Thursday, 12 March 2015

iPega PG9021 Bluetooth Classic Gamepad Review

READ ME: This review is targeted for Android users. This controller can be used for iOS, since I don't plan on using this on my iPad, my review will be based on my experience with an Android. Also, you can look at other reviews, that using this controller on iOS isn't all that good anyway.

THE BACKSTORY (Skip to ACTUAL REVIEW if not interested):

As a PC gamer, the keyboard and mouse is a staple, and simply an extension of my upper extremities. Nothing compares to the precision and almost second nature controls of a keyboard and mouse for me. That being said, there are some games that I find that it does need a proper gamepad to play with.

Such games include emulators and of course the notorious Dark Souls, that if you can play it with the keyboard and mouse and be just as good, you probably don't have a soul... no pun intended. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Thus, I was in the market for a good gamepad that I can use with my PC. Gamepads from Razer, etc, are off my radar because such gamepads are, in my opinion, overpriced. I was looking at PS3 Bluetooth Controllers or Xbox 360 Wireless or Wired Controllers for the PC, they are way cheaper, well built controllers, and basically does what it's supposed to do. So I don't need to buy an expensive gamepad just for the name.

But for some strange reason, even if I had the money to buy either the PS3 or Xbox 360 controller that would work with my PC, I have always put it off.

Then come October of last year, when I got my ASUS Zenfone 5, I knew I would want some emulators on it so I can play, let's say, Pokemon, on the go; just like it was meant to be played, on a handheld. However, as with everyone that is a gamer and owns a tablet or a smartphone, they know the on-screen display takes up most of the screen revenue and let's face it, without the proper tactile sensation of real buttons, the controls are wonky at best.

And as a consumer that would rather buy one item that can be used multiple times, in multiple ways, or across multiple platforms, I had to buy a controller that I can use with my PC and my smartphone.

At first, I was really inclined to using an Xbox 360 controller or an alternative with the same shape and button layout; don't get me wrong, I still believe the Playstation controller form factor is perfect. Probably the simplest, well thought of, but really, the best controller form factor out there. But I wanted a change, and I wanted the Xbox controller form factor.

Sadly, the wireless controller for the Xbox 360 runs on RF and not on bluetooth. Smartphones usually don't use RF anymore and use bluetooth. So there was a huge strike against the the Xbox controller. All the more with the wired Xbox controller, where I need to use my OTG cable to connect it with my smartphone. Yet another strike, this time on the wired variant.

With the RF controller, you can also use it with your smartphone, but like the wired one, you need to connect the RF receiver to your smartphone with an OTG cable.

In fact, if you're still interested, or if you already own an Xbox 360 wireless or wired controller and want to connect it with your smartphone or tablet, you can look at this.

Why are these strikes, even if technically I can make them work? Well, if I'm using my smartphone, and gaming while I am on the go, portability is a must, and having wires, apart from my earphones and possibly short microusb cables charging my phone vis power bank, dangling isn't what I will call "mobile gaming", and certainly defeats the purpose of gaming with my smartphone.

So, as much as I wanted an Xbox controller, I had to say no.

Next up on my list is the PS3 wireless controller. Now this is bluetooth that can run on both my PC and smartphone. And it is with the form factor I deem perfect. So what's stopped me from purchasing it? You know what? I really didn't know what stopped me! Something, like a thorn on my side, stopped me from getting it. It was strange.

I had it all planned out, buy this PS3 controller, get a bluetooth dongle for my PC, and pair it with both my PC and smartphone to play games that need a controller. It was perfect! In fact I even found this!

A GameKlip Universal CaseMount, that mounts your smartphone to your PS3 controller; I mean sure, it has 3M double sided tape on the back in order for your smartphone to mount on it, but you have to buy a silicon case or the like as to not have your actual case be mounted on the GameKlip forever... But this ain't cheap! For a piece of plastic, it ain't cheap!

But even if it wasn't cheap, I would have still gotten it in order to have that mobile gaming. Though, like I said, I didn't know what was stopping me at that time to but these.

It was like the Heavens were telling me "Son, there is something out there, much better, and bang for the buck than this... Patience, son... Patience". And so like my love life, I stayed patient.

However, unlike my love life, patience paid off while waiting. As I was looking for bluetooth controllers for smartphones, I stumbled into the likes of Steel Series and MOGA, but they were expensive, and they didn't look to have a comfortable form factor. Because, even if these controllers were made specifically for mobile devices, I know, it being a bluetooth controller, I can still use this on a PC and I need a good form factor for gaming on either my PC or smartphone.

So the search continued. I found some that had a good form factor, but let us take into account that I live in the Philippines, and not all gadgets are available here; so browsing the local online store, I found, I consider, the Holy Grail of bluetooth controllers.


Front... obviously

Back... I am insulting your intelligence

Here she is!
As you can see, it is shaped as an Xbox 360 controller, and yes it is bluetooth, so it will work with my smartphone and with my PC with a bluetooth dongle. The only deviation from the real Xbox 360 controller is of course the clip for your mobile device and the media buttons on the right side of the controller as you can see as greyish/silvery buttons on the pictures above.

What comes in the box is, of course, the controller itself, a micro USB cable, and an instruction manual. Just the essentials. The way it should be really.

Build quality, well, it is light, and really, really "plastic-ky", but I guess that is all controllers anyways, but the light weight kinda gives the feeling of cheap build quality. That being said, it is quite sturdy, except for the clip part where you mount your smartphone, it feels it may give way someday, but for the price, I guess it is easy to replace the whole unit without feeling that you've lost a lot of money.

The instructions on how to pair this with your smartphone come in your standard Chinese company's poor English, but you can figure it out somehow. I recommend not downloading the game center app they are saying, all you have to do is turn on your controller, hold down X and then press the Home button, to go into gamepad mode, turn on your smartphone's Bluetooth, search for the gamepad, and pair. YOU ARE GOOD TO GO.

This controller is fully functional in the emulators I have tried for my Android phone; NES, SNES, GBC, GBA, N64, PS1 emulators (I won't give all the names of the emulators I have; just go to the Play Store, I am confident, whichever apk you get, will work with this controller...). Games like GTA3 and GTA Vice City supports this out of the box (with a slight hiccup in Vice City. Read below), and acts like it should on the console versions of these games.


Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time!!! I will make a separate post on how to run N64 games on ASUS Zenfone 5 or any other Android device... It took awhile for this to run right

Both analog sticks and all buttons work the way they should, and have no input lag at all. The D-Pad is a lot left to be desired; it is flimsy and, well, it just doesn't feel good. For those rare instances where I used the D-Pad, I do get frustrated by its poor build quality. The media buttons that are found on the right side of the controller is also fully functional; from left to right, the media button layout is Volume Down, Back Track, Play/Pause, Forward Track, and Volume Up. In some emulators, or using the Game Keyboard APK, you can also remap these buttons for extra control.

All the games I've played, and emulators I've ran, the controller had no problems whatsoever; but of course, there is always an exception, strangely, GTA Vice City, the left and right trigger buttons don't respond as fluidly as one would want. I have to press either one several times before the game actually responds. This is not the fault of the controller, because apart from Vice City, this controller works like a true champ.

Portability is quite high, even if it is a full sized Xbox 360 controller clone, it is very, VERY, lightweight, and having to put this in your bag, won't be a bother.

My new "Everyday Carry" devices: Clockwise from top left: ASUS Zenfone 5, Romoss Solo5 Powerbank, HUWEI Pocket WiFi, and iPega PG-9021 Controller. I will make a separate post for my complete Everyday Carry

Battery life is also high, it lasts obviously longer than my phone, at one point, I gamed 2 whole days and still didn't get low batt on this controller. Coupled with my dual output Romoss Solo 5 power bank, I can game for long road trips, or long plane rides, for future vacations.

To summarize, this short review, but long back story post, I HIGHLY recommend this controller to any Android gamer. The fact that it works great, battery life is long enough, shaped as a comfy Xbox 360 controller, has a clip for your device, and works with your PC (chances are, if you are an Android gamer, you are a PC gamer), what more can you ask for from a controller that is cheap?

Go. Get it. NOW.