Review: Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i wireless game controller for iPhone and iPad

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2015
The Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i is the most affordable iPhone- and iPad-compatible wireless game controller on the market, and that alone will make it the ideal choice for many mobile gamers, even though its design has a few glaring issues.




The Bluetooth-enabled Mad Catz controller is compatible with any iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 8 or later. Mad Catz provided AppleInsider with a blue Micro C.T.R.L.i controller for the purposes of this review, though it's also available in red, white and orange.

With a $50 retail price, and some models selling for as little as $40, the C.T.R.L.i is the cheapest iOS-compatible gaming controller we've tested to date. But the controller cuts one big corner to achieve this low price: It lacks an integrated rechargeable battery, and instead requires users to bring their own AAA batteries to power it.

Design

Though it has a relatively low price point, the Mad Catz micro controller is well made. It's not nearly as small as the diminutive SteelSeries Stratus we previously reviewed, but in our view, that's a good thing --?the Stratus sacrificed too much comfort for its size.




In addition to being an incredibly annoying product name to type out multiple times, the Micro C.T.R.L.i is also 20 percent smaller than the full-size variant also made by Mad Catz. The full-size version is also priced at around $50.

Mad Catz's micro controller has what you'd expect in a modern gaming accessory, and as a certified Made for iPhone product, it complies with Apple's design standards. That means it includes two thumbsticks, a D-pad, four face buttons (A, B, X and Y), two triggers, and two shoulder buttons. As in other iOS gaming controllers, the thumbsticks do not click as they do on modern game consoles like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 or Wii U.




A welcome inclusion with the C.T.R.L.i is a mounting clip designed to hold an iPhone of any size, including the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. While this is a crucial element for iPhone gaming, we found the design of this clip falls short of the integrated clip found on the slightly larger Moga Rebel, which we reviewed last fall.

Rather than building the clip into the controller itself, it's a completely separate piece with multiple moving parts that are more liable to break over time. The design of the Mad Catz iPhone holder leaves much to be desired.

To be clear: When holding the iPhone and attached to the controller, the clip works great. It feels secure, both in its attachment to the controller and in its grip on the phone.




Our problem with the clip comes from the fact that it must be removed for travel, or perhaps when being used with an iPad. The clip can fasten to the back of the Mad Catz controller, which is nice, but making it removable means it's more likely to break or be lost.

We're glad the clip is included, because it makes this controller a viable iPhone gamepad, and not just an iPad accessory. But the superior, integrated mount on the Moga Rebel wins out in this comparison.

Without an integrated rechargeable battery, the controller itself feels light, though the construction is sturdy. The hard plastic exterior has virtually no give when squeezed and seems as though it could stand up to years of use.




The thumbsticks and buttons feel great, with fantastic responsiveness and resistance. The triggers also feel just right, with a good level of spring to them, especially considering the controller's slightly smaller form factor.

The D-pad is largely forgettable, but we had no serious issues with the feel of it. Anyone used to an Xbox 360 controller will feel at home with the design and layout of this gamepad.

But most importantly, the Mad Catz micro controller does not seem to sacrifice much for its so-called "micro" size. In being not as small as the SteelSeries Stratus, it's also infinitely more comfortable and capable. Unless you have absolutely gargantuan hands, we think most gamers will have no problem with the portable form factor.

Usage

As we've said in every controller review to date, the improvement to gameplay from a physical input device is monumental. Blockbuster titles like BioShock and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are completely different experiences with a controller in hand.




Complex, modern, console-style game titles just weren't designed to be played on touchscreens, and anyone who wants to play those types of games on their iPhones or iPads regularly will likely buy a controller.

For those who choose Mad Catz, we're happy to say that we had no real issues with connectivity or lag. Setup with iPhone and iPad was as simple as could be expected, and connections stayed solid while we gamed.

Mad Catz says the C.T.R.L.i offers about 30 hours of constant gameplay on two AAA batteries. While we didn't have a chance to thoroughly test the accuracy of these claims, they seem plausible enough given our testing and the battery capabilities of modern Bluetooth chips.




The biggest problem with the Mad Catz controller, and all iOS gaming controllers, falls not on the hardware manufacturers, but Apple. Here we are, halfway through 2015, and Apple still has not offered an easy way to discover games that support controllers on the App Store.

Mad Catz offers its own iOS app, also named C.T.R.L.i, in an effort to address this issue. It includes a "GameSmart" menu, which essentially just loads the manufacturer's website and presents a list of games that are controller-compatible.










A simple look at the reviews for the C.T.R.L.i app only highlights how confusing Apple's iOS controller support is for the average consumer: People complain that their favorite titles are not supported, operating under the assumption that this burden falls on the accessory makers, rather than the game makers. Apple could make everyone's lives easier by simply adding a new category on the App Store exclusively for games with physical controller support, but for whatever reason the company refuses to do so.

The Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i app can also be used to check the battery status of the GamePad, and also see what firmware version it is running. It also includes a diagnostic menu that allows users to check that all of the inputs on the accessory are operating properly.

The competition

In a market where iOS-compatible controllers still cost more than superior controllers for consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the main selling point of the Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i, for us, is its $50 (and lower) price point.

This is not to say that the Micro C.T.R.L.i is a bargain at $50, or even $40. Mad Catz achieved this price by not including an integrated battery, instead opting to utilize AAA batteries.




Some gamers may not mind this, and might actually prefer replaceable batteries. But even Apple's products that rely on replaceable batteries --?like the Magic Mouse or wireless keyboard --?use AA batteries, not AAA.

The best competition for the Mad Catz micro controller is the Moga Rebel. It's quite a bit bigger, and it retails for $30 more. But it also includes an integrated battery, and a built-in iPhone holder that won't be lost or broken.

Gamers will have to decide of the better iPhone holder and rechargeable battery are worth the $30 extra. They'll also need to consider whether they prefer the smaller form factor of the Mad Catz micro option.




There's also the full-size Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i, which is 20 percent bigger than the micro version. We haven't tested that one, but it also costs $50 and relies on replaceable batteries.

Outside of Mad Catz and Moga, there aren't any iPhone-compatible gaming controllers we can honestly recommend. SteelSeries does offer the $70 Stratus XL, but it lacks a way to hold an iPhone while gaming, making it better suited for using with an iPad and stand.

The Moga Ace Power was a unique first attempt using a Lightning connector, but it only fits the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s and had a number of shortcomings. The Logitech PowerShell is another clamshell design that only fits the iPhone 5 and 5s series, and it also lacks dual joysticks and only offers a D-pad.

Conclusion

If you don't mind the reliance on AAA batteries and the removable clip, we have no problem recommending the Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i. It's a well-made, comfortable controller that will make a great addition to any iPhone or iPad.

We do have to ding it for the lack of a rechargeable battery, and the fact that Mad Catz didn't instead opt for AA batteries, like Apple's own accessories use. And while the removable clip does snap securely into place, it does take some forceful tugging to take off, which could lead to accidental breakage. And without the clip, the Micro C.T.R.L.i will become a much less useful iPhone accessory.

Still, the Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i is the most affordable mass-market iOS-compatible controller available today, and it accomplishes that without feeling cheap. It's not perfect, but it's good enough to earn our recommendation.

Score: 3.5 out of 5

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Pros
  • Well built and comfortable with responsive buttons
  • Clip accessory can securely hold an iPhone in place while gaming
  • Works with both iPhone and iPad via Bluetooth, virtually ensuring compatibility with future models
  • At $50 and under, it's the most affordable option for iOS gamers
Cons
  • The removable iPhone mounting clip feels like it could be lost or eventually broken
  • No rechargeable internal battery, and it uses AAAs instead of AAs
  • Apple still hasn't improved discovery of controller-supported games on the App Store

Where to buy

The Mad Catz Micro C.T.R.L.i gamepad is available from Amazon in four colors. Prices range from $39.99 to $49.99 and they ship free with Prime. The controller can also be purchased directly from Mad Catz for full price of $49.99.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 22
    kitukitu Posts: 8member
    You also get Playstation Vita now below 100€ on local discounted price in Finland.. Great console, wonderful controls (even back side touch), time limit possibility for kids by default (no need for expensive parental control software)... Zillion times better choice for my youngest kid with basic phone + ps Vita than a iPhone. Two older brothers have iPhones-though.
  • Reply 2 of 22
    rothgarrrothgarr Posts: 58member
    Didn't you say in your review: %u201CThe biggest problem with the Mad Catz controller, and all iOS gaming controllers, falls not on the hardware manufacturers, but Apple.%u201D ?

    Then why say %u201CApple still hasn't improved discovery of controller-supported games on the App Store%u201D in the Cons at the end of the article when you said earlier it's not the fault of accessory makers?
  • Reply 3 of 22
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    I've been wanting one for a while as playing KotOR with a touch screen is lousy. This is actually at a decent price point, I may check it out.
  • Reply 4 of 22
    jace88jace88 Posts: 18member
    Decent sounding based on the review. I would've bought one had it been available in Singapore since no one ships here and local importers have pretty healthy margins. Ended up with a stratus XL since apple stocks these and hence local prices are a tad more reasonable.

    Apart from the lack of iPhone crade, have you found button quality and responsiveness to be consistent between controllers now that the initial rush to market has passed? I find my stratus great except I can't pause in asphalt 8 on the iPad because when I resume, the accelerator paddle won't work and I'll end up losing speed as everyone overtakes me!
  • Reply 5 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,182member
    Something doesn't seem right here to me ... for a device with the most advanced touch interface and motion detection and an accelerometer running software specifically designed for that touch interface, motion awareness and accelerometer, the answer is to add a mechanical control box from the pre touch screen era.
  • Reply 6 of 22
    Something doesn't seem right here to me ... for a device with the most advanced touch interface and motion detection and an accelerometer running software specifically designed for that touch interface, motion awareness and accelerometer, the answer is to add a mechanical control box from the pre touch screen era.

    For the same reason I would never write a novel with the iPad's on screen keyboard (or on an iPad at all). Certain activities need different solutions.
  • Reply 7 of 22
    jameskatt2jameskatt2 Posts: 678member
    The two objections to the Mad Catz Micro controller are simply silly.

    1. THE LACK OF AN INTEGRATED RECHARGEABLE BATTERY - REQUIRING THE USE OF AA BATTERIES IS AN ADVANTAGE.

    Integrated rechargeable batteries DIE within 2 years. This forces you to trash your now useless controller.

    Once the BATTERISER VOLTAGE REGULATOR is released this fall, AA batteries are going to last up to 8 times longer than integrated rechargeable batteries.

    AA batteries are also far more useful for traveling when you don't have a chance to recharge. You can keep several AA batteries handy. You can even buy them everywhere. And you can even buy rechargeable AA batteries. This keeps the controller relevant for years.

    2. THE REMOVABLE CLIP IS FANTASTIC. NO NEED FOR IT.

    Simply play with the iPhone or iPad mounted externally. Or even better, watch on your big screen TV.

    The clip is simply dead weight. It is optional when you direly need to use it. But otherwise, for almost every day use, it is unnecessary.

    THESE TWO OBJECTS ARE ACTUALLY OBJECTIONS TO THE STRONG POINTS OF THE MAD CATZ CONTROLLER.
  • Reply 8 of 22
    jameskatt2jameskatt2 Posts: 678member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    Something doesn't seem right here to me ... for a device with the most advanced touch interface and motion detection and an accelerometer running software specifically designed for that touch interface, motion awareness and accelerometer, the answer is to add a mechanical control box from the pre touch screen era.



    There is nothing wrong with some gamers wanting old school controllers.  For many games they are actually better than the touch interface.

     

    Those who don't know games don't understand this.

  • Reply 9 of 22
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,937member
    Something doesn't seem right here to me ... for a device with the most advanced touch interface and motion detection and an accelerometer running software specifically designed for that touch interface, motion awareness and accelerometer, the answer is to add a mechanical control box from the pre touch screen era.

    Because despite all its prowess it is still severely limited to what it can do when it comes to gaming.
  • Reply 10 of 22
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 736editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rothgarr View Post



    Didn't you say in your review: %u201CThe biggest problem with the Mad Catz controller, and all iOS gaming controllers, falls not on the hardware manufacturers, but Apple.%u201D ?



    Then why say %u201CApple still hasn't improved discovery of controller-supported games on the App Store%u201D in the Cons at the end of the article when you said earlier it's not the fault of accessory makers?



    Because regardless of whose "fault" it is, this is an issue that will affect anyone who buys this controller, and it hurts the product. I think anyone should be aware of this before they plunk down $50 for a controller. I'll also note that I have listed Apple's shortcomings as a "con" in every single controller review we've published. It remains an issue.

  • Reply 11 of 22
    nhughesnhughes Posts: 736editor
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post



    The two objections to the Mad Catz Micro controller are simply silly.



    1. THE LACK OF AN INTEGRATED RECHARGEABLE BATTERY - REQUIRING THE USE OF AA BATTERIES IS AN ADVANTAGE.



    Integrated rechargeable batteries DIE within 2 years. This forces you to trash your now useless controller.



    Once the BATTERISER VOLTAGE REGULATOR is released this fall, AA batteries are going to last up to 8 times longer than integrated rechargeable batteries.



    AA batteries are also far more useful for traveling when you don't have a chance to recharge. You can keep several AA batteries handy. You can even buy them everywhere. And you can even buy rechargeable AA batteries. This keeps the controller relevant for years.



    2. THE REMOVABLE CLIP IS FANTASTIC. NO NEED FOR IT.



    Simply play with the iPhone or iPad mounted externally. Or even better, watch on your big screen TV.



    The clip is simply dead weight. It is optional when you direly need to use it. But otherwise, for almost every day use, it is unnecessary.



    THESE TWO OBJECTS ARE ACTUALLY OBJECTIONS TO THE STRONG POINTS OF THE MAD CATZ CONTROLLER.



    Certainly some people such as yourself *prefer* removable batteries, and for them, they may have a different view of this product. However, I'll just note (as I did in the review) that the Mad Catz controller uses AAA batteries, not AA. All of Apple's products with removable batteries (Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, keyboard) use AA batteries, and Apple even sells their own rechargeable AA batteries, so I see even the choice of AAA over AA as a mistake.

     

    As for the removable clip, if you plan to play at home, or on an iPad, then yes, the clip is not necessary. But if you want to play on your iPhone on the subway, or on an airplane, or in a car, or anywhere else, the clip is absolutely necessary. Trying to balance an iPhone and hold a controller just isn't going to work. I'm not sure how you'd mount externally in those situations.

  • Reply 12 of 22
    jameskatt2 wrote: »
    The two objections to the Mad Catz Micro controller are simply silly.

    1. THE LACK OF AN INTEGRATED RECHARGEABLE BATTERY - REQUIRING THE USE OF AA BATTERIES IS AN ADVANTAGE.

    Integrated rechargeable batteries DIE within 2 years. This forces you to trash your now useless controller.

    Once the BATTERISER VOLTAGE REGULATOR is released this fall, AA batteries are going to last up to 8 times longer than integrated rechargeable batteries.

    AA batteries are also far more useful for traveling when you don't have a chance to recharge. You can keep several AA batteries handy. You can even buy them everywhere. And you can even buy rechargeable AA batteries. This keeps the controller relevant for years.

    2. THE REMOVABLE CLIP IS FANTASTIC. NO NEED FOR IT.

    Simply play with the iPhone or iPad mounted externally. Or even better, watch on your big screen TV.

    The clip is simply dead weight. It is optional when you direly need to use it. But otherwise, for almost every day use, it is unnecessary.

    THESE TWO OBJECTS ARE ACTUALLY OBJECTIONS TO THE STRONG POINTS OF THE MAD CATZ CONTROLLER.

    I have to agree. A 4-pack of AAA Eneloops + a smart charger are preferrable and you can swap batteries and continue playing. The total cost will go up, unless you already have the Eneloops for other things.
  • Reply 13 of 22
    friedmudfriedmud Posts: 135member
    I love my Moga Rebel. The built in clip is perfect for my 6+. The battery lasts FOREVER. And the size is good for my large hands.

    For those looking for MFi games go to https://mfigamelist.afterpad.com . That's a pretty comprehensive site that is updated frequently.

    I just finished Xenowerks today and then started in on Halo: SS.

    I play lots of games without the pad too... but for certain types of games, buttons and physical joysticks are just better.
  • Reply 14 of 22
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 1,700member
    Something doesn't seem right here to me ... for a device with the most advanced touch interface and motion detection and an accelerometer running software specifically designed for that touch interface, motion awareness and accelerometer, the answer is to add a mechanical control box from the pre touch screen era.

    What's to understand? Generally a controller for a iPad or iPhone is very useful for games that were ported from a console. They were defined for console gaming with a controller. Trying to use on screen joysticks sucks! You're also blocking part of the screen. Knights of the Old Republic or Grand Theft Auto, etc are console games. Games designed for a touch screen control great on a touch screen and suck using a controller. For example tower defence games I love playing on my iOS devices and the touch screen, while I tried a couple in my Xbox and I didn't like using the controller as much. Think about trying to play Angry Birds using a controller over a touch screen. It's just not the same.
  • Reply 15 of 22
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,709member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kitu View Post



    You also get Playstation Vita now below 100€ on local discounted price in Finland.. Great console, wonderful controls (even back side touch), time limit possibility for kids by default (no need for expensive parental control software)... Zillion times better choice for my youngest kid with basic phone + ps Vita than a iPhone. Two older brothers have iPhones-though.



    I have a Vita, and the problem is the dearth of top tier titles (the big games that are shipping on PS3/PS4). Sony has all but given up on this console, as nice as the hardware is. I'm holding out hope that Polyphony Digital will port Gran Turismo over to it (they did a PSP port near the end of in its lifecycle), but there's not enough. Sony wants to make the PS Vita more of a console for casual games, and that's a losing proposition against smartphones.

  • Reply 16 of 22
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,405member

    ...not enough pictures...  /:

  • Reply 17 of 22
    dunksdunks Posts: 1,200member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kitu View Post



    You also get Playstation Vita now below 100€ on local discounted price in Finland.. Great console, wonderful controls (even back side touch), time limit possibility for kids by default (no need for expensive parental control software)... Zillion times better choice for my youngest kid with basic phone + ps Vita than a iPhone. Two older brothers have iPhones-though.

     

    If you were going with a dedicated console you'd be better off with the new 3DS. Much better game library than the PS Vita.

  • Reply 18 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,182member
    jameskatt2 wrote: »

    There is nothing wrong with some gamers wanting old school controllers.  For many games they are actually better than the touch interface.

    Those who don't know games don't understand this.

    Which is why I don't use an iPhone for games, I use my new Mac Pro either running OS X or Windows 8.1 (for GTA V mainly) and two 27" LCD displays. Then I'm old fashioned. If I'm bored and only have an iPhone I'll read or listen to music.
  • Reply 19 of 22
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,182member
    boredumb wrote: »
    ...not enough pictures...  /:

    Yes, I agree, I could have done with another dozen of the underside and perhaps some from high above and perhaps even from outside the room. ;)
  • Reply 20 of 22
    evilutionevilution Posts: 1,263member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jameskatt2 View Post



    Integrated rechargeable batteries DIE within 2 years. This forces you to trash your now useless controller.




    Once the BATTERISER VOLTAGE REGULATOR is released this fall, AA batteries are going to last up to 8 times longer than integrated rechargeable batteries.

     

    I would imagine that most rechargeable handheld devices use lithium Ion batteries these days, not standard rechargeable batteries.

     

    The Batteriser! Give me a break. That thing's accomplishments are based on lies, nonsense and scientific inaccuracies.

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