Samsung's Gamepad makes any Android phone a portable console for $90 (hands-on)

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/ Updated: February 26, 2014 4:31 AM PST

BARCELONA, Spain -- Ever wished you had real buttons to play your mobile games with? Samsung's trying to make your Android gaming experience more like a portable console with its new Gamepad accessory, a 60 Euro (around $90, or £50) Bluetooth pad that gives your touch-screen games an old-school analogue feel.

Made of sturdy, glossy black plastic, the Gamepad has a fairly clunky slide-out clip that locks your phone in place. There's no physical connection between the two though -- all the data flows through Bluetooth.

It works with the S Console app, which translates your fevered button presses into data the games can understand. The app also acts as a filter on the Google Play Store for games that are compatible with the controller.

So far there are just 46 of them, although they include good quality titles such as Asphalt 8, Crazy Taxi, Dead Space, Metal Slug 3 and Sonic 4. It's the usual mix of updates of console classics and cut-down mobile versions of hot new games.

The controller itself is a mixed bag. It lacks the high-precision, premium feel you get on an Xbox One or PS4 pad, with some corners cut to save space and survive life on the road. Superficially, it's very similar to a console controller, with two analogue sticks, a d-pad, four face buttons, start, select and two triggers, as well as the central Play button that takes you back to S Console (or launches it).

Turn your phone into a proper games console by plugging it into your TV and using the Gamepad on its own. Sarah Tew/CNET

The face buttons and d-pad are actually pretty good, with plenty of clicky feedback, so you'll be fine for nostalgic platformers and the like. But the analogue sticks slide around rather than pivoting, so you don't get the fine control you need for 3D games. They're squeaky and don't feel responsive. The triggers are rubbish too, merely clicking when you expect a gradual, springy pull.

It charges via a microSD port and Samsung reckons its battery will last up to 40 hours, which is important when you can't charge it off the phone.

Plug your phone into your TV (or stream via Miracast) and you can use the Gamepad separately, without the phone slotted in, like a standard console controller. It works fine, and some of the games available look terrific on a big screen. It's not quite next-gen, but younger kids might have fun with it.

A final point -- it's pretty light itself, but with a big-screen phone clicked in, the whole caboodle becomes fairly cumbersome. You'll probably find yourself propping your hands on a table.

Outlook
The Gamepad is cheaper than some other phone controllers we've seen -- Logitech's Powershell for the iPhone is $100, although it can charge your phone too. It's great that it's compatible with more than just Samsung's phones, but I reckon it's not responsive enough for the increasingly high quality of 3D games on the Play Store. If you're after some Super Nintendo nostalgia, it'll probably be great, but are you likely to shell out this much for a trip down memory lane?

It's currently on sale in Germany and Korea, and will be available around the world very soon.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Wireless Gamepad

Part Number: EI-GP20

MSRP: $59.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Color black
  • Wireless Technology Bluetooth
  • Connectivity Technology wireless
  • Compatibility Android