Technology: Nacon MG-X Phone Controller Review

Living with the Nacon MG-X Phone Controller;
As I branch out and try to write about more than just games, I’ve found my way down a merry road to another of my passions, gaming tech/hardware. I’ll pick up bits and bobs whenever I have spare money but by the end of the year, end up wondering how I ever had the cash to buy it all…

My favourite part of being a techie is getting to be the first to experience new technology, but this also means often gambling on what you think will be good rather than having thousands of reviews to base purchases on. So, with me becoming fairly confident that cloud gaming does have a future in mainstream gaming, I decided now was the time to get a controller for my phone and improve my experience. There are now loads of options available for either Android or iPhone users, but they can vary massively in size and build quality.

I first tried a clip to attach an Xbox controller to my phone. These are readily available in most online stores nowadays and It’s a relatively cheap way to start. The biggest downside was carrying an Xbox controller everywhere and the viewing angle wasn’t exactly great either. Some more expensive clips do offer an adjustable angle but I decided it was time for a tech upgrade!

Looking over the most popular controllers available right now, you’ve got the Razor Kishi (Android and iPhone), Gamesir 2x (Android), Backbone (iPhone) and the Nacon MG-X and MG-X Pro (Android). These controllers are all similar devices that grip a phone from both ends and give you actual controls at your fingertips rather than the somewhat painful onscreen buttons most phones need to contend with.

If you are looking for an extendable controller, please check that it’s big enough for your phone’s screen size, as you might struggle with some top-end bigger phones. My Poco x3 NFC comes in at 6.67 inches (this is the listed maximum supported size but the sliding grip will go a tiny bit further than my phone), and I was looking for a compact device, so I quickly settled for the Nacon MG-X. The Pro version of the controller is shaped more like an Xbox controller with space for your phone in between but, it’s not as slim and portable as the original MG-X.

Hands-On: Nacon MG-X

Priced at about £79.99, the controller is a mix of styles that falls somewhere between Xbox controller and Switch or Steam Deck style controls. First impressions are good, and the face X, Y, B, and A buttons have a satisfying click and aren’t mushy. The same can be said for the shoulder buttons and Start and Menu (or select if you’re a little older). The D-pad feels good as well, having loaded up Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, I was pulling off Hadouken’s at will, even though I hadn’t played the game in many years.

The analogue sticks have a little too much dead zone for my liking, but they won’t be an issue in any story or adventure games. I did, however, find it harder in shooters or driving games to make the movements I wanted to. To be fair I think I’ll adjust to them over time and the sticks aren’t terrible, but I’ve also had far better experiences.

The biggest downside of the controller is the left and right triggers, these buttons feel lightyears away from what is normally on offer from its console controller big brothers. They have no feel at all and it’s hard to tell when the buttons are fully pushed down. It’s the one issue with the controller that I’m still struggling with after using the controller a couple of times a day for the last two weeks.

Also if you want to use headphones, they will need to be wireless. Due to where the controller grips the phone, most of the available ports will be covered up, so this might be another downside depending on your current set-up.

Back to some positives! Issues with the triggers aside, the build quality feels great and the plastics used are solid and comfortable in your hands, extended play sessions shouldn’t be an issue and although all the controller is smaller, anyone used to an Xbox One or Series controller should feel right at home.

Although it connects via Bluetooth, I’ve had zero issues with connectivity so far. Pairing the MG-X was the same as most other Bluetooth devices and after my initial setup it’s as simple as holding the power button for a few seconds and you are connected and ready to play. The internal battery should be good for around 20 hours of play and thanks to my short sessions during travel to and from work, I’ve yet to need to reach for the included USB-C charging cable. Should you run out of power, you can still play while it’s connected to recharge. The effect on my phone battery was noticeable but not extreme, this is probably more due to the apps used to play games rather than the phone being connected to the controller itself.

Once you’re connected, you shouldn’t have any issues with whatever app or streaming client you use. Xcloud, Geforce Now, Retroarch and numerous other emulators worked straight from launch. In the handful of apps that didn’t they either just need the X-input controller preset to be selected or in the case of Duckstation (PSX emulator) the mapping process was very straightforward.

Input lag is a little harder to describe as it will depend massively on what app you are using, in native Android games, it was next to unnoticeable. From any streaming-based service, this will depend more on your internet speed at the time. For reference, Xcloud felt pretty good from home with a download speed of around 200mbps, on the go on a 4G signal it was still playable but more of notice.

So for anyone looking to maximise their gaming time, I’d recommend giving this a go. The positives far outweigh the negatives and it’s great for streaming games or dipping into older classics through the joy of emulation. This is the type of Christmas present most gamers would love, keep note, all those family members looking for ideas in a few months! Just make sure the Nacon MG-X is compatible!

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