The Madcatz C.T.R.L.i is a full-sized iPhone game controller that has heft and a lot of class, despite its poorly designed phone harness system.
Pairing is rough
Phone holder nob
Takes AAA batteries
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If you've ever tried to purchase a cheap, reliable controller for one of your home consoles, chances are good you've come across Mad Catz. Known for their reasonable price, and edgy design styles, they've been a contender for functional peripherals on a budget since 1989.
The C.T.R.L.i is Madcatz's first attempt at making an iOS mobile controller and a welcome addition to the line-up, considering most of the market seems to be controlled by expensive full-sized gamepads or cheap, oddly shaped junk.
The caveat, though, is that the C.T.R.L.i, while cheaper than the alternatives, is still going to run you as much as a brand-new Xbox One controller at $59.99 (£38, AU$69). But don't let that scare you away. If you're in the market for an iOS controller, the C.T.R.L.i does just as good of a job - if not better - than its closest competitor, the Moga Rebel.
Compatible with iOS 7 and up (yep, that means iOS 8 is supported), the C.T.R.L.i has a sleek design, comfortable feel and solid construction, not to mention the almost perfect button and trigger response. This is easily one of the best mobile game peripherals on the market this year ... which, considering the competition, may not be saying much.
The Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i is a dual wing gamepad akin to the original Xbox "S" controller. It sports a jet-black glossy face and a matte underside, with the trademark red claw swipe on the right wing. Also on the right wing of the pad are the four color-coded "A, B, X, Y" buttons.
The top of the peripheral holds a glossy bluetooth button and a pause button that only works with games - which, unfortunately, means you can't use this controller with any media players or streaming services as a remote. The two joysticks felt great in my thumbs but for some reason, it still really bugs me that I can't press them down like an R3 or L3 button.
Pairing this device to my iPad Mini was an absolute nightmare. The provided easy start guide says "Press the Bluetooth button for 3 seconds to enter pairing mode. All LEDs flash twice per second." After seeing the device pop up in my bluetooth menu, I repeatedly got a "Paring unsuccessful" message. I went back and forth between the controller and my iPad, trying different combinations of holding down the Bluetooth button on the controller and finally, for whatever reason, it connected ... only for it to completely cut out mid-game on a multiplayer match of World of Tanks: Blitz. This, in turn, required me to completely reset the Bluetooth connection and start from step one of the pairing process.
Under the pause button you'll find a row of four LED lights, which is a little disconcerting as I don't think you can sync multiple Bluetooth controllers to one Apple device. Once your controller is successfully paired the first LED lights up as if you were player 1 (think Nintendo Wii). However, if you pair a second controller that will light up as player 1 too. Strange.
The D-Pad, similarly, is decent but not great; it feels mushy and inaccurate. But this may not be the biggest concern as many games don't support the D-pad for anything other than camera controls.
On the back of the controller is a screw knob which allows you to attach the travel clip for your iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. This is arguably the biggest design flaw Mad Catz made with this gamepad. Not only is the knob incredibly easy to lose, but the adjustable phone holder seems like a cheap afterthought altogether. It's a far cry from one of my favorite features on the Moga Rebel: a phone clamp that folds right out of the center of the controller itself.
Triggers and bumpers can make or break a controller, and I think that Mad Catz did an excellent job with the C.T.R.L.i's setup. The triggers travel the right amount of distance with no plastic chaffing or clicking. The resistance is on point, and allows for tireless shooting.
If you're looking for a controller that is a little bit smaller, lighter and more affordable, you might want to take a look at the C.T.R.L.i's identical little brother, the C.T.R.L.i Micro. At a price point that's almost $20 dollars cheaper ($39.99, £25 AU$45), the Micro has all the features and functionality just wrapped in a much smaller form factor.
Puts the 'pro' back into proprietary
Mad Catz's C.T.R.L.i comes with a proprietary iOS app that it prompts you to download upon first use. Unless you're short on space, it's worth downloading. It's a pretty cool piece of software that allows you to monitor battery life (the controller takes AAAs), update firmware, check on button and joystick responses in the "Gamepad" tab, or browse all of the available and supported titles for your device in the "Gamesmart" section. The "Gamesmart" tab also provides a small FAQ if you're having issues or questions about your gamepad.
Using the app I found two of my favorite titles for iPad, Monster Hunter 2 Freedom and Star Wars: KOTOR. The controller did well with both games, minus a couple of pairing hiccups mid-game. Though, that may have something to do with Apple's recently released software update. The experience seemed buggy but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that a firmware update can fix any of those connection issues.
The Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i is a reasonable controller for a reasonable cost. It's a reliable peripheral with the only real downsides being a sloppy phone arm and a pairing issue that could be fixed by a simple firmware update.
At reasonable prices, both the C.T.R.L.i and its micro controller counterpart deliver exactly what you need from a gamepad to enhance your mobile gaming experience, and are worth buying if that's what you're in the market for.