SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller Review
|Product Name:||SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller|
|Platform:||iOS (Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac)|
|Features:||Pressure-sensitive buttons for precise gaming control. Console-style left and right analog triggers. Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity. Lithium ion battery recharges via Lightning connector for 40-plus hours of gaming. Four LEDs display your player status during multiplayer gameplay. Color-coded action buttons. Comfort and ergonomics of a full-sized controller|
When I wrote about using game controllers for iOS devices, I knew that there would be a select number of products that could be considered the cream of the crop for smartphone controllers in the market. What I was not aware of (and in doing this SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Gaming Controller review) was that I would be sharing about a product so great, Apple endorses it.
Not to say, though, that a previous review I did for another controller (the Gamevice) is not in that same level, as this product also gets props from Apple. These two products, while serving a similar purpose, have their own unique little features that set them apart from each other and from the rest. So let us get to it!
From the onset, the SteelSeries Nimbus already has one thing going for the product – being a recommended item by Apple. In fact, if you look into the Apple Store website and search for controllers, it (along with other models from SteelSeries) shows up within that category.
“Well, if Apple has it on their site, then it must be good!”
And there are a bunch of reasons why they get the boost from Apple, which we will go into one by one.
So it works with ALL those Apple Products listed?
You bet! If you look back at the supported platforms, you will see that it supports 4 main Apple products. What is pretty amazing about it, though, is the vast number of models listed WITHIN each product. In fact, let us do a quick count:
9 iPhones, 8 iPads, 2 iPod Touches and 1 Apple TV = 20 Apple Products!
That does not include the versions that have varying gigabyte capacity. Counting those in and you will see that this product will support iOS devices from 5 years back – that is a lot of products, a lot of support, a lot of potential mileage for a gamer who buys this product.
Wait, wait.. It works on the Apple TV!
Using the Nimbus with your AppleTV not only increases the lifespan of your AppleTV’s remote control, but it also provides you with a more intuitive and familiar means of playing games from your TV – it pretty much becomes a console to play your favorite iOS games on a larger format screen and in HD.
I have always been a fan of a product that provides versatility regardless of platform – if you follow me on this site, you will know how much I love my Hori Fighting Edge as it is currently compatible with an Xbox 360, a PC and now a PS4 with the use of a Brook Converter. This multi-platform enjoyment only cost me less than USD 200.
If I was ecstatic over that, what more if I have a controller that works on the various iOS products my family has at home, and am paying even less?
The one setback I see in this, however, is the lack of a clip or device holder on the controller. Not that I would be lugging my TV around with me or intend to prop my iPad on top of a controller – these two products are heavy enough that positioning is not a big deal (the iPad can go onto any flat surface, too).
With devices at the mobile level being the most portable from the line of supported Apple devices, it would make more sense to physically connect it to the controller to further leverage this portability. Lack of a mobile clip pretty much limits the product to the constraints of your home system / whatever flat surface for your iPad and makes gaming-on-the-go with your iPhone/iPod Touch an unfortunate afterthought.
Those are some pretty nice buttons!
I have probably mentioned this on more than one occasion – no matter what devices are compatible with a controller, or how it looks in terms of ergonometrics… at the end of the day, the responsiveness of the d-pad, sticks and buttons take precedence. If it did not, you can pretty much consider the controller a dud. Furthermore, if these controller parts do not stand up in terms of durability, then you end up with a paperweight and money flushed down the drain.
I have had my share of these in terms of “Type-A” controllers (also known as knock-offs”), and it is easy to get drawn into these products – they look the same as the original but cheaper. However, there is a reason that manufacturers leave their brand on their products, and it is because of quality standards.
Having said that, the SteelSeries Nimbus is a rock-steady controller with sturdy buttons and knobs!
The controller is shaped similarly to the Xbox One (or the Xbox 360, too) and has standard controller parts like a D-pad, two analog sticks, 4 face buttons and 4 triggers. It also comes with a home button that works similarly to the exact same button on the iOS products, a power switch and a Bluetooth button for pairing. Each part of this controller was crafted extremely well – the buttons are beveled nicely and give lots of feedback in each press, as well as you can feel the amount of depth when you pull down on the triggers.
I like the kind of D-pad implemented on the Nimbus – unlike the Xbox 360 where the diagonal portions are round edges that are not curved inward with the rest of the 4 cardinal directions, the SteelSeries Nimbus’ D-pad uses long ends on each direction that are wide enough for the thumb to press on two sides for the diagonal. It is also slightly concave in nature, so gamers can naturally rest their thumb in the middle of the D-pad.
If there was anything that I could pout with, it would have to be with the analog sticks – although they are pretty sturdy, the combination of the concave surface and ridged edges can be a bit off for some people, especially when the gamer likes convex sticks to begin with. And at least the ridged edges help in cupping the thumb inside the analog sticks. Never mind the markings you could get on your thumb because of the ridges – at least your fingers will not slip!
Sounds impressive? Check out this hands-on video of how the controls feel on the iPad – credits to Chris Pepin for this video.
Battery life that feels like riding the Lightning (cable, that is)
Ever since the dawn of wireless controllers, the persistent concern always had to do with battery life. In fact, back in 1983 with the Atari 2600’s CX-42 model (historically noted as the first wireless controller), a known issue was that the joysticks would consume large amounts of battery to keep going.
Nowadays, it is not surprising that the average battery life for controllers are short of 20 hours. I personally do not think that is too bad, as this limitation can extend battery life further. But of course, I would prefer that a full charge on a controller battery would last long enough and prevent constant charging.
You will definitely get the most out of your SteelSeries Nimbus’ battery if you get 40 hours of playtime!
You read that right – you get the equivalent of 2 days worth of gaming, and that is a lot of gameplay time, I might add. For instance, the adventure game Bastion clocks out at around 10 hours for an entire playthrough (and that game is pretty vast) – you could literally play the game from start to finish 4 consecutive times! It helps that a game like Bastion would have more than one difficulty setting so you can play it again.
If that crazy battery life did not draw you in (that would be surprising), how about the fact that the Nimbus uses a Lightning Port? Now you can plug in your controller to a USB port or a wall plug and extend your playtime! Definitely a plus in my book, and SteelSeries did an amazing job of including this feature in their controller.
And when you think about it, since the controller is not physically connected to the iOS device, you don’t have to keep your controller on standby while charging – instead, you can literally plug AND play!
You could say this product’s library is very APProachable (get it?)
I like it when manufacturers try to make life easier for smartphone gamers in any way, shape or form – one example is the ability to quickly provide a list of supported games. When I reviewed the Gamevice controller, I found their Gamevice Live app was a nifty solution in narrowing down such an extensive library of iOS games, not to mention provide button mapping per game, too.
At some point I think it should be mandatory that future iOS game controllers provide something similar.
With that said, I am extremely happy that the SteelSeries Nimbus also has an accompanying app to provide the gamer with a list of games that have controller support. And much like Gamevice Live, when you select a game from the list, you are immediately redirected to that game’s download page on the App Store. Nifty!
Now, it is very noticeable that their app is not have the snazzy, dressed up user interface that can be seen in the other product’s version. You would think that for a product of this caliber and name recognition thanks to Apple, that they would put a better user experience for the puzzled gamer in hopes of pointing them better to what they can play and how they can utilize their controller for that game.
Personally? It gets the job done. Sometimes less is more, and the mere fact that it presents a list for the gamer to choose and download from is pretty much all you need anyway as you would probably want to spend more time playing than searching!
SteelSeries Nimbus, Final thoughts: Is it guaranteed cloud nine for iOS gaming?
SteelSeries has definitely imrpoved their controller offerings by leaps and bounds with every iteration, and it seems like the Nimbus really hits the spot in terms of iOS gaming for the features mentioned earlier. But are these features enough to keep it in the upper echelon of MFi game controllers? Let’s look at the Pros and Cons to size the product up once more:
- Supports not only the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad, but the Apple TV as well.
- Very comfortable controller parts with a good balance of press resistance and response.
- 40 HOUR BATTERY LIFE! You could play non-stop for almost 2 days.
- Lightning cable for charging means less cables to worry about.
- Great support app providing a constantly-updating list of games.
- Lack of mobile clip severely limits the controller-device setup’s portability.
- Not really keen on concave analog sticks – puts more pressure on the thumbs if you ask me.
- The support app could need a slight makeover in terms of interface.
My verdict: In the end, there are just too many pros for the SteelSeries Nimbus that outweigh the cons. The mere fact that it supports 5 years worth of iOS products launched tells me that there are plenty of devices to enjoy gaming from.
I am not too worried about the lack of a mobile clip – newer iterations of the iPhone are much larger than previous models so it is possible that the mobile clip will not be able to act as a mount. If ever you did want to mount your iPhone to your controller but the size is not going to work with the clip, you can always improvise!
I also think that the choice of analog stick should not hinder you from having an enjoyable game experience. In fact, you can always leverage analog stick covers and thumbstick extenders to suit your gaming needs. They are nice accessories that will not only suit your playstyle, but extend your analog stick’s life, too.
Finally, and as I said earlier with regards to SteelSeries’ app, function is more important over form. As much as it would be good to have a long list of games that you can search through and choose from, it should not take time away from actually playing those games.
And again, Apple recommends it! You could not ask for a better product endorsement.
I highly recommend the SteelSeries Nimbus, especially if you are the kind of gamer who is surrounded predominantly by iOS devices as you will be able to use this product on all of those devices. And a retail price of about USD $50 means it is very affordable! What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section!See More About The SteelSeries Nimbus Wireless Controller and Why People Love This Product!