One of the features of iOS 7 that didn’t get enough attention when it was announced is native support for physical controller for playing video games. One model that quickly jumped to the forefront is the Logitech PowerShell. The company is known for making high-end gaming peripherals, among plenty of other products, so going into our tests with this device, our expectations were certainly high. Does it stack up?
We purchased a Logitech PowerShell iPhone 5/5s controller for this review. Now, we’re giving it away to one lucky reader! Read through to find out how you might be able to be the one to take this $99.99 iPhone 5/5s game controller home for free.
Introducing the Logitech PowerShell iPhone 5/5s Controller
When Apple first announced that it was bringing native gamepad support to iOS 7, I honestly expected the market to be absolutely flooded with devices aimed at bringing physical controls to the phones and tablets, but that didn’t really happen. In fact, there’s only really two major players in the space, Logitech’s PowerShell and the MOGA Ace Power, at least as far as devices that actually lock around the phones go.
Both devices come with the same price tag of $99.99, which is pretty expensive when you compare that to the cost of a controller for a major home game console, or even to the subsidized cost of the iPhone itself.
Looking at both products side by side, MOJA’s Ace Power crushes the Logitech PowerShell, with more buttons, a collapsable, more portable design, and a bigger battery. Can Logitech’s reputation for quality overcome the fact that its device is lacking some features, most notably the inclusion of joysticks and the standard number of shoulder buttons?
The Logitech PowerShell comes with everything you need to get started; the charger, a headphone adapter, documentation, and of course, the controller itself. One disappointing issue I noticed right out of the box is how short the micro USB cable actually is. Now, if you own many of today’s devices you probably already have some of these cables sitting around, but it would have been nice if Logitech included a cable that is more than just a couple of inches long.
The other thing you can’t help but notice right away is how long the PowerShell is. Unless you have some rather strange pants, carrying this thing around in your pocket is going to range from difficult to impossible. It’s not a heavy device, so throwing it in a backpack won’t mess with your flow, but seeing as it’s a device that is made to use with your smartphone that you carry around with you on a daily basis, the large size definitely limits the ability to truly take it on the go with you. It actually about the same length a Sega Game Gear from back in the day, which was a juggernaut, even all those years ago.
Overall, I was not in love with the Logitech PowerShell on first glance. While it feels balanced and light in the hand, the large size immediately turned me off. Of course, that’s only the first impression, and it could certainly change my mind as we get to actually playing games.
The PowerShell features the minimum controls for iOS controllers. It has an 8-way directional pad, four face buttons, and two shoulder buttons. The d-pad is on the left side of the space where the iPhone or iPod touch goes, and the face buttons are on the other side. As you might expect, the shoulder buttons are on the top. It’s a very standard layout, so if you’ve used a video game controller before, you should feel right at home.
The controller features a simple matte black finish, which looks quite nice. The area under the phone is a little more vibrant, but of course, when your device is clipped in, you will not see that. Other than size, Logitech did a great job of making a subdued device that doesn’t draw a lot of attention while still looking stylish.
The back of the PowerShell has a textured finish, which provides a little bit of extra grip during intense gameplay sessions. It’s a small touch, but one that I definitely appreciated, especially knowing my expensive iPhone was plugged into it.
The iPhone 5/5s fits nicely into the PowerShell, and putting it in is as simple as sliding it in bottom first and pressing down. The back of the controller has an opening, which, in addition to allowing camera access while the phone is plugged in, is also where you will push on the back of the device to remove your phone when you are done playing.
One thing I don’t enjoy about the design is the switch that grants access to the sleep button on the top of the phone. It’s extremely stiff, and pushing it is not nearly as easy as I would have liked. It’s nice that Logitech figured out a way to give you access to said button, but it could have been done better.
Playing Games On The Logitech PowerShell
As this is a device built for playing games, let’s jump right into how that experience is. Overall, it’s pretty solid, but it’s far from perfect. The four face buttons are spaced out comfortably, and they have a solid feel when pushed. The 8-way d-pad is accurate, and it works as you might expect it to. The same is true for the shoulder buttons. The d-pad is analog, which means how hard you push it can alter how a character moves in a game. Push it harder for quicker movement; and the opposite is true.
The drawback to playing games on the Logitech PowerShell compared to other models is the missing buttons. It only has two shoulder buttons, while most video game controllers have four. It’s also missing joysticks, which will make playing any kind of first-person shooter impossible. Additionally, for gamers who play most of their games on home consoles, or even on the Playstation Vita, the feel of a joystick is what they are used to, and while the d-pad does feel good, it will never feel like a joystick.
The biggest drawback of the PowerShell is actually not Logitech’s fault at all. There just aren’t enough games. There’s a list of iOS 7 controller-supported games on Logitech’s website, but it leaves much to be desired. Many of the supported games are a little older, and looking over the list, very few will fire you up. For a more detailed look at the iOS 7 controller scene overall, check out this article from Tim about the issues it has.
In the end, playing games on PowerShell is enjoyable. As more games add controller support, this is a device that will do the job, but at the same time, more controllers are scheduled to be released in the near future, including one from gaming accessory maker SteelSeries, which will work with iPad and iPhone wirelessly.
The PowerShell features a 1500 mAh battery that can be used to extend the life of your iOS device by flipping a switch. It can still be used to play games whether you are using the battery to power the phone or not, and of course, not sharing the battery will extend the life of the controller.
Only the latest iPhone models are supported, so if your device does not have a Lightning connector, then you are going to have to sit this one out. Additionally, as you can probably tell from looking at the controller, iPads are not going to work here, as it doesn’t support wireless connections.
The PowerShell does not feature its own speakers. Instead, it simply plays your iPhone speaker through cutouts on the front. It does amplify the volume slightly by pushing the sound forward, but it’s not loud enough that it becomes a notable reason for buying it.
For using headphones, an adapter is included. This is a minor annoyance, as it’s another thing you have to carry around with you, which further hurts portability.
Living With the Logitech PowerShell
The Logitech PowerShell controller feels pretty durable, like it could make it through the long haul. Reports of the MOGA Ace Power cite poor build quality being a major drawback, and while I’ve heard similar claims from some on the PowerShell, it feels plenty durable to me. Of course, I wasn’t throwing the controller on the ground in an attempt to break it, but in our testing, the build quality seemed solid.
While the battery life is pretty good, the amount of playing time you can expect will vary based on the device you are using and whether or not you are sharing the battery with your phone. Still, you can expect a few hours, which isn’t bad for fairly small battery.
However, there is a pretty annoying drawback to the battery. It doesn’t have a proper indicator, instead, it simply has a “G” that lights up on the back. When the battery is low, it lights up red; when it’s charging, it blinks. Let me say this again though, the light is on the back — where you would have no reason to look at while you are busy enjoying your favorite game. Even with the poor placement, not having an indication of how much battery is left until its almost flat is a pretty serious drawback, and it’s a design choice that just makes no sense to me. It simply makes using the device on a daily basis more annoying than it should be.
In the end, the Logitech PowerShell is average. It doesn’t really excel at anything, but it’s also not terrible at anything either. The buttons feel good, the controller looks nice, and it feels pretty well built. However, Logitech has made some poor design choices that really hold the controller back. A lack of supported games hurts it even more.
Still, if you really want a controller for your iPhone 5/5s, the PowerShell will do the job, even if it won’t blow you away in the process.
MakeUseOf recommends: Wait until the next generation of iPhone controllers are released. If you’re impatient, the PowerShell will do the job, but it does have some serious drawbacks.
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