If you search somewhere like Amazon or Best Buy for iOS game controllers, almost everything you see will either be a sunflower-style controller that props your device up above, or a standalone gamepad that you hold separately from your phone or tablet. You'll see a few that latch onto the sides of the device like the Gamevice, but they're all pretty old and only compatible with obsolete (two years old at the most recent) Apple devices.
Gamevice strikes us as the best solution. When we use it, we almost forget that we're using an iPad mini with an accessory strapped onto it. It's a more unified look and feel, a bit like using a bigger, more powerful PS Vita.
The controls feel great in hand. A well-familiar console-style experience is here: two analog sticks, four action buttons, D-Pad, two analog triggers and two shoulder bumpers. You have a pause button (though not all MFi developers have used that) and another button to lock the iPad. And there's even a little cut-out for easy access to the iPad's Touch ID/home button.
Gamevice supports all versions of the iPad mini, but if you're using either the original mini or the new iPad mini 4, you may notice a less-than perfect fit, where the two sides of the controller bend backwards just a hair, so they aren't at a completely flush angle with the iPad. This is because the slot that the iPad slides into is a bit thicker than the minis 1 and 4, to accommodate the beefier iPad mini 2 and iPad mini 3.
It's subtle, though, and not remotely a deal-breaker or something that subtracts from the gameplay experience.
Gamevice doesn't make you mess with Bluetooth pairing: the controller's right side plugs into the iPad's Lightning port and setup from there is automatic. And when you charge the controller with the iPad in it, the iPad charges too.
There's also a handy companion app that suggests available MFi-compatible games (with links to their App Store listings), and shows you the basic controls for each. Despite modern iOS devices' gaming horsepower, it can be tricky to find high-quality console-style games in the App Store, so the app makes it a bit easier to sift through the countless casual, freemium fare to find the titles that make the most sense with Gamevice.
In fact, the mobile gaming landscape is about the only thing that prevents this from being the perfect portable gaming solution. If only we had a few more titles along the lines of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Oceanhorn and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and fewer of the addictive, grab you by the ankles and dangle never-ending change out of your pockets variety, Gamevice would be a must-have accessory for every gaming-interested iPad mini owner.
With time, we may see more and more console-style games pop up (and hopefully current ones like Deus Ex: The Fall will eventually add much-needed MFi support so you can use them with Gamevice). But right now the product's only real compromise is out of its own hands.
Thanks to its ease of setup, solid controls and unified form factor, Gamevice is our pick for the best controller for your iPad mini today. A similar version for the iPad Air 1 and iPad Air 2, along with another for the iPhones 6s/6s Plus and 6/6 Plus will be hitting store shelves before the end of the year. Like this iPad mini version, they will each retail for US$100.
Product page: Gamevice
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