Gaming consoles to turn your smartphone into a portable gaming machine – Ars Technica

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With smartphones getting more powerful processors and integrated graphics, mobile gaming is well established at this point. However, while the touchscreen on most smartphones is great for doing phone stuff, it’s not always the best interface for gaming (and blocking the screen with your hands can make playing some games particularly difficult). If you find yourself spending a lot of time gaming on your device, a dedicated gaming controller can make a big difference, leaving you with something similar in form factor to the Nintendo Switch.

Sure, you are could Also pack a dedicated portable gaming rig like the Lenovo Legion Go, Valve Steam Deck, or Nintendo Switch — but that’s just another piece of gear you’ll need to remember to charge and pack in your gear bag every day. Mobile gaming offers convenience and removes the need for a separate, standalone device, and with mobile chips getting faster every year — especially on the iOS side, where this year’s iPhone 15 brings you ray tracing — you get rich graphics in a pocket-friendly form factor. .

Backbone One Portable Gaming Console, Playstation Edition (USB-C Gen 2)

Backbone One gaming console.
Zoom in / Backbone One gaming console.

Simon Nguyen

One workhorse USB-C 2nd generation

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The Backbone One portable gaming controller is a powerful accessory. The buttons are clear and satisfying to press, and provide controller-like responses. While playing a game (in my case, Chrono trigger For iOS), the D-pad allows for easy maneuverability and doesn’t mash together inputs like some cheap controllers do. The removable piece also allows the Backbone One to be mounted to the phone with or without a case, which is a nice addition. (We tried the USB-C version of the controller for this guide, though it also supports Lightning devices.)

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The companion app lets you record gameplay and communicate with other Backbone users, but fortunately the app isn’t required to use the product. The app also lets you connect to your favorite gaming platform (Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Steamlink) so you can take your console gaming experience with you when you’re on the go.

With its responsiveness, great design, and solid build quality, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better portable gaming console accessory.

The good

  • The buttons are very smooth and feel like a real controller
  • The response is impressive
  • Easy setup lets you start using the console right away
  • Great for bringing the console experience on the go
  • Very convenient to carry

bad

  • Audio can be delayed over Bluetooth, but this can be mitigated using the headphone jack on the controller
  • The fit with the phone in the controller isn’t as secure as with the Razer Kishi but it’s secure enough that your phone won’t come out

Razer Kishi V2 Handheld Gaming Controller for iPhone (Lightning)

The Razer Kishi V2 gaming controller comes with either a Lightning or USB-C connector to connect it to your smartphone.
Zoom in / The Razer Kishi V2 gaming controller comes with either a Lightning or USB-C connector to connect it to your smartphone.

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Razer is known for manufacturing competent accessories, and the Razer Kishi V2 portable gaming controller for iPhone (Lightning) is no exception. The gaming console is powered through the built-in Lightning connector, so you can start playing as soon as you connect your phone. It also has removable dividers to accommodate phones with or without a case.

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Although this product feels very sturdy, the buttons are not as crisp as the Backbone One, especially the L1, L2, R1, and R2 buttons, which feel quite shallow and mushy. This is not the console quality accessory I was hoping for. However, the latency is very low, which helps make the input experience feel like using a real controller. This is a solid choice if you’re a Razer loyalist. Otherwise I’ll stick to the spine one.

The good

  • Quick Installation
  • Removable dividers ensure you don’t have to take the case off to use it
  • A USB-C version is also available for Android phones and newer iPhones
  • Holds phone securely in place

bad

  • The buttons feel flimsy and are not premium
  • Analog joysticks are small in size and not as easy to use as other devices

Megadream wireless mobile game console

Megadream Wireless Mobile Game Controller.
Zoom in / Megadream Wireless Mobile Game Controller.

Simon Nguyen

Megadream wireless mobile game console

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If you’re looking for a less expensive solution to solve your mobile gaming woes, the Megadream Wireless Mobile Game Controller Gamepad can accommodate almost any device with its adjustable design. This includes most iPads (except the 12.9-inch iPad Pro) and Android tablets (only those with screens smaller than 11 inches). Unlike the other two products in this guide, this controller connects via Bluetooth, which has its pros and cons.

Connectivity and pairing were a bit annoying, unlike USB-C or Lightning controllers. Also, a switch is required to switch between different device types, which isn’t as intuitive as it could be. This product also has a built-in battery, which needs to be charged before use, creating an unexpected experience out of the box. If you really need a universal controller for portable gaming, this is a decent option. Otherwise, I’d recommend one that has either a USB-C or Lightning connector for lower latency for a wired connection and no separate charging requirements.

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The good

  • Accommodates larger devices with a screen up to 11 inches
  • Assignable buttons allow for customization (after downloading and setting up the companion app)

bad

  • Bluetooth connectivity means a painful pairing process
  • The controller has a built-in battery that must be charged for use
  • The design is not as intuitive as others

Other controllers

If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can also use any number of Bluetooth game controllers. Apple also worked with Microsoft and Sony to manufacture X-Box And Play Station Controllers compatible with their phones, tablets, and Apple TV. And while these consoles aren’t as portable as the ones on our list, which replicate the Nintendo Switch experience, having a gaming console separate from your device comes with its own benefits, like the ability to connect your phone to a larger screen and play with the console from the couch.

Keep in mind that not all games will support external game controllers. Even if titles are compatible, some games won’t let you remap the buttons either, so your experience with the game controller may be more limited until developers provide more support. On the Android side, consoles can open the doors to games and titles that aren’t officially supported in the Google Play Store, including the use of emulators for games.

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