The MicroConsole is Onlive’s connection method for those who want to get games streamed to their TV, but don’t want to output the video signal from their computer. It’s a little black box, roughly the size of a 2.5in hard drive, and comes with a wireless controller.
The console is finished in glossy black and constructed of metal and plastic. Its angular design and large Onlive logo won’t make it the pride of a stylish living room, but build quality is excellent. And it’s small and light enough to stash away in a bag and take over to a friend’s house – it’s much more compact than the controller.
While impressive, it’s hardly a wild feat of engineering, considering how little the MicroConsole has to do, processing-wise. The console connects to your TV using an HDMI socket on its back, and there’s an optical audio output if you’d prefer to hook up the audio to a source other than your television. OnLive offers surround sound in some games, so having this audio output to hand is a big plus. To hook up to a lower-end audio system – a pair of portable speakers perhaps – there’s also a 3.5mm stereo audio output.
The most important connection of all, though, is the Ethernet port. This plugs into your router to give the MicroConsole access to your home network, and therefore OnLive. Our biggest criticism of the MicroConsole itself is that there is no Wi-Fi built-in. This helps to ease connection problems, but also massively reduces its flexibility. With Wi-Fi, this could have been a perfect gadget to take on trips involving nights in lonely hotel rooms, where the TV only seems to dole-out badly-dubbed Jim Carrey films. It would also have boosted its potential as a unit for kids’ bedrooms.
There are ways around being tied to the router – you could use your laptop as a wireless bridge or buy a wireless access point to let you move further away – but none are quite as good as having Wi-Fi as an option. We can understand OnLive’s need to keep the price of the unit down – especially as production costs are relatively high for a product early in its life cycle – but, boy, would we love a Wi-Fi MicroConsole.
The wireless controller that comes boxed with the MicroConsole is heavily indebted to the Xbox 360 pad. It’s curvy and chunky, designed to fill your hands in a way that the lighter PlayStation controllers do not. Third-party controllers rarely manage to touch upon the quality of those of a console manufacturer, but this is a decent stab at it. The plastics used are thick, giving it that high-quality creak-free feel, and the ergonomics of its curves make holding the thing very comfy.
The button layout is just-about identical to an Xbox 360 pad – four main buttons, a D-pad, two analogue sticks, two triggers and two shoulder buttons. The action of the D-pad isn’t perfect, but otherwise the buttons have a high-quality feel that gives you confidence that its sticks aren’t going to snap off when things get a little hairy. A rechargeable battery pack is supplied, which plugs into the back of the pad and is charged by connecting a microUSB cable to the console itself. There are two USB ports on its front, and these can also be used to plug in mice and keyboards, which is helpful when some games are designed for use with such things.
What’s disappointing about the wireless controller is that it can’t be used with any other medium supported by OnLive. It won’t connect to your PC or to a tablet – it’s just for the MicroConsole. OnLive has just launched the Universal Wireless Controller, which works with other platforms and the MicroConsole. This slip-up and the lack of Wi-Fi make this package feel like a first-try desperately in need of a second.
However, if you’re happy with the lack of Wi-Fi, additional Universal Controllers can be bought for £39.99. The MicroConsole supports up to four controllers.