There’s no shortage of smartphone gaming controllers, and is a priority over using the touchscreen. But it’s definitely something that goes beyond the casual and choosing the right option pays dividends — it must be as portable like a smartphone or tablet, and support whatever platform it’s made for. For less than $50, GameSir’s G3s smartphone Gamepad gets the job done, for Android users, anyway.
Our first look at the G3s had us remarking on appearance, and it didn’t take long to make comparisons of the DualShock4. Everything from the general shape and size literally mirrors the layout, and almost to a tee with Home (‘G’) button and the curved trigger-like L2/R2 shoulders being the giveaways. Imitation is a sincere form of flattery but there are minute changes though, as the XYAB face buttons are closer together, stiffer D-pad, inclusion of Turbo/Clear functionality, and status LEDs that indicate what the G3s is paired to (Android/iOS/PC(X)/PS3 (all)).
The feel of the G3s is definitely familiar, with minor concessions. It’s plain black plastic is fine for what you get, though if you were expecting the same textured material on the rear handles for grip you’ll be disappointed at first. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it is worth noting since the G3s does ape the DualShock4 as much as it can.
A detachable clamp is included, which allows you to clip your smartphone to the controller. Setup-wise, it’s very straightforward by using rubber tabs for a secure grip to the device, and two knobs which can be adjusted to tighten and fix the angle. The clip that attaches to the controller is fairly cheap, but effective nonetheless, never wobbling or becoming loose while moving around. You’ll also get a USB-Micro cord and 2.4GHz wireless adapter, while Bluetooth 4.0 comes standard as well.
GameSir claims the G3s controller as a jack-of-all trades being compatible on both Android and iOS devices by default, even including PC, PlayStation 3, and smart TV support on a basic level. All of this sounds great, but it’s definitely a matter of keeping expectations in check as we did while testing.
This is an Android-based game controller first, and didn’t let us down with the available titles we threw at it such as Dead Trigger 2, Goat Simulator, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and Asphalt 8: Airborne to name a few. Using it was an improvement over the touchscreen (obviously) and felt natural despite its smartphone intentions. Button presses were responsive and analog sticks in particular exhibited acutely accurate sensitivity and no noticeable input lag. Another feature is the Turbo functionality which allows the right trigger to be activated continuously just by holding it down. It’s more superfluous for first-person shooters, but is activated by pressing the ‘Turbo’ button and any other button, to prevent accidentally turning on in-game. To disable, repeat the step except press the ‘Clear’ button.
Unfortunately, iOS is going a different and more fragmented story. In a nutshell, iOS support is very limited, with game compatibility somewhere between vague to nonexistent. If (most of us) were honest, this is what I expected from non-proprietary MFi accessories, and continues to be a pain when gaming on Apple devices. I can’t fully recommend using the G3s on any iPad or iPhone but if you must for whatever reason, you can download the GameSir World app (Android/iOS) which categorizes games that are compatible with the controller, although there’s a combination of English and Chinese to navigate through. Our recommendation: get something designed exclusively for iOS/MFi like the Steelseries Nimbus Controller.
For PC and PlayStation 3 you can connect with Bluetooth, where we discovered the G3s is a competent gamepad, despite its intended purpose as a mobile peripheral. For the PlayStation, we recommend this controller either be enlisted as a spare or for backup for casual platformers like LittleBigPlanet or Rayman Origins, on Windows the G3s did alright on emulators and Mighty No. 9.
The GameSir G3s smartphone Gamepad fills in the necessary checkmarks for what mobile players should expect, for the most part. It’s comfortable, relatively practical, and the 600mAh battery will last for over 15 hours off a single charge (and easily over a week with sporadic sessions), which is pretty great. While this particular gamepad won’t make the grade in the iOS camp, there’s an iOS version of this that’s hitting the market soon. For Android, PC, and PS3 users, consider this one if you were hoping to save a few bucks.