Mobile gaming is a serious business that has far outpaced the console and PC in terms of revenue. This isn’t anything strange since opting for a console or a PC requires a substantial, dedicated investment in both hardware and software. Meanwhile, literally everyone has a smartphone with mobile gaming being very approachable, and either very cheap or completely free. Now while it’s undeniably insanely popular, mobile gaming does come with a few caveats, the biggest of which is controls.
I and many other console and PC gamers are absolutely put off from mobile gaming as soon as we see the on-screen touch controls covering half the screen. They aren’t as precise as a controller and you have to cover half the screen when using them which makes playing the games utterly unenjoyable. Well, luckily, we have companies like GameSir striving to make mobile gaming into not something that’s merely bearable but actually kinda awesome. In that regard, I gave their X2 Type-C mobile controller a go and was extremely pleased with the results. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty and find out why.
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GameSir X2 is a gaming controller that attaches to your smartphone. As opposed to Bluetooth controllers or those with various attachment modules, here the controller simply slides open to accommodate your phone to which it connects directly via the USB-C connector. Considering that mobile gaming is mostly done on the go, this makes the gaming experience with the X2 much more hassle-free and seamless than with separate wireless controllers.
In fact, the design and button layout of the X2 is highly reminiscent of a Nintendo Switch and its joy-cons with it obviously being narrower to seamlessly fit most standard phones. This essentially means that alongside asymmetrically positioned thumbsticks, on the left you’ll find the traditional D-pad, and on the right, you have the A-B-X-Y buttons. You even have the dedicated and highly convenient screenshot and home buttons along with two contextual G and S buttons that do different things depending on what you have running on the smartphone. To make things fully in line with the layout of the joy-cons you also have the two sets of clicky triggers on each side.
All of the buttons are smooth and comfortable to use while being durable enough to withstand 3 million presses. The face buttons have a short travel distance and produce a very quiet sound when pressed while the triggers are a bit louder and sound more like mouse clicks. This actually makes them more satisfying to press than the triggers on the joy-cons which feel very bland and provide almost zero feedback when pressed.
As far as the build and notable design features go, the controller is made from a combination of ABS plastic and some rubber details on both the front and back. The rubber in the front has both a practical and cosmetic purpose as it’s used to tightly secure your phone without damaging it while at the same time featuring this beautiful hi-tech pattern. The thumbsticks are also covered in nice, grippy rubber material and even have the blue and red-colored rings underneath so it’s not all in black and white. The pure white on the back is broken up by the black rubber grips that make the controller more ergonomic and ensure that the entire thing doesn’t fall out of your hands.
Now I did mention that the X2 is narrower than Nintendo Switch joy-cons and this raises one issue in terms of ergonomics, especially when it comes to the right thumbstick. You see, the joy-con is slightly taller and it can afford to place the thumbstick a bit higher so even if it’s not ideal placement, you can still fairly comfortably use it without dislocating your thumb. The X2 on the other hand requires some awkward thumb positioning or for you to reduce your grip on the controller in order to properly handle the right thumbstick. This might not be an issue if you have small to mid-sized palms, but if you are on the larger end of the spectrum, the X2 might not be very comfortable to handle.
Other than that, despite being very light, the controller feels solid and sturdy enough to withstand even the most intense gaming sessions. Its quality seems on par with full-on console controllers and while it can produce a slight rattling sound when handled since it’s made out of two connected pieces of plastic, this quickly goes away once you jam your phone in there. This can be done rather safely thanks to the aforementioned rubber and the fact that the USB-C connector isn’t completely fixed in place so you can plug in the phone even before you stretch out the controller. As far as the gripping mechanism goes, it’s spring-loaded and you can stretch it out to accommodate phones up to 167mm in length which should be enough for all but the bulkiest of phones. The grip is even designed so it doesn’t fully cover the back of your phone to allow the heat to disperse more efficiently and keep things relatively cool while gaming.
Now onto the performance. But first, let’s consider the fact that mobile gaming has long since moved on from pure casual experiences and now offers games of much higher quality and complexity. You can even use smartphones to experience full-blown PC games through services like GeForce Now and Stadia where the controller is an absolute must. While GameSir X2 can be used for more casual games, it’s those higher-end gaming experiences where it truly shines.
Most of this stems from the fact that the GameSir X2 doesn’t use Bluetooth and is instead plugged directly into your phone. In fact, there are two major advantages of a wired connection with the first one being the complete elimination of any sort of input-lag. This can come especially handy in competitive shooters were using the X2 will not only make you more precise but also much faster on the trigger. The advantage is apparent as soon as you start using the X2 and it’s truly a joy to jump into a round of Modern Combat and just absolutely decimate anyone standing in your way.
Keep in mind though that the X2 is not compatible with all the PlayStore games. In fact, it doesn’t support many highly competitive games like Call of Duty Mobile which will usually be playable exclusively through on-screen inputs in order to avoid anyone getting a competitive edge the X2 and similar controllers would surely provide. GameSir does have a full list of games that support the X2 and their other controllers, so I’d recommend checking that out before committing to a buy.
The second advantage of X2’s wired connection has to do with its battery life. It might be somewhat of a surprise but the X2 doesn’t have a battery of its own and is instead powered directly by your phone. Now if you’re thinking this is a recipe for disaster – don’t worry. Thanks to the direct-wired connection, the X2 actually spends only around a negligible 2-5 mAh of the phone’s battery in an hour of gameplay. Pair that with a game streaming service that uses much fewer hardware resources of your phone and you can have hours of non-stop gameplay. What’s more, you even have a USB-C pass-through port on the bottom for charging the X2 if you start running out of juice.
All of the above, coupled with increased control makes using the X2 a true joy. The best testament to this is the fact that I was able to stream PC games like Dead Cells, Rocket League, Nex Machina, and even Assassin’s Creed Odyssey without feeling like I wasn’t in complete control at all times. I definitely got warmed up to the idea of using my smartphone as a little mobile gaming hub and the onlookers were none the wiser, thinking I was using some amazing yet unknown handheld console.
If there’s one drawback to the GameSir X2, it’s that it only supports Android devices with the USB-C input. iPhone and owners of older androids with micro USB inputs will, unfortunately, have to try their luck elsewhere. While GameSir does provide alternatives, most of them fall into the classic, separate controller with a Bluetooth connection. Hopefully, some future iteration of the X2 will come with upgrades that will make it more versatile in terms of compatibility and connectivity. Finally, I have to mention the pricing. The GameSir X2 costs $69,99 and that’s a fair price for what the controller offers. While it doesn’t have multiple connectivity options and its smaller form factor can be a problem for some, it’s an otherwise great package that combines attractive design with a familiar button layout. All the while offering a fast, non-battery draining, and seamless experience that almost turns your phone into a full-fledged little console.