Want to truly enjoy games on Android? Try the $50 Moga Pro controller

For handheld gaming I was recently considering the Nvidia Shield, although the $299 price tag kept me from pulling the trigger. Instead, I opted to spend $50 on a Moga Pro Controller. This isn’t a new device but I hadn’t used one before. I should have though; this is a great accessory if you like gaming on Android(s goog) phones or tablets and don’t like on-screen controls.

The Moga Pro looks similar to a standard Xbox 360(s msft) controller and has a Bluetooth radio inside. A small clip can hold an Android phone in landscape, making the setup resemble Nvidia’s(s nvda) Shield. Of course, Nvidia’s product has the guts of a powerful Android smartphone inside: a Tegra 4 chip, stereo speakers and more. The Moga Pro is simply an accessory for the Android smartphone or tablet you already own.

Mogo Pro with Moto X

There’s a full complement of gaming controls on the Moga Pro: A pair of shoulder or bumper buttons, two triggers, two analog joysticks, a directional pad and four illuminated action buttons. The controller has a rechargeable (non-replaceable) battery inside that you charge with an included microUSB cable.

Mogo Pro controls

Setup is pretty simple; you’ll just need to download the free Moga Pivot app from the Google Play store. I installed that on my Moto X, clipped the phone to the controller, and paired the two via Bluetooth. Done. There aren’t any additional steps. Within a few minutes of receiving the Moga Pro controller, I was using it to drive a car in Asphalt 8 on my smartphone. I’ve also used the Moga Pro with my new Nexus 7 tablet. The small included stand holds up the Android tablet just fine.

There’s very little lag when using the controller. I’m sure if I could measure the lag it would be present, but I find the Moga Pro pretty responsive for gaming. I actually feel like I’m using a wired controller.

Not every game in the Google Play store is optimized to use hardware controls but Moga has an answer for that as well. You can switch the controller from using the Moga Pivot app to using the device as an HID, or Human Interface Device. In this mode, the controller’s buttons, joysticks and analog pads are mapped to commands.

Mogo Pro with Asphalt 8 settings

Moga makes it easy to find optimized games through the Pivot app. You’re not actually buying the games through Pivot, just finding them. The purchase process is still handled through Google Play. Here’s a listing of Moga optimized games; a pretty wide range of titles.

Is the Nvidia Shield more powerful and does it offer better gaming performance and sound than the Moga Pro and my Moto X? Probably. Is it six times better though? That’s the price difference here. And although the Shield can also play full PC games through Steam, I simply didn’t need that functionality.

I’m sure the target audience for and buyers of the Nvidia Shield are happy with the product, but for the rest of us looking to have a better Android gaming experience, I highly recommend the Moga Pro controller.