Mobile games have made an impressive leap in their development in recent years. The level of performance of smartphones and tablets has long reached the point where it opened the door for developers to create really interesting and advanced gaming applications and allowed these handheld assistants to completely oust portable consoles from the market. But if the consoles have faded into the background in terms of sales, then there is still an undeniable trump card in their sleeve – ease of management. Indeed, for a comfortable game in such hits as Need for Speed, Grand Theft Auto, World of Tanks Blitz, FIFA, etc. touch screen capabilities are not always enough. Today we will consider a universal solution to this problem from, perhaps, one of the most ambitious companies in the mobile electronics market – the Chinese Xiaomi.
Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Gamepad
Xiaomi has earned a reputation as a manufacturer of affordable and high-quality mobile devices thanks to the affordable Redmi and Mi smartphone lines. Many also know the brand for its wide range of various mobile accessories, which starts with ordinary headphones and portable batteries, and ends with something extraordinary like a USB fumigator. Announced in 2015, Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Gamepad was the first and still remains the only gamepad in the assortment of the Chinese giant.
The peculiarity of the controller is that it is designed to work specifically with devices based on the Android operating system (smartphones, tablets, smart TVs), although after simple software manipulations and the purchase of a Bluetooth adapter, it can connect to most PCs running Windows. The gamepad is equipped with a three-axis accelerometer manufactured by Bosch, two vibration feedback motors and is completely wireless, which is pretty good for a price of $16 (about $25 in Ukraine).
|Xiaomi Mi Bluetooth Gamepad|
|Connection method||wireless (Bluetooth 3.0)|
|Number of buttons||9|
|Number of analog sticks||2|
|Number of triggers||2|
|The presence of feedback||yes, vibration|
|Dimensions, mm||156 x 104 x 65|
Mi Bluetooth Gamepad comes in a medium-sized cardboard box. Those who have bought Xiaomi products before will easily recognize the usual minimalistic eco-style packaging.
Inside there is a figured niche that securely fixes the contents during transportation. At the same time, there is nothing special to fix there – there is no delivery set as such.
In addition to the hero of the review, inside the box there is only a small instruction in Chinese and a pair of ordinary AA batteries.
At a cursory examination, it becomes obvious that when choosing the shape for the Mi Bluetooth Gamepad, Xiaomi engineers inherited the appearance of the reference Microsoft Xbox 360 Controller. This is evidenced by the asymmetric arrangement of the sticks, the presence of a cross-shaped D-pad and the borrowing of the ABYX button designation system.
At the same time, they succeeded only in part, since the gamepad still feels a little different in the hands. First of all, the implementation of triggers is different, which are more reminiscent of those in the Sony DualShock. Two characteristic holes are visible on the end face. Most likely, they are intended for attaching a phone holder, although I could not find a similar accessory on the Xiaomi website.
The exact dimensions of the case are 156x104x65 mm. The handles are elongated and rounded, which allows you to hold the controller with different grips. In general, the ergonomics of the Mi Bluetooth Gamepad is at a good level and it will easily suit players with both large and small hands.
It is worth noting the high build quality and the choice of materials for key elements. For example, the block of ABYX buttons and the cross are made of glossy plastic, by analogy with the same competitor from Microsoft. But if in the case of the Xbox 360 Controller this often leads to slipping of fingers (especially with wet palms), then the opposite is true – the surface is in excellent contact with the skin even if there is moisture on it.
The remaining five buttons have a smooth matte texture. The upper part of the sticks is additionally covered with a rough layer of rubber.
A slot for two batteries is visible on the back of the case.
The manufacturer claims that the charge of one set will be enough to maintain 80 hours of operation. These data are close to real, because after two weeks of intensive tests, a pair of Ansmann batteries with a capacity of 2700 mAh showed 25% of the residual charge.
The central button engraved with the Mi logo is responsible for turning the controller on and off. It is also designed to activate the Bluetooth 3.0 module and connect to compatible devices.
The connection procedure itself is very simple and is performed in two steps. First you need to activate Bluetooth on your smartphone or tablet by holding down the Mi key for a few seconds and waiting until it starts blinking characteristically. After that, in the list of devices, select the line signed in Chinese – this is the Xiaomi gamepad. With further use, the controller will be determined automatically.
Testing in the Android operating system environment was carried out on several mobile devices at once: Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 smartphone (Android 5.0 Lollipop), HTC One M7 smartphone (Android 6.0 Marshmallow) and Xiaomi MiPad 2 tablet (Android 5.1 Lollipop). A set of diverse games consisting of eight applications was used as test applications: Real Racing 3, Dead Trigger 2, Dungeon Hunter 5, Gunslugs Free, GT Racing 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, FIFA 15 Soccer Ultimate Team, World of Tanks Blitz.
These games detected the presence of a new control device without any problems and switched the control menu to the appropriate mode. In most games, the user also has access to the button reconfiguration section, where you can set the most convenient combination of symbols for yourself.
Subjectively, it will be justified to use a controller paired with a gaming tablet, especially if there is a functional smart cover. Then you can sit back comfortably in your chair and experience all the benefits of advanced control options: smooth gas and brakes in races thanks to the use of triggers, organizing quick attacks in FIFA thanks to the use of sticks and full-fledged buttons, and so on.
Of the obvious shortcomings of the Mi Bluetooth Gamepad, only two points can be singled out here: the vibration motors remained silent in all gaming applications, and there was also a certain difficulty with adjusting the gun along the vertical axis in World of Tanks Blitz when playing on a tank. Attempts to fix any of the problems through the installation of auxiliary programs for setting up the gamepad, unfortunately, were in vain.
For tests in the Windows environment, an HP Pavilion 15 laptop was used. As mentioned earlier, the controller can be connected to a stationary PC via an ordinary Bluetooth adapter. The connection procedure is no different from that in the Android OS and takes no more than 30 seconds.
It is worth remembering that the basic Mi Bluetooth Gamepad is not designed to work as part of the Windows platform, so it does not support the XInput standard, which is important today. In order for the gamepad to start being detected in computer games, you will need to install and configure one of the Xbox 360 controller emulators, for example, the Xbox 360 Controller Emulator. After that, the controller can be used in approximately 90% of current gaming applications.
I tested it in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Mortal Kombat, where it worked without a single failure and proved to be no worse than the Speed-Link Torid used at home. The exception was the racing arcade Burnout Paradise, where the Xiaomi product could not be connected.
As for other platforms (iOS and consoles), Mi Bluetooth Gamepad should not be considered here. For iOS, a lengthy setup procedure and a jailbreak will be required, and the gamepad is not fully compatible with consoles, as we have seen on the example of the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Sony PlayStation 4 consoles.
If you are a hardcore gamer and cannot see life without full gaming even on mobile devices, then Mi Bluetooth Gamepad is your choice. It is made of high-quality and well-chosen materials, has an ergonomic shape and a simple connection procedure to all products based on the Android OS. If you are looking for a controller to use as part of a home PC, then there is reason to think. The well-known gamepads Microsoft Xbox 360 Wireless Controller, Logitech Gamepad F710, Speed-Link Torid and others act as direct competitors. All of them natively support XInput, which means they are guaranteed to work in all current games and do not require the use of software emulators. At the same time, the price for them ranges from $35 to $65, while the Xiaomi solution can be purchased from us for $25-27 or ordered directly from China, thereby reducing the price to $20 per unit.