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Summary:

Nvidia’s Shield almost got my my money but $299 sounded steep. I opted for the $50 Moga Pro wireless controller for my Android phone and tablet instead. A good choice? I don’t regret it for a second.

Mogo Pro controls

For handheld gaming I was recently considering the Nvidia Shield, although the $299 price tag kept me from pulling the trigger. Instead, I opted to spend $50 on a Moga Pro Controller. This isn’t a new device but I hadn’t used one before. I should have though; this is a great accessory if you like gaming on Android phones or tablets and don’t like on-screen controls.

The Moga Pro looks similar to a standard Xbox 360 controller and has a Bluetooth radio inside. A small clip can hold an Android phone in landscape, making the setup resemble Nvidia’s Shield. Of course, Nvidia’s product has the guts of a powerful Android smartphone inside: a Tegra 4 chip, stereo speakers and more. The Moga Pro is simply an accessory for the Android smartphone or tablet you already own.

Mogo Pro with Moto X

There’s a full complement of gaming controls on the Moga Pro: A pair of shoulder or bumper buttons, two triggers, two analog joysticks, a directional pad and four illuminated action buttons. The controller has a rechargeable (non-replaceable) battery inside that you charge with an included microUSB cable.

Mogo Pro controls

Setup is pretty simple; you’ll just need to download the free Moga Pivot app from the Google Play store. I installed that on my Moto X, clipped the phone to the controller, and paired the two via Bluetooth. Done. There aren’t any additional steps. Within a few minutes of receiving the Moga Pro controller, I was using it to drive a car in Asphalt 8 on my smartphone. I’ve also used the Moga Pro with my new Nexus 7 tablet. The small included stand holds up the Android tablet just fine.

There’s very little lag when using the controller. I’m sure if I could measure the lag it would be present, but I find the Moga Pro pretty responsive for gaming. I actually feel like I’m using a wired controller.

Not every game in the Google Play store is optimized to use hardware controls but Moga has an answer for that as well. You can switch the controller from using the Moga Pivot app to using the device as an HID, or Human Interface Device. In this mode, the controller’s buttons, joysticks and analog pads are mapped to commands.

Mogo Pro with Asphalt 8 settings

Moga makes it easy to find optimized games through the Pivot app. You’re not actually buying the games through Pivot, just finding them. The purchase process is still handled through Google Play. Here’s a listing of Moga optimized games; a pretty wide range of titles.

Is the Nvidia Shield more powerful and does it offer better gaming performance and sound than the Moga Pro and my Moto X? Probably. Is it six times better though? That’s the price difference here. And although the Shield can also play full PC games through Steam, I simply didn’t need that functionality.

I’m sure the target audience for and buyers of the Nvidia Shield are happy with the product, but for the rest of us looking to have a better Android gaming experience, I highly recommend the Moga Pro controller.

  1. Good review. I saw this device at Pax Prime and I liked it. But I also tried the wikipad and was blown away. In reality I will stick with my 3ds and my ipad mini.

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  2. Run time for Asphalt 8 on my Nexus 4: ~1.5hrs
    Run time for Asphalt 8 on my Shield : ~6hrs

    The Shield starts apps up to 4x faster, frame rates are 2x greater, it has vastly superior sound quality and volume, and fantastic controls. And the “build quality” of the Shield is certainly better than a Mogo kludge.

    Of course, whether this is worth it depends on your situation. I *had* my children stealing my phone all the time to play games. The Shield was a no-brainer as it works great at everything it does – gaming, emulation, media streaming, etc. It has so many uses, I regret sending back the second unit I accidentally ordered!

    As always, YMMV. I am curious- did you actually try the Shield before buying this? If not, you might be surprised by the difference in the quality of the experience.

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    1. I did try the Shield briefly and can’t argue with you about the raw power, sound and such. I was at the launch event at CES and it surely impressed.

      For my situation, I couldn’t justify spending $299 for it but I wanted to still have a better gaming experience, which I got with the Moga. Thanks!

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  3. I love the shield but it has the same draw backs as other hand held games, it is a second device. Moga is something small and portable to make gaming on your phone better. I have one of their early models and love it. The Moga is small enough that it is not extra space in my daily carry like a DS, Vita or the Shield. Also the APK is available and i play Roms on it like Final Fantasy IV and tons of other old school games.

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  4. This is a great controller

    It really needs advertised more

    because people still think Android has no buttons and the only games it has are angry birds or doodle jump

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  5. I don’t think that asking ‘is the shield 6 times better’ is a valid question.
    The shield is a portable gaming console. This is just a controller.

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