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Nyko PlayPad reviewed: a small and versatile game controller for most mobile devices

Nyko PlayPad reviewed: a small and versatile game controller for most mobile devices

The Nyko PlayPad ($39.99) is an add-on game controller that you use with your mobile device to make playing easier and more fun. It’s more like a traditional controller that others we’ve reviewed recently, such as the Moga Mobile Gaming Controller for Android and iCade Mobile. Despite a few minor flaws, it’s the most versatile controller we’ve seen so far.

Design. The PlayPad has two joystick-like slider pads, a directional pad, Start and Select buttons, and a home button that also serves as a power and sync button for Bluetooth. The controller also features shoulder and trigger buttons that you can customize through Nyko’s Playground app or in game menus.

Included with the PlayPad is a stand that can hold most tablets and smart phones. It also comes with a charging dongle and a case to hold the controller and its accessories. The controller itself is light and will fit easily into most pockets.

Though most people won’t have a problem, those with larger hands may find the PlayPad a bit uncomfortable, especially during long game sessions. Pairing the PlayPad to smart devices was simple via Bluetooth.

The PlayPad has four modes: First, the GamePad/HID mode is standard and will control most games that can support a physical controller (you can find that out in the game’s description online). iCade mode lets you sync to an iOS device and play any iCade compatible games [[link to our iCade review]]. In Mouse mode, you can use the PlayPad’s slider pad to move an onscreen cursor and the Face buttons to “click” on the screen, just as you’d use an actual mouse. And App Mode links to the Playground App and lets you customize your PlayPad for different games.

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Highs. The PlayPad is compatible with hundreds of games, including Shadowgun: DeadZone and Grand Theft Auto III. It works with Android devices that use version 3.0 of the OS or greater. As mentioned above, it can also control iCade games on iOS devices.

Mouse mode adds some versatility to the PlayPad, even letting it control games like Angry Birds Space (though I found the test devices’ touch-screen controls worked better for that particular game). The PlayPad also has a good variety of controls, including slider pads and a directional pad.

Setup of the device was very simple, and the provided stand is sturdy enough for most tablets and smart phones to sit in portrait or landscape mode. The case organizes the controller and the accessories neatly. Finally, the PlayPad is similar in size to the Moga—and much smaller than the iCade Mobile.

Lows. While the controller provides everything you’ll need to play, it isn’t very comfortable to use. The slider pads have raised nubs that dug into my thumbs a little. The feedback from the buttons could also have been better.

The provided charging dongle works fine, but a charging cable would be more practical. And while the stand does its job well, an attached holster for a phone would have been a nice addition for portability’s sake.

The Playground app is still in beta and leaves much to be desired. To customize the controls, for example, you have to unpair Bluetooth through the smart device’s settings and pair it again through the app, which just seems arbitrary. The app would also benefit from the addition of a search function or list of compatible games, as offered on the Moga Pivot app and the Playground website.

Bottom line. Although the PlayPad is not the most comfortable controller to use, it is small enough to fit in a pocket or bag easily. Its versatility is a strong suit; it has enough physical controls and game modes to keep it useful. I would recommend the PlayPad for Android gamers and those who own both Android and iOS devices: While the controls for iOS are limited, the ability to use one controller for both Android and iOS devices is a big plus.

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