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OnLive Universal Controller review

Andrew Williams



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OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller
  • OnLive Universal Controller


Our Score:



  • High-quality build
  • Good ergonomics
  • Comes with Bluetooth dongle


  • Limited Android support
  • Not cheap

Key Features

  • Up to 36hr battery life
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • microUSB charging
  • Rechargeable battery, plus 2xAAs
  • Wireless dongle included
  • Manufacturer: OnLive
  • Review Price: £39.99

OnLive is the first convincing remote gaming service we've tried. It lets you play high-end computer games on smartphones and tablets, as well as on PCs or your TV - with the help of the OnLive MicroConsole - over Wi-Fi. However, as well as it may work, playing DiRT 3 on a touchscreen is a nightmare. Enter the OnLive Universal Controller, a gamepad designed to work across all the platforms OnLive supports and make playing games feel much better.


The key design inspiration for the Universal Controller is quite clear. It looks and feels quite a lot like the Microsoft Xbox 360 Official pad, opting for the slightly heavier, chunkier feel than the lithe, lightweight style of the PS3 Sixaxis control pad.

OnLive Wireless Controller

Intended to cater for games that appear on these platforms too, it has to cover all the button bases. There are four A/B/X/Y buttons on the front, a four-way D-pad and two analogue sticks to take up the majority of control duties. The one slightly weak point is the D-pad, which lacks a little definition. But the more important analogue sticks are great. They offer a well-judged level of resistance and lightly rubberised top surfaces that give them a feeling of quality and strength while making quick actions possible.

OnLive Wireless Controller 2

Other standard gaming controls include start and select buttons up front and two shoulder buttons for each side. Ergonomically, it's not quite as good as the controllers of the big two, but it’s a cut above most third-party pads and feels rock-solid. There's no creakiness and the plastics feel thick and hardy. At £40, we'd expect nothing less, but it helps to reaffirm that OnLive wants to be a viable alternative to console gaming. Rather than a gimmick.

OnLive Universal Controller

Below the standard gaming buttons, the OnLive Universal Controller features a row of playback controls. These are used to control the replays and viewing of other people's games within OnLive.

Battery life

The controller's power works - unsurprisingly - just like the Xbox 360's. There's a removable power pack on the back, and both a rechargeable unit and an empty one that holds two AA batteries (included) are supplied. To charge-up the supplied battery, you need to cable into the microUSB slot on the top of the controller, plugging the other end of the cable into either a USB adapter or powered USB socket. No USB power plug is included, but if you're using OnLive it's likely you have more than a few powered USB sockets nearby.

OnLive Wireless Controller 4

The battery lasts for up to 36 hours and takes 4-5 hours to charge fully, on par with an official Xbox 360 or PS3 pad. The one other accessory included in the box is the wireless adapter dongle. For tablets and smartphones, you don't need this, but it's a must for any computers without Bluetooth built-in, or the OnLive MicroConsole. Although the Universal Controller looks just like the wireless controller supplied with the MicroConsole, it's actually different, using another method to stream your control inputs to the system.

Tim Sutton

April 5, 2012, 4:24 pm

Guys. Come on. Onlive does NOT let you play PS3 or Xbox 360 games.

Onlive streams PC games which run on central PC servers.

It in no way streams console games to anything.


April 5, 2012, 7:27 pm

Yeh we know - but there are a load of games on Xbox 360/PS3 that are within the service.

Plus, it feels much more like an Xbox/Wii alternative than a gaming PC alternative, don't you think?


April 6, 2012, 6:48 am

In early December last year magazines and even national newspapers did stories about how it was now possible to play console games on an iPad thanks to Onlive. A short time later there were stories about running Windows applications on iPad via Onlive. We are now well into April, but no magazine, tech site, or newspaper has bothered doing a follow up article to explain why these apps never appeared. (One of your rivals posted a story saying they were now available in UK but when everyone posted 'no they are not' Stuff simply killed the comment section and carried on running the story, presumably because they got lots of hits, even if it wasn't true). Onlive has never offered any explanation since then. It is just not worth buying anything by Onlive until you can be sure it is going to be widely supported. At the moment, as you point out, it is not even well supported on Android. Who can be sure Onlive will still be around in six months' time if they can't get their products onto the market months after they are announced? Who is going to risk paying £30 to £40 for games they may not be able to play or controllers that may soon be useless?


April 6, 2012, 5:19 pm

@mikfrak we gave the OnLive guys a prod just before publishing this review to see if there were any updates on the iOS app situation, but sadly nothing to report on that front.

Last time we talked to them, they were holding back on OnLive Desktop in the UK because apparently we're just a bit too ravenous for this streaming tech over here!

Tim Sutton

April 8, 2012, 3:37 pm

OK, well. Its your name on the article, not mine. A few stats though:

Number of times consoles are referenced: 11

Number of times the fact that its the PC version of the games that is being streamed is mentioned: 0

Number of times the review EXPLICITLY STATES that Onlive streams console games to a tablet: 2, including once in the headline.

Number of console games Onlive streams to anything: 0


April 8, 2012, 5:17 pm

Hi Tim,

I've made a few tweaks for clarity - the original OnLive service review went into more detail about how it works and such, but don't want to confuse.

ps Happy Easter!

Andrei Lavrenov

September 24, 2014, 7:38 pm

Does the controller work with steam/non-onlive games?

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