There are a wide range of Made for iPhone Apple-certified controllers on the market these days, but the Gamevice is unique because it turns the iPad mini into a portable gaming console. The controller fits on either side of the iPad mini, plugging directly into the Lightning port for a lag-free, reliable gaming experience.
There are several similar controllers for the iPhone, but the Gamevice is the only option that lets you hold the iPad mini while playing, so there's no need for a stand or a flat surface to rest the tablet on. I went hands-on with the Gamevice to see how it compares to more standard controllers on the market, and while I wasn't impressed with the size, I did enjoy the gameplay experience.
The Gamevice consists of two halves of a controller that are held together with a soft, flexible piece of rubber. The left side of the controller has an analog stick, a d-pad, and a power button, while the right side of the controller has a second analog stick, a pause button, and four action buttons in a familiar ABXY Xbox-style layout. There are also two sets of trigger buttons on each side of the controller. Design wise, the Gamevice looks like the product of a mating between the Xbox One controller and the Wii U GamePad.
Made of a lightweight matte black plastic, the controller exterior feels a bit cheap, but if it were made of a heavier material, it would be too heavy to hold for long periods of time. Materials wise, I'd say it's on par with many of the other Made for iPhone game controllers on the market, but the buttons/analog sticks are superior quality and feel much better underhand. In fact, I'd suggest this is the MFi controller with a feel closest to the Xbox One controller because of how much it borrows from Microsoft.
The analog sticks are smooth and easy to use, reminiscent of the analog sticks on an Xbox One controller, and they have rubber around the top for a solid grip. The action buttons also reminded me of an Xbox controller, and while they sound very clicky when pressed (as do the triggers), they're smooth and easy to press with no sticking. The d-pad is a standard four-direction pad and not one of the circular directional pads that are on many other similar controllers.
Underneath each side of the controller, there's a plastic Xbox-style grip, which fits well in the hand and makes the entire thing easy to hold even with the iPad in place.
There's a Lightning connector on the right side of the controller, which is where the bottom of the iPad fits. To get the controller on the iPad, the bottom goes in first, with the Lightning port fitting over the Lightning connector, and then the other side of the controller fits over the top of the iPad. It takes some maneuvering to get the iPad into the controller, but it's by no means a difficult process.
It's relatively easy to pull the two halves apart to fit the iPad in or to take it out, which is a good thing because you're not going to want to use the iPad for any task other than gaming while it's stuck in the oversized controller. Because of the way the controller fits over the iPad mini, it can't be used with a Smart Cover or any other kind of case.
The Gamevice has an 800mAh battery that lasts for up to 30 hours and it supports pass through charging so the iPad mini can be charged over micro-USB without having to stop gaming. There's a small button on the bottom that can be pressed to reveal how much battery is left via built-in LEDs. The Gamevice also includes a headphone jack, and it's best to use headphones because without them, sound is muffled because the rear of the iPad is lodged inside the controller.
The Gamevice is compatible with the iPad mini, the iPad mini 2, the iPad mini 3, and the newly released iPad mini 4. It fits tightly on my iPad mini 2, but I imagine there's some wiggle room with the iPad mini 4 because it's much thinner. It does not fit any other iPad, but Gamevice is working on a version for the iPad Air and another for the iPhone 6s/6s Plus.
Because the two halves of the Gamevice don't come apart, this is not a portable controller. I don't see this as a controller you're going to want to travel with because it's not going to fit easily into a bag or a backpack. It takes up a lot of space, and with an iPad housed inside, it's even bigger.
That said, it's surprisingly comfortable to hold, even for long periods of time. I wasn't a fan of the size of the controller going into this review, but when gaming, being able to hold the iPad both in my hands and close to my face made the gaming experience more immersive. With the Gamevice, I felt like a had a mini console in my hands.
I should point out the Gamevice's unique shape. When holding the Gamevice, I hold my wrists further out than I would with a traditional controller due to the Gamevice's design and wide size. Having my wrists angled out like this wasn't super uncomfortable, but I did get some twinges of pain after a few hours of gameplay. The way that this controller is held might be a deal breaker for some, though.
Though it wasn't difficult to hold, I did rest the Gamevice in my lap when I played games with it, and this turned out to be a comfortable gaming position. I didn't need a flat surface to hold my iPad upright while using it, so it was great to use to play games while on the couch watching television. I have small hands, but I didn't have trouble reaching any of the buttons (aside from the trigger buttons, those are hard for me to reach on any controller) or using any of the controls, and it should be equally comfortable for larger hands too.
Because the Gamevice uses a Lightning connection instead of Bluetooth, there's never any lag or interruptions to gameplay because of a loss of Bluetooth connectivity. Most Bluetooth controllers work well, but issues can crop up sometimes, and that's not a problem with the Gamevice. It's also not going to drain battery like a Bluetooth controller does.
The performance of the Gamevice across different games depends on how well the controls have been implemented. There are some games that do a great job with external controllers, and in others, it's clear that controller support was a total afterthought. Unfortunately there's no way to tell how well a controller will do in a game without playing it.
Gamevice Live App
Finding games that use Made for iPhone controllers isn't always easy. There's no reliable way to search for them in the App Store, a problem that Gamevice has attempted to solve with its Gamevice Live app.
Gamevice Live has a wide selection of games that have implemented controller support, and it's worth downloading even if you don't own a Gamevice. It's designed to look exactly like the App Store, organizing games into different categories like Favorites, New Games, Free Games, and Paid Games.
There's also an "Explore" section that breaks games down into different categories, and there's a search feature to search for specific titles. I found the Gamevice app to be a great resource for finding content compatible with external controllers.
My biggest issue with the Gamevice was portability. It's large and an awkward shape, which means it's not great for taking with me when I travel or when out and about. It's something that's more suitable for home use just because of its size and the space it would take up in a purse or bag.
Since it's sized to fit the iPad mini, it's not a great choice for people who have multiple Apple devices. Someone with an iPhone and an iPad who plans to game with both would be much better off with a traditional Bluetooth controller that can work with several devices. It's also only suitable for games that are played in landscape mode.
Most Made for iPhone controllers have traditionally been priced high, but prices have been coming down lately. SteelSeries, Mad Catz, and MOGA all make controllers that can be purchased for less than $100, making the price of the Gamevice comparatively high. Is it worth almost double what some other controllers cost? Not for everyone, but the quality of the buttons and the analog sticks will make it a worthwhile purchase for some.
The Gamevice does provide a comfortable, lag-free gaming experience, but it's a tough sell because of that price tag and its incompatibility with other devices. I'd definitely recommend the Gamevice to dedicated iPad mini gamers who only plan to game on a single device, but those looking for more versatility or better portability should look at other controllers.
- Lightning based connection is lag free
- Controller is comfortable to hold
- Buttons, d-pad, and analog sticks are good quality
- Doesn't require a flat surface/stand for the iPad
- Fits all iPad mini models
- Limited to the iPad mini
- Landcape mode only
- Bulky and not very portable
- Expensive compared to other controllers