Xiaomi gadgets Part 3: Xiaomi GamePad (and comparison with Tronsmart Mars G01)
Xiaomi produces a multitude of interesting and original “smart” gadgets recently, discovering new market niches. For example, the smart scales, air purifier, lamp, and even air conditioning! Many of them are virtually unknown outside China, because of their scarcity, even inside China, as well as the large size and weight, so that their delivery becomes difficult and expensive, and therefore not economically feasible business.
In the third part of the review, devoted to Xiaomi gadgets, we are going to consider a more traditional and affordable product – Xiaomi GamePad, although it is the first gamepad from Xiaomi. In addition, I have the opportunity to compare this gadget with other similar device – Tronsmart Mars G01, which I had the opportunity to test before. It is even more interesting to compare these 2 controllers, because they have about the same price, $25-28 (i.e. 2-3 times cheaper than the original gamepads of popular gaming consoles with similar functionality). At the same time, we will try to to find out, which gamepad is better, and for what purposes.
As usual, let us start with the product specifications.
|Device||Xiaomi GamePad||Tronsmart Mars G01|
|Connection technology||wireless, Bluetooth 3.0||wireless, 2,4 GHz, bundled transceiver is needed|
|The range of reliable reception||10 m||up to 10 m|
|Power Supply||2 replaceable AA batteries or accumulators||built-in Li-Ion battery, 600 mAh, USB charging|
|Power consumption and battery life||about 25 mA at 2.5-3.0 V, up to 80 hours of battery life||11-20 mA at 3.7 V, up to 30-50 hours of battery life|
|Vibration||Yes, 2 vibration motors||Yes, 2 vibration motors|
|Accelerometer||Yes, 3 axis||No|
Dimensions and weight
|156 x 104 x 65 mm, 220 g.||15.5 x 12.8 x 11.2 mm, 209 g.|
|Compatibility||Android (phones, tablets, TV BOXes), PC, iOS (JailBreak and adjustments are needed)||Android (phones, tablets, TV BOXes), PC, PS3, possibly iOS (JailBreak and adjustments are needed)|
|Bundle||gamepad, package, manual (in Chinese), 2 АА batteries (Mitsubishi in my case)||gamepad, package, manual (multi language, English included), charging USB cable, OTG cable, compact transceiver, fabric cover|
|Plug-and-Play||Yes (pairing is needed once)||Yes|
|Other||low battery warning, intelligent LED, automatic low power mode||USB 1.0/2.0/3.0 support, ergonomic design|
So, let’s first consider the design. It is, to put it mildly, not very original… The fact is, that Xiaomi GamePad and Tronsmart Mars G01 are very similar to each other, and they both like brothers are similar to gamepad of XBox consoles of all three generations, especially the latter, XBox One. Quantity, purpose and location of controls of all three controllers are identical, and the design differs only in minor details. However, we should not think, that this unoriginality is a defect. Quite the opposite, in fact XBox controller is considered as one of the most convenient and versatile modern gamepads, and the level of performance allows you to not worry about the quality of products of both Xiaomi and Tronsmart. But more on that later.
Bundles of the devices are described in the table above, the packages are in the photos below. Both devices are packaged in a sturdy boxes made of recycled cardboard, allowing not to worry for their safety during transportation. Tronsmart has a colored wrap with a photo and a brief description of technical specs of the device. But we should also say about the package of Xiaomi GamePad. It is solid. It is super-durable. It is excessively strong. The box is very tough itself, but there is another insert of the same thickness inside the cover, plus the tissue lining that protects the sticks. Xiaomi boast that their boxes can bear the weight of two people standing on them. Looking at the box of their GamePad, we are willing to believe in it.
Both reviewed gamepads, as well as the XBox controller, have 2 analog sticks, cross, supporting eight directions, 4 control buttons, 2 shifts, 2 triggers, “back” and “menu” buttons. Each stick has an additional integrated button. Also, all devices have the power and connection button, combined with LED indicator, located in about the same place.
Xiaomi GamePad is made of high-quality matte plastic, perfectly resisting fingerprints and tenaciously held in the hands. Only a cross and four control buttons are glossy. The build quality, as usual with Xiaomi, is very high. The controller is completely black, that, in my view, a positive side of its design. I see no reason to mark out the buttons with colors, if you don’t look at them while playing the game. Also, we should note three recesses, which you can see in the photos of the device. There is speculation that Xiaomi will later release holder for mobile phones, which can be attached directly to the gamepad. This is very likely, but there is no official confirmation yet. Tronsmart Mars G01 is also made of plastic, rather glossy, but a little rough, a little prone to gather the fingerprints. The sides have rubber inserts for better grip. The additional design elements, compared to Xiaomi GamePad, there are 3 small LEDs that reflect the current operating mode: compatibility with PC, Android or PS3. 4 control buttons are marked in different colors, like in XBox. Other than that, the designs of the devices are almost identical, except that Xiaomi has a battery compartment, while Tronsmart – MicroUSB connector for charging the battery. Sticks of both controllers are rubberized for better contact. The build quality of Tronsmart gamepad is almost as good as Xiaomi.
As for ease of use and quality of work of the devices directly in games, then here it is difficult to define a clear leader. Functionality and usability of both devices is very high, close to the maximum possible level. Xiaomi Gamepad is a little smaller, and it is easier to reach out to all buttons, but here everything may be determined by habits and size of hands. I have comparatively large hands, but for me it was a little easier to use Xiaomi’s device. I also like the Xiaomi’s material a bit more, because it is matte, so it does not collect fingerprints, and I like more to hold it in hands. Tronsmart is a little worse in this respect, but it has rubber inserts on the sides, serving to improve the grip and reduce the sweating of hands, so that here, too, everything is more than acceptable. Sticks, buttons, triggers – it all works fine on both gamepads (I would like to call them joysticks by the old habit, but here is the joystick, and we’re still talking about gamepads or game controller), and there is no complaints here. To tell more, on Xiaomi GamePad in Beach Buggy Racing I managed to take the first place in one of the last and most difficult races at the first try, and it says a lot about the convenience of the controller, because the last time I seriously played with gamepads was when the NES clones were ruling in our latitudes.
The battery life, claimed by the manufacturers, looks very good, and these numbers may be trusted completely. Xiaomi, using high-capacity batteries, may have over 100 hours of battery life. But it should be understood, that active use of vibration function by the games, will decrease the battery life significantly. So it may be only 10 hours instead of 100. Also, the situation with Tronsmart is pretty ambiguous, since the manufacturer declares 600 mAh battery and a typical power consumption of 11-20 mA, which should mean a minimum of 30 hours of battery life without vibration, but many sources say about just 20 hours. I do not have so much time for games, so I could not check it out. In any case, it should not be a problem, because you can connect Mars G01 to charger or any USB port at any time. By the way, it takes about 2 hours with a charging current of 300 mA to charge it fully. The situation with our main hero is somewhat different, because it uses standard penlight AA batteries. This is at the same time advantage and disadvantage of the device. Advantage, because the use of high-capacity batteries and energy-efficient Bluetooth interface provide much better battery life than the 600 mAh battery and the radio interface of Tronsmart. It is also possible to use relatively inexpensive and available Ni-Mh batteries, the capacity of which today exceeds 3,000 mAh, and it is definitely worth doing if you play a lot. Replacing the battery will take less than a minute. On the other hand, you must always have an additional set of two batteries or accumulators. In my opinion, this is not a problem, but you may prefer the Li-Ion battery. And again: the active use of the vibration function can reduce battery life to 5-6 hours for Tronsmart and 5-10 hours (time may vary depending on the used batteries, cheap batteries are strongly not recommended) on Xiaomi.
Finally, we come to the fundamental question of this review – compatibility of gamepads with different platforms and games. Here, everything is good, but not perfect. To prevent further questions, I must say that to connect to any device on the Xiaomi controller, you should press and hold a few seconds a round button with the logo of the company, until it begins to blink rapidly. The computer, phone, tablet, TV BOX and the other devices can be now paired with the gamepad, which appears in the list of Bluetooth devices with the characters in the name. For successful operation of the Tronsmart controller you need to long press the same button with the logo, until the appropriate compatibility mode is chosen: PC, Android, PS3.
So, with Android 4.0 and above there are no problem with neither Xiaomi, nor Tronsmart. OS supports these controllers at the kernel level, and because of that they allow you to control not only games, but also the interface of the system. However, the preferred controller for the Android is Xiaomi, and there are two reasons for that. Firstly, it uses Bluetooth, and thus does not require the support of OTG and USB port for its operation. Yes, OTG has long been supported by almost all tablets and TV BOXes, but the phones started to support this technology en masse only in the last year, and even today, not all models are compatible with it. Furthermore, in the case of most phones and tablets a non-aesthetic adapter or OTG cable is needed, and besides the only USB port will be busy, which, among other things, will not allow to charge the device. Agree, it is very inconvenient. And even on TV BOX, an extra USB port will not be unnecessary: here it is necessary to connect the keyboard and mouse, USB flash drive and HDD… The second reason – it is the accelerometer in Xiaomi GamePad. For many mobile games this sensor is, if not mandatory, then at least desirable. And Tronsmart does not have it. Considering the same compatibility, choice for Android is almost obvious. As for games, many of them are compatible with gamepads from the very beginning. Plug-and-Play – connect and work, or, well, in this case, play. The first three tested games worked with both gamepads immediately and without any additional settings. It was the Beach Buggy Racing, Beach Buggy Blitz and Dungeon Hunter 4. All controls in these games operate correctly, and it was convenient and pleasant to play. Generally, on Android there are already many hundreds of games that will work with gamepads without any problems. A partial list is available here or here. After that, everything went not so smoothly. In Subway Surfers and Dark Avenger, as well as in Minion Rush, only some of buttons worked, so the normal game without additional configuration was not possible. There is also a class of games like “three-in-a-row” puzzles, which was not originally intended to play on the gamepads. Fortunately, all the controllers can be configured to work with almost any Android games and consoles emulators through Tincore Keymapper. However, for it to work correctly you need a rooted device and a bit of patience to deal with settings. Also, the vibration function and control using the accelerometer must be supported by the game: they work not in all games.
Next, PC. Both devices, again, work with Windows without problems. Tronsmart when connected is recognized as an XBox 360 controller with automatic installing of appropriate drivers. In the Windows interface the controller appears only as a line in the Device Manager. No controls work. But if you start any game that supports a gamepad of XBox 360, and most of modern games do support it, it will work immediately and without questions. I have only one full game on the computer right now – Fallout: New Vegas, and it immediately accepted the controller for 100%. Vibration also works without problems. Problems can arise if the XBox 360 controller is not supported by the game. Honestly, I did not search and install an incompatible game to then heroically fight the incompatibility, but I’m quite sure that these problems can be solved if you have a bit of patience and basic technical knowledge. In the case of Xiaomi situation is somewhat different, but you should also experience no problems. After pairing, only some of games, originally compatible with Bluetooth controllers, will work with gamepad with no additional adjustments. For example, judging from the reviews, Dead Space is compatible with Xiaomi GamePad from the very beginning, but, certainly, many other games will work without problems too. As I said, I have only one PC game and it does not supports Xiaomi GamePad as Bluetooth controller. For normal operation, I just had to download the following application – X360CE. Configuring in this case is practically not required, as the program will recognize Xiaomi GamePad and automatically download absolutely correct configuration file for it. After that, you need only copy the program files to a folder with the game – and our Xiaomi GamePad will be recognized as the controller of XBox 360 after the next start. By the way, you should use 64-bit version of the program for 64-bit games, and 32-bit version for all the other games. No other problems with it. I was even surprised that Fallout: New Vegas is almost playable with gamepad, and after some training you can even adequately aim the targets. I still believe that the keyboard and mouse are more convenient for this kind of games, but the gamepad even here can be given a chance. For racing or fighting games gamepad would be much preferable option. The only thing is that the vibration in Fallout: New Vegas on Xiaomi does not work, while Tronsmart vibrated during shooting.
Further research in the area of compatibility of devices, considered in this review, will be purely theoretical, because I do not own any devices, based on iOS, or modern television game consoles. However, I spent some time to find the information on this topic. So, compatibility with iOS. Unfortunately, this OS does not support gamepads without dancing with a tambourine. You will definitely need a Jailbreak. After this, you will need to install Controllers for All. There is evidence that Xiaomi Gamepad will work without any problems after that in hundreds of games for iOS. About Tronsmart Mars G01, there is no such information, but Controllers for All has support of PS3 controller, and Tronsmart has PS3 compatibility mode, so if you have an USB adapter, there is a certain probability that it will work. Xiaomi GamePad will not work with XBox 360, because this console simply does not support Bluetooth. In Tronsmart XBox compatibility is also not declared, even though on PC this gamepad is defined as XBox 360 controller. As far as I know, XBox 360 uses its own wireless connection interface for controllers, which probably can not be used by the third-party companies without a license. And Tronsmart, apparently, has no such license. But it is probable that in PC compatibility mode the controller will work with XBox 360. Tronsmart Mars G01 is fully compatible with Sony PlayStation 3 (and, probably, 4), for which there is a special compatibility mode. As for Xiaomi, the console sees it, and even connect to it, but does not respond to controls. Probably, without third-party software it is impossible to make Xiaomi GamePad work with PS3. And since Sony brutally fights with attempts to hack Play Station and launch third-party software on it, then we can assume that Xiaomi GamePad is virtually not compatible with this system.
Now it is time to summarize the information above. Let’s consider the strengths and weaknesses of Xiaomi GamePad and compare them with pros and contras of Tronsmart Mars G01, as one of the main competitors in this price range.
Weaknesses of Xiaomi GamePad. In technical terms, I have not found special weaknesses. The only thing you can complain about it is the absence of a clear click on the triggers R2 and L2. This may slightly interfere in those games where they are used for firing. But they are analog, so they should not have a click. Another controversial weakness is a power supply system on the two AA elements. As I mentioned above, for some users it will be a weakness, and for the others – an obvious advantage. The main disadvantage is imperfect compatibility with various gaming platforms. The controller is virtually incompatible with XBox 360 and PS3. XBox One is still not equipped with Bluetooth, so it is also out of the game. PS4 has a Bluetooth module, but is compatible only with the official periphery, and therefore, most likely here, too, we expect a failure. For normal operation with iOS it requires the system hacking, but it applies to all gaming controllers. Finally, not all games are fully support the vibration and accelerometer functions, respectively, not everywhere they operate correctly. This applies to all platforms.
There are many strengths, especially if you plan to use the controller with Android. The build quality, materials, and, most importantly, the work of all controls – it’s all here at the highest level. What is also very important, we do not need any wires, as the result of use of Bluetooth interface. Next, a pair of vibration motors and a built-in accelerometer. Please note that two batteries should be included into the package, there is even special place for them there. If not – you have bought from an unscrupulous seller. If you are using Android, an important advantage is unoccupied USB port (that, in particular, allows the parallel use of the gamepad and charging of the device), easy connection, work with the system interface out of the box. On rooted device it is possible to customize Xiaomi GamePad for almost all the existing games and applications. The PC compatibility is also good. At best, it will work right after connection, at worst – you will have to install X360CE, which downloads settings for Xiaomi Gamepad by itself. The only problem may be the support of vibration. And the power supply system with two AA elements. For many users, it is a substantial advantage.
When comparing Xiaomi GamePad and Tronsmart Mars G01, we should note the following points. Both controllers perform their functions about equally well. I have no claims to build quality, materials or working of controls. Personally, I like shape and materials of Xiaomi controller a little more, but it can be a matter of taste. The functionality of both gamepads is virtually identical, they have the same set of controls and a pair of vibration motors. The only thing, Xiaomi wins with the built-in accelerometer. Xiaomi will usually have longer battery life, but, unlike Tronsmart, can not be charged directly. But in terms of compatibility with various platforms and easiness of connection there is a difference, and quite substantial. For Android Xiaomi GamePad is clearly preferable, due to entirely wireless connection and no need to occupy the USB port. Compatibility of both devices in Android is at about the same level, and rooted devices will allow to use the controllers in virtually all games and applications. Fortunately, the vast majority of Android devices may be rooted quite easily, and there are no sanctions from Google for this action. For Windows PCs, both devices will suit approximately equally well. The urgent need to save a USB port is absent here, as a rule, therefore the basic disadvantage of Tronsmart goes by the wayside. Tronsmart is initially recognized as an XBox 360 controller, so it has no problems with games that support the latter, including support of vibration. But Xiaomi can not only be configured to be compatible with the XBox 360 controller (which is very simple, but still requires some actions), but also initially supports Bluetooth gamepad profile. However, there may be problems with the support of vibration in some games. the situation with iOS is more complicated, as the innate support for game controllers is absent here, and JailBreak is required, which implementation is more complex and dangerous than rooting of Android devices. In general, Xiaomi are also preferred for the same reasons as in Android. For XBox 360, most likely, both devices are equally useless, but there is no full confidence about Tronsmart. And only Tronsmart can be used with PS3, having the appropriate compatibility mode.
I hope that reading was informative and enjoyable. If you like the review, don’t forget to to like and share it, if you don’t like it, then there is a dislike setting for you, and if you have any questions – feel free to ask them in comments or be the first on our new forum.
And finally, a small spoiler:
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