The new Turtle Beach Recon Cloud is an all-in-one controller for playing games on Xbox, PC, Android, and mobile streaming (Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Steam Link). This controller, now available in the US, is essentially Turtle Beach’s existing Recon but with the addition of Bluetooth to wirelessly pair with phones, tablets, and PCs.
The other key component giving the Recon its “cloud” designation is the simple addition of a mobile phone clip in the box, which screws into the gamepad’s top for a very sturdy mount. While it offers more flexibility than a dedicated mobile phone controller like a Backbone One or Razer Kishi, its $99.99 price point seems a little high if you’re not frequently using all the functionality it has to offer.
Since this is a Recon at heart, all the features present in that controller are still here. That includes many FPS-centric things like Pro-Aim for quickly reducing the right stick’s sensitivity while sniping, two programmable rear buttons, and a vast array of audio controls for use with 3.5mm wired headsets. Those audio controls include Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing mode, which draws out the sounds of enemy footsteps and distant gunfire in an attempt to give you a leg up during competitive play. Though these audio tricks got me liking the original Recon enough to earn it a prominent spot in our Xbox controller buying guide, none of them work when using the Recon Cloud via Bluetooth — limiting them to wired mode on Xbox and PC only.
So, if you can’t use all the features of this controller in Bluetooth mode, why spend twice the price of the non-cloud Recon? Well, the real star of this show is the phone mount. Turtle Beach thankfully didn’t half-ass it and pack in a low-end clip-on mount with this controller. The Recon Cloud’s phone clip securely threads into the top of the gamepad via a thick metal screw, and it’s got three surrounding prongs to prevent it from twisting or turning. Also, the phone clip and mounting plate can be disconnected so you can use the clip to prop up your phone like a kickstand.
None of the Recon’s audio tricks work on this controller while using Bluetooth
I’ve mounted both my Pixel 6A and iPhone 12 Pro Max to the Recon Cloud, each with their cases left on, and they felt rock solid. I did all my mobile gaming on the Pixel since the Recon Cloud sadly doesn’t support iOS, but the 228-gram iPhone was a good test of the clip’s might. I even tested it lying down on my couch, with a mounted phone hanging upside down above my face, and I didn’t have a worry that a hefty handset would come crashing down on me.
Though the Recon Cloud’s mobile phone mount is excellently solid, it’s a little limited on viewing / mounting angles for your phone. I’ve owned a PowerA MOGA gaming clip for years, and while it feels very flimsy by comparison, it’s got an extra point of articulation that allows a phone to sit above the controller — closer to its center of gravity. I can accept the Recon Cloud’s limited articulation in exchange for the sturdier grip it has on my phone, but it also means the setup wants to awkwardly tip backward under the weight of the phone each time I put it down. Perhaps it’s on-brand that this controller turtles when you put it down, but it’s still a little annoying.
Of course, the Recon Cloud isn’t the only phone controller with a sturdy mounting system. This is where dedicated mobile solutions like the Backbone One and Razer Kishi (V1 and V2) excel. These expandable controllers that center-mount your phone within them offer a more portable experience that travels better, feels more cohesive, and looks much sleeker. They’re ultimately a better experience than any controller clip system, offering something closer to a Nintendo Switch, though just like a Switch, their buttons and sticks are downsized for the sake of size. From an ergonomic standpoint, the only downside of these clip-in controllers is that they usually force you to take your phone out of its case.
Its biggest omissions are a lack of support for iOS and also PlayStation Remote Play
For the Recon Cloud, its biggest omissions are a lack of support for iOS and also PlayStation Remote Play. Sure, this controller is great for playing games wired on PC or an Xbox console just like the regular Recon — and overall it works nicely for streaming games via Xbox Cloud Gaming, Nvidia GeForce Now, and Steam Link — but I can’t use the Recon Cloud to remote play off my PlayStation 5 due to Sony’s limitations.
That may not be a deal-breaker to some, but for a controller that seems built on flexibility, it’s a limitation not easily overlooked. My Backbone One controller works perfectly for all of those same solutions, including PlayStation Remote Play thanks to its direct partnerships with Sony, and I can just use other controllers when it’s time to sit in front of my Xbox or PC.
While opting for the Recon Cloud over a Backbone One or Razer Kishi gives you full-size sticks, triggers, buttons, and the versatility of a full-size controller, I think it only makes sense if you’re absolutely certain to take advantage of all its uses across PC, Xbox, and Android. The world of game streaming may be taking a hit with the sunsetting of Google Stadia, but there’s still no doubt that the industry is still slowly marching in this direction — especially with dedicated game streaming handhelds like the Logitech G Cloud Gaming Handheld and Razer Edge coming soon.
If you’re just curious about game streaming but want to stick with a controller that feels familiar, the Recon Cloud may be a great jack-of-all-trades starter pack. But a dedicated mobile-first experience like a Backbone One is still a better way to spend $99.99, especially if streaming off a PlayStation in your home is in the cards.
Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge