6 Jan

Gaming Controllers for iPad and iPhone – MFi or Bluetooth?

If you own an iPhone or iPad, gaming is a natural link in the chain of personal activities. Whether it’s a simple social game, a sophisticated first-person shooter, or an iOS casino with real money wagers, we all have some sort of game we just can’t get enough of. For those who spend a great deal of time playing them, accessories like iPhone and iPad game controllers could greatly enhance the experience.
Throughout the history of iOS, Apple hasn’t been known for its willingness to permit third party building of accessories. However, they opened the doors for game controllers, provided they meet specific standards. That led to a number of companies creating compatible gaming controllers for iPad and iPhone devices.

Today, we’ll take a close look at two of them – the Gamevice MFi and the Steel Series Nimbus Bluetooth.

Gamevice MFi iPad Gaming Controller
Gamevice MFi
SteelSeries Nimbus Bluetooth
SteelSeries Nimbus

Gamevice MFi vs SteelSeries Nimbus

The most obvious difference between these two gaming controllers is apparent in their names; MFi and Bluetooth. An MFi device plugs directly into the Lightning port, while a Bluetooth controller connects wirelessly.

The Gamevice actually attaches to an iPhone or iPad, snugly cupping the undercarriage of its chassis. This makes it feel more like the old GameBoy Advanced or Sega Game Gear of yesteryear. The Nimbus is more akin to an XBox controller.

Gamevice MFi for iOS Gaming

The Nimbus’s Bluetooth connectivity gives it the ability to sync up with any Apple and/or iOS products, including an Apple TV or MacBook. It’s versatility is a huge plus for anyone who games on multiple devices.

Because iPhones and iPads come in a variety of models and sizes, Gamevice had to develop a number of gaming controllers to suit them all. If you happen to use an iPhone7 S, and an iPad Pro 12.9”, as I do, you’ll need to purchase two separate controllers to play games on both.

And then what happens when Apple inevitably comes out with a new line of products? You may have to purchase another game controller if you decide to upgrade.

While that seems like a thumbs-up for the Bluetooth variety, having personally tested them both, I must say I prefer the Gamevice MFi.

What Works Better for iOS Gaming?

In my opinion, the Gamevice MFi offers a superior gaming experience overall. As any avid iPhone or iPad gaming guru knows, when you’re out and about, a glare on the screen can be detrimental. If you’re holding the device in your hands, you can easily tilt it in whatever direction is needed without skipping a beat.

The Nimbus, on the other hand, requires you to set the Apple device down or prop it up on something, holding only the controller during gameplay. If you’re sitting home on the couch, that’s fine, but if you’re in a confined space, like a car or bus, one wrong move and your device could slip or fall.

I also appreciate that the Gamevice doesn’t have to be charged. It runs off the power of whatever iOS gaming device you’re playing on at the time. Being bluetooth, the Nimbus will need to be charged regularly when you’re not using it.

Comparing Responsiveness

I’ve read that the Bluetooth game controllers have a slower response time than Mfi’s. This makes sense. After all, the MFi is directly linked via a Lightning port, while the Bluetooth has to send information through time and space.

As for me, I’ve never actually noticed a delay with the SteelSeries Nimbus. Then again, I don’t really play games where split-second reaction time is the difference between life and death of a game character. Most iPhone and iPad apps aren’t even built that way. But you feel it could be an issue, you’ll want to go with something wired, like the Gamevice.

Price Difference

A Gamevice MFi controller runs about $100. The SteelSeries Nimbus Bluetooth goes for about half that, retailing anywhere from $45 to $65. If price is an issue, the Bluetooth controller will be your best option, especially since you’ll only have to purchase one to play games on all iPhone, iPad and Apple TV products.