The Samsung SmartPhone GamePad is a Bluetooth controller to deliver console-like control when you are playing Android games on your smartphone.
With iOS 7 controllers like the Logitech Powershell and SteelSeries Stratus breaking out and playing nice with the iPhone and iPad, the GamePad is specifically made to work only for Samsung Galaxy smartphones and tablets.
If you remember what the Sega Megadrive felt like in the hand, then you can get an idea of what to expect from the GamePad. Weighing in at 195g and measuring in at 31mm thick, the glossy black body is chunkier than most smartphones, though still manages to fit snug and comfortably in the hand.
Buttons-wise there’s a D-Pad, two analogue sticks, four action buttons and two trigger buttons, as well as start and select buttons on the front edge of the controller. There’s a micro USB charging port to power up the 160mAh battery. There’s also a big Play button in the middle of the pad that when pressed activates the Samsung Play app to sync the two devices together.
To physically mount a phone or tablet, there’s an adjustable metal cradle above the controller that is capable of holding devices that measure between 4 and 6.3-inches, so it will work with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It holds the handset secure and because most Samsung handsets are nice and light doesn’t struggle under the additional weight.
If you want to connect a smartphone wirelessly you can do it using an NFC tag. Additionally, you can connect to compatible TVs via HDMI and Samsung’s AllShare screen mirroring software.
With a Samsung smartphone physically docked, the connection with the controller is made over Bluetooth 3.0 and requires the handset to run on Android 4.1 or above which shouldn’t be an issue for most if not all Samsung handsets.
Samsung lists 35 games that are compatible with the GamePad and includes Need for Speed: Most Wanted, Asphalt 8 : Airborne, Modern Combat 4: Zero Hour, Virtua Tennis Challenge, and Prince of Persia : The Shadow and the Flame among the top tier Android titles supported, so there’s a decent amount to play.
Spending some time with Prince of Persia and Modern Combat: 4: Zero Hour, the controls, particularly the 8-way D-Pad is initially a bit stiff to operate and actually feels more like a third analogue stick than a D-Pad. This can make aiming tricky at times particularly for shooting where the action is more frantic. The action buttons are cramped as well but everything is well in reach and the shoulder buttons offer a satisfying feel for firing off rounds of ammo.
Priced at 60 Euros (around £50), the Samsung SmartPhone GamePad is more expensive than the Moga Android controller (£25), which supports a bigger list of games and doesn’t restrict you to using only Samsung phones and tablets. The GamePad does have its own built-in battery but there are no details on how much playtime we can expect to get from it. If you own a Samsung phone and want some physical controls, the GamePad is an option, but there’s cheaper options available that will do essentially the same job.