A solid controller for all mobile gaming needs.
While I’ve always enjoyed gaming, I’ve never really been one to sit in front of a TV and gaming system for hours on end — until I met Red Dead Redemption 2. There have been some days that I have just counted down the hours until I could get home to be able to play. It was that great of a gaming experience. One of the major takeaways I had from playing that game was how nice of a design the Xbox controller is. A player’s hands wrap around it naturally and the buttons and joysticks are easily within reach when you need to make your character perform an action. I remember when the Xbox was first released and I saw the controller for the first time. I was intimidated. I came from a generation where game console controllers consisted of a single D-Pad and two buttons. Suddenly, the advanced gaming systems like the Xbox and the Playstation added in more buttons and joysticks into the mix. It was…well…intimidating. Now that I’ve finally gotten the hang of it, I definitely enjoy the style of the Xbox controller and all the options you have with it over the older generation controllers.
As much as I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Xbox better, I can’t deny how far Apple devices have come in the past few years regarding their gaming abilities. There are thousands of games to choose from in the Apple store and as nice as it is to interact with some of them by touch screen, it is down right easier to use a controller. SteelSeries has an amazing Bluetooth controller called the Nimbus. It combines the style of the Xbox controller with Bluetooth functionality that connects with iOS devices and the Apple TV for an amazing gaming experience.
The Nimbus is a full-sized wireless controller that is compatible with iOS devices and Apple TV. It features a pressure sensitive d-pad, Lightning connector, rechargeable 40+ hour battery, and pressure sensitive buttons. The controller is compatible with hundreds of games that are MFi-ready and there is a companion app available for instant access to free and paid controller-enabled games. The controller uses Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity and recharges using a Lightning cable. The controller ships with a quick start guide and SteelSeries Stickers. It does not come with its own Lightning cable. The controller measures 5.91” x 4.33” x 2.49” and it only weighs 8.5 ounces.
- iPhone: IPHONE® X, 8, 8 PLUS, 7S, 7S PLUS, 6S, 6S PLUS, 6, 6 PLUS, 5, 5C, 5S
- iPad: * IPAD® PRO, MINI, MINI 4, MINI 3, MINI 2, (4TH GENERATION), AIR, AIR 2
- Apple iPod Touch (6th generation)
- Apple TV: Apple TV 4K, Apple TV (4th generation)
The Nimbus comes in a standard product box from SteelSeries. It’s white with an image of the controller on the front. The connection process is quite simple. You set the Nimbus to Bluetooth pairing mode and then search for it in your list of available devices in your Bluetooth menu. Within a few seconds of tapping “NIMBUS” in the device list of my iPhone and iPad, the controller was connected as a Bluetooth device. I didn’t have any controller functionality from it until I was actually inside a compatible game. Even though there are hundreds of titles that will work with it, one of the benefits of the Nimbus app by Steel Series is that it collates the titles and only shows you ones that will work with the controller. One of the things I don’t like about the app is that it’s not optimized for iPad. The menu of games remains in portrait mode 100% of the time. It’s functional, but not a very well-designed app. I hope that SteelSeries will improve on this soon.
If you are an avid reader of MacSources, you will likely remember that we did a review of this same controller a few years back when the Gen 4 Apple TV was released. This was the model that had a brand new operating system (tvOS), an exclusive App Store, and, of course, gaming. While the Apple TV hasn’t quite become a “gaming system” in my opinion, it does provide an option for those who don’t have a traditional console the opportunity to enjoy different types of mobile-style games. I used the iPhone XS, iPad Pro (12-inch, First Gen), and iPad Pro (10-inch, Second Gen) as my primary test subjects with the Nimbus controller. There were no problems connecting the controller to any of the devices and I was able to play games on each device.
This time around, we are testing the Nimbus specifically with iOS Devices and how it works with Fortnite Mobile. This is a recent development (as of 2/14/19) that was announced by SteelSeries. Controller support is actually provided on the programming end by Fortnite (Epic Games) and so when they opened up the mobile version of their PvP Battle Royale game, it meant that any Bluetooth controller could be used with it — including the Nimbus. As of February, Fortnite actually supports all regular controller inputs like clickable thumbsticks. Unfortunately, the Nimbus does not have clickable thumbsticks, but if it did, they would work with the game.
So, how well does it work? I would give the Nimbus a solid “A” as far as how well it works with Fortnite for iOS. I played through several rounds and after I got used to the controller configuration and how it differed somewhat from the Xbox controller (since it doesn’t have clickable thumbsticks), I was actually able to play the game quite fluidly. Before writing this review, I read how many Fortnite fans were trying to play the game using the Nimbus and were upset that there was no option for sprinting or crouching. The truth is that those actions still exist in the mobile version of the game and Epic makes it possible for users to remap the buttons of the controls to the controller you are using. So, for example, if you are playing Fortnite on an Xbox, but want a different controller configuration, you can select a new one and map the controls to new buttons through the settings menu. The same is true for the Nimbus. The only limitation I’ve really found is the lack of pressure buttons in the joysticks. Another complaint I found was that some users had a lag between the controller and the game action. I did not have this issue with any of the devices I used. It’s possible that there could be interference depending on how many Bluetooth devices are operating near your mobile device and the controller, but I live in a house with dozens of smart objects, mobile devices, and other wireless products and I didn’t have any lag issues.
The Nimbus is quite a versatile controller and works well with all Apple devices. As far as its connection with Fortnite, I think it’s a fine companion for the popular game. While there might be an isolated issue here and there, the Nimbus provides a solid controller option for those who are interested in mobile gaming.