Since Apple introduced its own guidelines for MFi gamepads last year, most of the controllers released have been disappointing, for one reason above all — price. While $100 was a typical MSRP for the first MFi controllers, Mad Catz has introduced its C.T.R.L.i ($60) and Micro C.T.R.L.i ($40) at much more reasonable price points. Both gamepads resemble XBox controllers — C.T.R.L.i is a full-sized controller; Micro C.T.R.L.i is a slightly smaller version. Also, both controllers use Bluetooth, so they won’t quickly become obsolete by only fitting with certain Apple devices. Two included AAA batteries power the controllers, with Mad Catz claiming up to 40 hours of play time from the pair. The controllers require iOS 7 or later for use. Included removable clips allow users to affix an iPhone to the top of the controller. The clips adjust to any iPhone, even when being used in a case — this includes an iPhone 6 Plus.
C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i are similar in many ways. Both controllers use two AAA batteries for power, both connect using Bluetooth, and both have the same amount of control pads and buttons — two analog sticks, a d-pad, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons. In size, C.T.R.L.i is more like what you’d expect from a modern console controller — it’s slightly smaller than Nintendo’s Wii U Pro Controller — while Micro C.T.R.L.i is closer to SteelSeries’ Stratus controller, which we reviewed early this year. We tested both controllers with a number of games on iPhone and iPad, including Asphalt 8: Airborne, Badland, Limbo, and Mikey Hooks.
From the outset, C.T.R.L.i feels like a well-made controller of console-quality. It fits well in larger hands, and it has a bit of weight, too, though not enough to make it feel heavy. C.T.R.L.i, unlike its smaller brother, also comes with a pair of optional foam joysticks that can be placed on the analog sticks. We preferred using the controller without the add-ons. And we also preferred the analog sticks to the d-pad on C.T.R.L.i — the d-pad feels a bit stiff. That being said, the analog sticks are fine in many situations. The controller really shined when playing Asphalt 8. It gave us greater control of our car than ever before, making an already great game even more fun.
While both controllers have included clips for holding an iPhone, we found C.T.R.L.i’s clip to be more effective. Micro C.T.R.L.i is both smaller and lighter, and the controller feels weighed down by the newer, larger iPhones, especially the iPhone 6 Plus. To be fair, you might never use the clip, opting to use a stand instead. For us, Micro C.T.R.L.i was a bit less comfortable for extended use, but if your hands are a bit smaller, you might prefer it. Micro C.T.R.L.i does have a better d-pad feel, with more give.
In the past, the questions we’ve had about any iOS game controllers — game compatibility, obsolescence, overall build quality — were overshadowed by the high price of the gamepads. Mad Catz, however, has built two good iOS controllers with appropriate price tags. While some of the games on Mad Catz’ fairly sizable compatible app list, like Badland, are still better when using a touchscreen, we found both C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i both added to the experience of many other games. While the larger C.T.R.L.i felt more comfortable and substantial to us, it’s also $20 more expensive, with a stiffer d-pad. If you’re a serious iOS gamer, either controller is worth consideration for different reasons. Both C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i earn our recommendation.
Company and Price
Company: Mad Catz
Compatible: iPhone 5/5s/5c/6/6 Plus, iPad 4G/Air/Air 2, iPad mini/mini 2/mini 3, iPod touch 5G