Backbone One review: A solid upgrade from the previous model

Backbone One
The Backbone One improves upon the original in a few ways (Image via Backbone)

While I don’t do a lot of mobile gaming, the Backbone One definitely makes it a lot easier. Last year, I reviewed the original model, and while I liked it, there were some flaws that were definitely in need of addressing. Some have been, while others have not. Though my account does have Backbone’s Lifetime Membership to Backbone+, I understand that not everybody has access to that.

I still think the price for that is still too high. However, the physical product is mostly an upgrade from the original. It feels good to use, and while I did have some problems, most of those came from my wireless signal, and nothing else. Let’s go over the Backbone One, and if it’s right for you.


What is the Backbone One? What does it offer gamers?

Playing Hades 2 on the go was great, even if a bit small (Image via Supergiant Games)
Playing Hades 2 on the go was great, even if a bit small (Image via Supergiant Games)

The Backbone One solves one of the major problems with mobile gaming, without creating more issues. You slot your phone into it, and it gives you access to a nice, responsive controller to use on your games. It also has a headphone jack, and a charge port, so you don’t have to worry about your phone dying while playing something.

Why is this so useful in the modern era? We have Steam Link for mobile PC gaming, the Xbox App, PS Remote Play, and other ways to play our games on the go. Can you imagine playing Hades 2 by touching your phone screen? That sounds miserable, doesn’t it?

That’s where the Backbone One shows up. It connects to your phone easily, and the current version works for modern phones - either via a Lightning Connector or the USB-C connector. For full disclosure, when the first one showed up at my door, it was a Lightning Connector, which doesn’t help me as an Android user. I had a housemate use it in the interim, to see how great it was for someone who doesn’t really play games on the go other than on the Switch.

Tales of Arise looked and played great too! (Image via Bandai Namco)
Tales of Arise looked and played great too! (Image via Bandai Namco)

It was a complete game-changer for them. Suddenly, they were able to play Slay the Spire anywhere in the house, without having to sit at their desk. It was a brilliant thing to see how useful a product like this would be to a casual user.

If you aren’t someone who cares about streaming games from your mobile device, this is an incredibly valuable device. I don’t stream to mobile, but I do stream daily to Twitch. If you don’t have the Backbone+ Membership, you can’t stream from this, anyway. I do have a membership since I reviewed the original model. So let’s talk about that.


Backbone One, Streaming, and You

My wifi did not appreciate streaming to Twitch via phone (Image via Square Enix)
My wifi did not appreciate streaming to Twitch via phone (Image via Square Enix)

I want to point out that most of my issues with the Backbone One and streaming come from my house not having a good wifi signal/good connectivity. For some reason, having Gigabit internet doesn’t mean you have a house that’s good for wifi. I was able to stream to Twitch, but the visual was often very spotty or glitchy unless my game was completely still.

It doesn’t matter if I was playing Final Fantasy 4 Randomizer, Street Fighter 6, or Diablo 4 - it simply wouldn’t give me a good signal. That was something I understand, though. I tried to use my data as well, and it simply wasn’t any good - not in this room, anyway. That’s what I get for living where I do.

The only problem with the Backbone One’s streaming I had that felt outside of my control was PS5 Remote Play. For neither love nor money, could I do anything that would make the Remote Play game show up on the stream. It showed up on my phone just fine! There was almost no latency, and it looked brilliant - that is until I streamed.

I did purchase a separate app to try and get Remote Play to work - and it did! The visual quality was still mediocre, but that again, is due to my network signal, and not a negative mark against the Backbone One. If you aren’t going to be streaming on it, this isn’t relevant - but if you’re going to stream PS5 games, do note that you’ll likely need a separate app on mobile.


Playing video games on the Backbone One is an incredible experience

Just taking a break from work to play Final Fantasy IX through my PS5. (Image via Backbone)
Just taking a break from work to play Final Fantasy IX through my PS5. (Image via Backbone)

To test the Backbone One, I played all sorts of games, from my PS5, Steam, and my scant mobile game collection on my phone. There was almost no latency, no matter what I played. Sure, it’s probably not great to practice Street Fighter 6 on your phone, but it was possible, and that’s the important thing.

Some games didn’t feel great, and that’s more due to the size of the phone screen. You can play Hades 2 on mobile, but the bigger your screen, the more threats you can easily identify and avoid. Like the previous model, I also tried Final Fantasy 16, and Diablo 4, and both felt fantastic.

I could tell the D-Pad has been improved from the previous release. It still isn’t something I’d want to practice combos on in BlazBlue, Guilty Gear, or Street Fighter, but it felt good for a variety of platformers. I could play my randomizers, and so much more. If you’re looking for a product simply to play your games on your phone? The Backbone One delivers in just that way.


The design of the Backbone One feels solid

It's a simple, but solid design (Image via Backbone)
It's a simple, but solid design (Image via Backbone)

Other than the PS5 version having Switch/Xbox stick placements, I’m a big fan of the design. It’s simple, and it’s reliable. The buttons feel closer to the PS5 buttons than the previous version did as well. The headphone/charge port plugs didn’t get in the way, either. However, I definitely recommend some kind of other microphone if you want it to sound good on stream.

The Backbone relies on your phone’s microphone to deliver audio to your audience. That means you’re going to need a better microphone, or a phone with a good one. In my case, it sounded garbled and terrible. The actual, in-person game experience again, was fantastic. That was all based on my phone’s speakers, so it sounded great.


In Conclusion

The Backbone One is a simple, but very satisfying product for people who want to play their games on the go. If you have a strong Wifi signal, I think it’s also going to be a good streaming device for Twitch - provided you have their optional subscription. The gameplay itself felt remarkably good.

I feel like there’s still a way to go for this being a reliable Twitch streaming device, though. I couldn’t figure out a way to also see my chat, other than already being sat at my desk, or having a separate screen available. That would be a nice addition to the Backbone Twitch streaming experience.


Backbone One (PS5 Edition)

This product feels great to play a wide assortment of mobile games on (Image via Sportskeeda)
This product feels great to play a wide assortment of mobile games on (Image via Sportskeeda)

Release Date: March 19, 2024

Version Reviewed: USB-C (PS5 Edition) (Product provided by Backbone)

Mobile Devices: Android (USB-C), iPhone (Separate versions for Lightning/USB-C connectors)

Height: 3.70 inches

Width (Contracted): 6.94 inches

Width (Extended): 10.14 inches

Depth: 1.28 inches

Weight: 4.87 ounces

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