treat.

Backbone One Playstation edition

Record your best bits

On the left grip below the D-Pad, a dedicated recording button lets you record clips of your gaming. 

It is truly effortless. Press the button and hit start recording. To end, hit the button and tell it to stop.

From the BackBone app, you can then edit the clips to find your highlights, and share them with friends directly.

Video is captured at 1080p resolution and 60 frames per second, which looks great on any screen.

You can also live stream directly to Twitch from the BackBone One if you are that way inclined.

Backbone One Playstation edition

Verdict

The BackBone One PS Edition turns your smartphone into a modern-day PS Vita, except with more games, a better control layout and integrated recording and streaming options.

The ability to play any number of games from the iOS App Store, plus work with Xbox Cloud streaming and PlayStation Remote Play, make this an exceptionally versatile investment.

The PlayStation connection is a little thin, especially given the streaming challenges of the PS Remote Play app, but that doesn’t limit the controller’s performance.

At $180 RRP it’s a pricey investment. That does include a one-year subscription to the BackBone software, plus several free trials and extra bonuses. 

I don’t think I’d personally continue paying for the app after the one year is done. But if you like to stream to Twitch or record your gameplay adventures, the convenience of the controller could justify the price.

And regardless of the software, the controller will continue to work, making it a great investment.

Buy the BackBone One PlayStation Edition online

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AU $200.70
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AU $249.99
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Product disclosure

The product for this review was purchased by the author.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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