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 ANDROID, IPHONE, IPAD HARDWARE REVIEW
SteelSeries Free Touchscreen Gaming Controls
Touching
 
 Handset: SteelSeries Free Touchscreen 
 Manufacturer: SteelSeries 
 Price: £15.99 
by Mark Brown
Like Franz Reichelt's parachute suit, the SteelSeries Free Touchscreen Gaming Controls probably seemed like a good idea on paper.

It's a set of joypad buttons and a plastic analogue nub that you can temporarily stick onto your iPad or Android tablet to give you physical controls in otherwise touchscreen-only games.

The buttons press down and tap on the touchscreen like a phantom finger. That means they'll work in any game with virtual buttons, and will be compatible with any device with a touchscreen.

But, like Reichelt's barmy wingsuit, these touchscreen buttons don't work so well in practice. They won't cause you to plummet to your death from the first deck of the Eiffel Tower, but they will leave you with a deep sense of regret, and £16 poorer.

Sticky

When you open the box, you'll find a cute clamshell case that looks like a makeup compact. Inside is an analogue stick that looks like a miniature UFO. It's a flat disc about the diameter of a Coke can, with nine tiny suckers around the circumference.

There's a nub for your thumb in the middle, and its made of some clever capacitive material so that your iPad or Android will think its a fleshy human finger. It's held in place by a pair of spiralling plastic tendrils.

SteelSeries Free

You also get three buttons. They've each got a hard plastic neck, and a squishy rubber head that presses down on the screen when you apply pressure. They all have the same image on the top (the SteelSeries logo), so you'll have to remember what button is hidden underneath which.

Get unstuck

The idea is that you place the analogue stick over the game's virtual joystick, and cover your three most-used tap areas with the sticky buttons.

The problem is, the whole thing just doesn't work properly. The analogue stick, for example, often refuses to stay put.

We tried it on two iPads and a Nexus 7, and it would either fall straight off or wobble, travel, and eventually pop off after only a few minutes of slaying zombies in Dead Trigger.

Even when it does stay down, it's not the most comfortable thing in the world. It doesn't feel much more accurate or responsive than just using the touchscreen, and never feels like an acceptable replacement for an Xbox 360's stick, or the 3DS nub.

Button down

The buttons work better. They actually stick down, for one, and mostly stay in place. I did knock them off in the heat of battle a few times, though.

They feel a bit too squishy and are raised a bit too high to be truly comfortable.

SteelSeries Free

Also, in shooters like Modern Combat 4 and Dead Trigger, they got in the way of the right side of the touchscreen, where I needed to pan my thumb about to aim.

Then I had the bright idea of applying the buttons to a game like Mutant Mudds or League of Evil, to give me physical 'jump' and 'shoot' (or 'punch') buttons in these brutally-tough 2D platformers.

It worked well enough at first, but I found that the buttons aren't massively reliable. After a few mis-read jumps and a handful of unresponsive shots I was ready to pry them off and throw them in the bin.

The SteelSeries Free Touchscreen Gaming Controls peripheral is definitely a good idea on paper. But in execution it's pretty much useless. The buttons are unresponsive and cumbersome, the analogue stick doesn't stay stuck, and it's never an effective replacement for a controller.

 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 22 January 2013
The SteelSeries Free is close to being useless. It rarely works as advertised, and it's somehow less comfortable than simply using the touchscreen
  STEELSERIES FREE TOUCHSCREEN GAMING CONTROLS
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