I've reported on a few Black Friday sales on hardware, MFi controllers and boxed games; now it's time to talk about apps. There are a lot of good discounts in the App Store right now, and if trends hold from last year, we can expect many more.
I’ve been looking for MFi controller deals this week, and this is the first big Black Friday discount I’ve found: the recently-released PXN Speedy is available for $49 today. This is a nice discount from its usual $59 price, and brings it in line with the recently released SteelSeries Nimbus and Horipad Ultimate controllers.
I reviewed the Speedy just last week, and I loved it. For gamers who demand the Xbox analog stick layout or want an iPhone grip, this is an excellent choice. I strongly recommend picking up the Speedy for this discounted price.
Both Black and White models are available for $49 today. The white models are almost sold out already, so if you’re interested, act fast.
Its not directly iOS related, but this deal might be of interest to some of you: Amazon is selling the new GeForce GTX 950 for $139 right now, down from its usual $169 price. Why I’m mentioning this: because the GTX 950 is a cutting-edge Nvidia GPU, you can use it to stream games from your PC to your iPhone or iPad using Moonlight.
Using Moonlight, you can stick the GTX 950 in your PC and stream games directly to your iPhone or iPad. Streaming is 60FPS at any resolution, and has almost no lag or perceivable video compression. It is comparable to AirPlay, but beams games from your PC to your iOS hardware, instead of from iOS to your TV.
Performance-wise, Nvidia is pitching the GTX 950 as being comparable to the GPU performance of the Xbox One and PS4. For any game that doesn’t require massive amounts of memory, the 950 should be able to hold its own playing next-gen games.
You can spend a lot MORE than the GTX 950’s $139 price tag to get even more powerful GPUs that run PC games at even higher settings (the $195 GTX 960 4GB is particularly tempting). I might do that next year, but for now, the 950 is the perfect sweet spot in price-to-performance.
It’s a re-post from last year, but it’s still wonderful. Andrew Cunningham over at Ars Technica spends some time revisiting Mac OS 9. If you’re curious about how everyone’s favorite late-’90s operating system fares in the present day, grab a coffee and dig in.
I grew up using the old Mac OS, and it’ll always have a place in my heart. And it still has the best ever versions of Prince of Persia 2 and Wolfenstein 3D.
Shaun Musgrave, resident RPG expert over at TouchArcade, recently launched a new site of his own: Post Game Content.
If you’re interested in iOS gaming, you probably know all about Shaun Musgrave’s RPG reviews and game history articles over at TouchArcade. His multi-thousand-word reviews are a breath of fresh air in a world where certain sites are slapping up 4 sentence game descriptions and labeling them “reviews”. Better still, his “RPG Reload” series combines reviews with history lessons about important handheld games – articles full of information you just don’t see on most modern review sites.
Post Game Content is home to articles that wouldn’t quite make sense on TouchArcade. For example, there are already multiple articles on Etrian Odyssey, an RPG for Nintendo DS, that falls outside TouchArcade’s mobile game beat.
I wrote an extensive review of the Contour a few months ago. There is much about this controller that I disliked, but it DOES have the best iPhone grip of any MFi controller. If having a great grip is important to you, now would be a great time to pick up the Contour.
Everything about the Speedy has been a low-key affair. 6 months back, PXN Speedy's designers emailed me out-of-the-blue and told me about their new controller. A few months later, they sent out a review unit. And a few weeks back, with no fanfare, the controller started showing up on Amazon. All with no promotion; to my knowledge, AfterPad is the only iOS blog to so much as mention the Speedy.
The Speedy's lack of promotion on other sites might give you the impression that it's a bad controller; you'd be wrong. The Speedy is one of the best MFi controllers available today. For a large percentage of iOS gamers - those who want an iPhone grip and an Xbox layout - the Speedy is the best MFi controller available. And most iOS gamers have never even heard of it.
The overall design of the Speedy doesn't stray too far from the Xbox 360 controller. It has the same analog stick layout, same button placement, and pretty much the same shape. If you like the 360 controller, you'll like the Speedy. If you don't, the Speedy won't change your mind. The Speedy is one of a handful of MFi controllers to closely follow the Xbox 360 controller; it's closest competition is likely the Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i pad.
While superficially similar to the C.T.R.L.i, the Speedy lacks Mad Catz' aggressive branding and unnecessarily angular design. This makes the Speedy a more comfortable controller. In fact, the Speedy is one of the most comfortable of all MFi controllers - the shape is rounded to fit your hands, the screw holes are placed such that they don't dig in to your fingers, the front plate connects to the back without any unpleasant overlap, there are no superfluous physical indentations or designs.
My one issue is the back of the controller. It's of soft-touch plastic - that slightly rubberized plastic that takes on a dry, smooth texture. Maybe it's just me, but I personally find ALL soft-touch plastic unpleasant. Sort of like the touch equivilant to the sound of nails on a chalkboard. I was prepared to dislike this controller based on the materials used to make it. But even with my bias against soft-touch plastic, I simply cannot complain about the Speedy: it's a damn good feeling controller. Heck, if you don't share my bias against the material, you might prefer the feel of the Speedy's plastic to the material other controller makers use - it's certainly unique.
The Analog Sticks
The analog sticks are going to be one of the biggest draws for the Speedy. Unlike most of the new controllers hitting the market, the Speedy has the staggered analog stick layout associated with Xbox controllers. To some people - perhaps those who grew up playing on the Xbox - this is a big point in favor of choosing the Speedy over the Nimbus or the Horipad Ultimate.
Good news: these gamers are going to be very satisfied with the Speedy. These sticks feel like they're ripped right off of an Xbox 360 controller - same shape, same height, same material, same layout. Your muscle memory from the 360 controller will translate immediately to the Speedy.
Objectively, I've never particularly loved the 360 controller's analog sticks, and the Speedy doesn't change my opinion. If you have no affinity for the Xbox 360 controller or its layout, the Nimbus and Gamevice have better, grippier analog sticks. The Speedy's sticks are grippy, but if they turn out to age like the 360 controller's sticks, the grippy texture will wear off after 6 months. I've been using the Speedy for about 2 weeks without issue; if this changes, I'll update this review accordingly.
The D-Pad is the Achilles heal for most MFi controller makers. We've had a couple of good d-pads - notably on the Gamevice and Horipad - but the vast majority are terrible. The MFi controller most similar to the Speedy - the Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i - was great in pretty much every way, but was saddled with one of the worst d-pads ever made. Most other MFi controller's weren't much better. Apple's requirement that MFi controllers have a circular d-pad seems to have been too much for most controller makers to handle.
The Speedy changes the game. To put it simply, this is one of the best d-pads available on any MFi controller. Easily in the top 3 with the Gamevice and Horipad. Better than the Xbox 360 controller's relatively terrible d-pad.
This d-pad is pleasantly clicky along all 8 axis, lacks any of the mushiness associated with the C.T.R.L.i or TteSports pads, and is intuitively textured to make it easy to hit whatever direction you're going for, including diagonals. It's loose enough to be easy to activate at full pressure - almost too loose, if I had to nitpick, but far better than most of the other options.
Apple seems to have relaxed the MFi standard to allow plus-shaped d-pads. Modern controllers like the Nimbus, Gamevice, and Horipad Ultimate are moving away from circular pads and towards more precise '+' d-pads. Perhaps it's fitting that before Apple moves away from circular pads entirely, controller makers are finally building them right.
The ABXY Buttons
I have no complaints with the ABXY face buttons on the Speedy. They're about as large as a 360 controller's buttons, they're generously spaced between each other, they're pleasantly rounded, and they have a glossy texture with a perfect amount of grip.
MFi controller's have come a long way when it comes to the face buttons. In the early days, we had a bunch of terrible controllers with terrible buttons. Now, every MFi controller ships with good-to-excellent face buttons. Bravo.
Shoulder Buttons and Triggers
After a series of controllers with shoulder buttons or triggers that range from bad to unusable, I'm happy to report the the Speedy absolutely nails it. Seriously. I was starting to think I was going crazy, but the Speedy shows exactly how a controller's triggers and shoulder buttons are supposed to work.
Yet again, the Speedy follows the Xbox 360 controller's playbook. If you like the 360 controller's triggers and bumpers, you're going to like the Speedy's. The shoulder button bumpers have an almost identical placement, and the triggers have the same surface texture and same activation pressure. The 360 controller was a giant leap forward in the way controller's handled shoulder input; the Speedy opts not to mess with a good thing.
The Speedy sticks the function buttons - Pause, Power, and Bluetooth pair - into a small cluster in the center of the controller, very reminiscent to the 360 controller's buttons. This was a mistake. There is no similarity in functions to these buttons - you press the power button once or twice for every time you use this controller, you press the Bluetooth button less often than that.
The problem is, you press the pause button all the time. And placing the Pause button right in the middle of the two function buttons makes it difficult to reach the pause button by feel. More often than not, I found myself accidentally pressing the Bluetooth pair button when I meant to pause the game. Not the best design, but not enough to prevent me from recommending the Speedy.
The iPhone Grip
One of the biggest points in favor of the Speedy: it's attachable iPhone grip. If you're an iPhone gamer, it doesn't matter how good the Nimbus or Horipad are; you can't attach them to your device. Every MFi controller should come with an iPhone grip; most do not.
The good news: the Speedy has a pretty good grip. Not the best - that honor goes to the TteSPORTS Contour - but better than some of the others. The Speedy's grip screws in to the bottom of the controller, resulting in a sturdy, solid connection. The grip itself opens wider than any of the other controllers', and is easily large enough to support an iPhone 6s Plus in a case.
The Speedy's grip has one unique feature: it has an adjustable hinge, allowing you to change the angle at which it holds your iPhone. Sounds great in theory, but in practice, the widest angle is no wider than any of the other MFi controllers. In my opinion, all of these controllers grip your iPhone at too sharp of an angle, so the Speedy's ability to angle it even sharper doesn't interest me. This was a missed opportunity.
The battery is yet another area where the Speedy pulls ahead of the C.T.R.L.i: the Speedy's battery is rechargeable. The internal battery is rated at about 30 hours a charge, and takes 2 hours to charge via in an included micro-USB cable.
If you've read my other reviews, you know I'm a fan of internal batteries. The Speedy's battery isn't quite perfect - it uses Micro USB instead of Lightning - but it's pretty good nonetheless. Far better than the Mad Catz controllers, which require fumbling around with non-Apple-standard AAA batteries when your controller dies.
It's amazing to me that the PXN Speedy was able to arrive out of nowhere - with little fanfare, into a market crowded with established players - and yet it's one of the very best MFi controllers available.
If you don't care about having an iPhone clip, you might have better options. The Gamevice is a superior controller for compatible iPads, and the Nimbus is a more modern and polished controller for the Apple TV. But if you're looking for a controller with a grip to use with your iPhone, the Speedy is the top of the heap. It's built almost identically to the Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i - a controller which I reviewed very highly - but features a vastly superior d-pad and an integrated battery.
The only worries I have with the Speedy have to do with the longevity of the product. Unlike other MFi controller manufacturers, PXN is not an established brand. If something goes wrong, I don't know if they'll be willing or able to supply firmware updates for the Speedy.
Then again, creating great products is how brands become established. And this is a great product. The PXN Speedy has dethroned the Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i, and is now the best MFi controller with an iPhone grip. It does everything well, doesn't have any serious weaknesses, and is fairly priced. As far as I'm concerned, that makes this an easy recommendation. If you want an Xbox-360-style controller with a great iPhone grip, the PXN Speedy is the best you can get.
If you’re a music game fan who’s been holding off purchasing Guitar Hero Live, this is the chance you’ve been waiting for: just in time for Black Friday, Amazon is selling the Guitar Hero Live bundle for $65 – a significant $35 discount from the usual $100 price tag!
The free Guitar Hero Live game works with iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, but requires the new guitar controller to actually function – apparently Apple’s Siri remote compatibility requirement does allow game makers to require non-MFi-controller propriety accessories.
I predict this is merely the first of many iOS-gaming-related Black Friday sales. If you know of any other deals on iOS gaming accessories or apps, let me know on the forums or on Twitter!
For those who haven't been keeping track of it, Moonlight lets you beam PC games directly from your computer to your iPhone or iPad. MFi controllers are fully supported, and performance is absolutely incredible. The experience is as good as - if not better than - using AirPlay to beam your iOS games to the Apple TV.
Several months ago, I posted an extensive hands-on preview of a beta version of Moonlight. Even then, it worked spectacularly. Example: I was able to play Skyrim - at 60 frames per second on Ultra settings - on a first-generation iPad Mini.
Moonlight works by re-writing an open source implementation of Nvidia's GameStream technology, which Nvidia originally designed for their Shield tablet, console, and handheld. Moonlight's implementation is superior to Nvidia's own; in addition to supporting iOS, it runs in higher resolutions and at better frame rates.
There's one catch to GameStream: because all the video compression is done on the GPU, streaming games requires a fairly recent Nvidia graphics card. According to Nvidia, desktop GPUs in the the GeForce GTX 600 series and above will work, as will mobile GPUs in the 700 series and above, with some 600 series also making the cut.
Compatible graphics cards can be had for around $100 - the $109 GeForce GTX 750 seems like a great value for money, though you can really go crazy with high-end GPUs if you want to throw enough money at them. Even without going overboard, you can get a $300 GTX 970 GPU that will perform better than the similarly-priced Xbox One and PS4.
If you already have a compatible graphics card, give Moonlight a download immediately. It really is that good. If you have any questions about Moonlight or game streaming, don't hesitate to drop by the forum thread to talk about it.