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 ANDROID, IPHONE, IPAD HARDWARE REVIEW
SteelSeries Free
Control freak
 
 Handset: SteelSeries Free 
 Manufacturer: SteelSeries 
 Price: £60 
by Mark Brown
Meet the SteelSeries Free. That's the name of the product, by the way, not the price tag. The SteelSeries Free actually costs about £60.

So, what exactly are you getting for that £60, eh? Well, the SteelSeries Free is a Bluetooth controller that's compatible with iPhones, iPod touchs, iPads, and Android devices.

The controller itself is really nice and well put together. The buttons feel responsive and not too smooshy, and the two analog sticks are especially nice to use.

Sure, the buttons aren't quite of the same quality as the ones you'd find on something like a PlayStation Vita, but the controller fits nicely in the hand and it feels durable. It's not going to snap in half.

iGame

In terms of games, there are quite a lot of SteelSeries Free-compatible apps on iOS.

This is because SteelSeries's controller uses the same technology as iCade. That means you can control games like Super Crate Box, League of Evil, Mikey Shorts, and emulators like Commodore 64 with the SteelSeries Free.

steelseriesfree01

But, while almost every iCade game is compatible with SteelSeries's controller, not all are necessarily optimised for the SteelSeries Free.

In Super Lemonade Factory, for example, I found out that you had to press the 'start' button to jump. Blazing Star just didn't work at all.

You'll also find that some games work on iPad with the SteelSeries Free but are unplayable on iPhone. Super Crate Box is one game that only works with the SteelSeries Free on Apple's tablet.

Apps on Android

On Android, the number of SteelSeries Free-compatible games is a whole lot smaller. In fact, the list that SteelSeries gave us contains only a handful of games. But, to be fair, these are some big hitters. Things like Dead Trigger, a couple of Sonic games, and Riptide GP, for instance.

SteelSeries says that Grand Theft Auto III works with the SteelSeries Free, but it can't have tested the game too thoroughly. There's no car horn button, so you can't get past an early mission where you need to sound your horn. Whoops.

Ten compatible games (see the full list)


iOSAndroid
Super Crate Box (iPad)
Gunman Clive
League of Evil (iPad)
Mikey Shorts
Temple Run
Dead Trigger
Riptide GP
Sonic 4: Episode II
Sonic CD
Emulators


The SteelSeries Free also works on any emulator where you can map your own buttons, so if you like playing classic Super Nintendo games on your Nexus 7, then this is actually a pretty solid recommendation.

Pair up

The SteelSeries Free works with Bluetooth, and there is one little quirk on iOS. Your iOS device will think the controller is a keyboard, so if you go to type something, you won't see the virtual keys. It's not a big deal - you just hold down the A button for a couple of seconds to power off the controller.

It can also be a bit confusing at first when you're trying to pair the SteelSeries Free with a device. That's because there are two different Bluetooth modes: one for iOS and one for Android. It's covered in the booklet and should be fine once you're connected, but moving between devices is a bit of a headache.

steelseriesfree03

Feels good, man

I like the controller itself. It feels nice to hold, the buttons are responsive, and it's hardy enough than it can be chucked in a bag. It also charges over USB, which is handy. SteelSeries says it can get from 10 to 20 hours of battery life, depending on how "intense" you are.

I had a good time playing Gunman Clive and League of Evil on iOS - playing with the SteelSeries Free has a retro, SNES-era feel to it. On Android, the games are often more complicated, but with those cute little analog sticks even a first-person shooter like Dead Trigger is easy to play.

At £60, however, this is a really pricey little gadget, especially when compatibility is so spotty. If you do own a lot of SteelSeries Free-compatible games or if you're an Android emulator fan, though, it's certainly worth checking out.

Video review

 

Reviewer photo
Mark Brown 30 October 2012
A great little controller that works on both iOS and Android. It's only let down by a lack of truly compatible games
  STEELSERIES FREE
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 [READERS' RATING] N/A 
Specs Size55.3mm H / 107.7mm W / 19.8mm D
Weight54.4g
BatteryPolymer Lithium Ion Rechargeable, USB charging, 10 to 20 hours
Controls/buttonsFour face buttons, two menu buttons, two shoulder buttons, D-pad, analog stick
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