Take Control Of Your Mobile Game – SteelSeries FREE Review
If you’ve grown up with a controller in your hand, you might be among those who have a problem with onscreen controls that are common with mobile games found on smartphones and tablet computers. For many, lack of tactile contact can be a barrier to playing some of the best mobile games around. To combat this, SteelSeries has created a gamepad to pair up with your Apple or Android device – the SteelSeries FREE.
Weighing just a few ounces and measuring approximately four-inches across, the gray and black SteelSeries FREE can easily be stowed away in a jacket pocket or purse and taken out for a quick game of Zen Pinball, Crash Bandicoot (on a Sony-certified tablet of course), or Sonic CD while you’re on the subway, in between meetings, or if you just have a spare few minutes to snag some game time at a restaurant before your friends show up.
The SteelSeries FREE features two analog sticks that feel firm and sport a good amount of resistance, despite being so small. This allows you to quickly get a good reference on where your thumbs are on the sticks, which would make them exceptional for shooters. The directional pad and buttons are placed in reference to the analog sticks, much like the configuration that you would find on a PS3 controller. The radius of these buttons allows for a pair of thumbs to roll easily around all of them with the precision that a fighting enthusiast looks for. Between the D-pad and buttons are the A and B buttons, which not only act like a Select and Start for many games but are also used for pairing and mode select. At the top are the R and L buttons, which essentially act as trigger or shoulder buttons.
The body of the controller features an ergonomic design that allows your middle fingers to rest comfortably beneath the device and the rest of your hand to curl naturally, as though you are handling a full-size controller. Each of the buttons can be remapped through the SteelSeries Engine software by connecting the device to your PC, allowing you even greater freedom to configure the controls for a game that may not be supported but works with the device and just needs corrected mappings.
The SteelSeries FREE wireless controller connects to your devices via Bluetooth. While it’s designed to support tablets such as the iPad or Android devices, it is also capable of pairing up with a Windows PC. The controller pairs easily enough; just turn on the controller by pressing and holding the A button and then search for the FREE on your device’s Bluetooth list. The gamepad features two modes, Arcade and Gamepad, for use on iOS and Android/Windows devices, respectively. If you have trouble pairing the device, simply switch the mode by holding both the A and B buttons until the LED flashes, indicating the change. Charging is done through a micro USB port at the bottom; it only takes about an hour or so to completely charge and lasts for about 9-10 hours of continuous play.
For games that support the controller, it plays remarkably well with virtually zero lag noted. Currently, there are over 100 games supported on the Android and over 80 on iOS devices. Your options aren’t limited to just those games, as many that aren’t officially supported by the device work just fine. There is some trial-and-error involved in figuring out which ones do and don’t work beyond the supported list, however. For example, on my Sony Tablet S, I was able to play Crash Bandicoot using the SteelSeries FREE, but was unable to find a game using the Gameloft app that would work with the device. It’s really a hit-and-miss, as the developers need to have the support for a controller, and not all do.
The SteelSeries FREE changes the dynamic of many of the games that work with the controller for those who are accustomed to a more tactile experience as opposed to using onscreen controls for gameplay. For those who lamented for hours on higher difficulty levels and tossed a game aside in frustration to pick up another Angry Birds title, you’ll find that the FREE breathes new life into your mobile investments. At $80, this controller is an excellent investment for its size and versatility, allowing you to pick it up for play on your PC or tablet device. Whether you’re on the go and looking to get a few rounds of Grand Theft Auto 3 in between meetings or at home and looking for a wireless controller experience, the SteelSeries FREE just might be what you’re looking for.
The SteelSeries FREE receives a 4.75/5.0.
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