Kanex GoPlay SideKick Controller REVIEW Console-like gaming on-the-go.
Is it not amazing that we live in such an exciting time! As a fan of video games, we have so many more options now than we did 10–20 years ago. With advancement in both the home and portable gaming markets, you can find a game, no matter what style interests you. With the Smart Phone industry expanding the iOS and Google Play store options, you no longer need a Nintendo Switch or 3DS XL or a PS Vita to enjoy games on the go. From Action to shooter, to arcade, to puzzle, to action to RPG and platformer, our phones can provide countless hours of entertainment. Coupling the gaming option with movie apps like Movies Anywhere, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Youtube, etc., and adding an unlimited data stream, you have more than a portable video game device. Playing games on the smartphone can be fun, but some games do not work as well with digital, on-screen, thumbsticks. At CES 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada, I toured the Kanex booth and fell in love with the Kanex GoPlay Sidekick Bluetooth controller for iOS. Unfortunately, the device was not yet ready for retail, until July 2017. I thus patiently awaited the release of the device. I received the device about a week ago and have been playing with the controller, while on my family vacation to North Carolina. Opting to leave my Nintendo Switch at home, I wanted to give this device my full attention.
The product arrived in typical retail packaging. The cover displays the Kanex device in black, with a clean white background. Just below the large controller image, you will find the “Made for Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, iPod (MFi)” designation and an iPhone resting atop a case/stand. The left side of the packaging details the specific devices that are supported by the Kanex Controller: iPhone 7/7Plus, 6s/6sPlus, 6/6Plus, 5/5s/5c and iPhone SE, iPad (4th gen), iPad mini (1–4), iPad Air (1+2), iPad Pro 9.7/12.5 inch, and iPod touch 5th/6th generations. The packaging appears to be outdated based on the Apple event this past September. The iPhone 8/8Plus, iPhone X and iPad Pro 10.5 inch options are not listed specifically on the packaging but will work just fine. The back of the package displays a few of the device features like the protective case, 20 hours of gameplay and multiple games.
Returning to the front packaging, you can lift the magnetic flap and see the device through a clear window on the right. The flap shows the controller, the lightning connector port, and the button layout. The controller has a D-pad along with the top left, an A/X/Y/B combination along the top right, a menu button in the middle, dual analog joysticks towards the bottom and four trigger buttons along the top. Opening the top of the packaging, the device is easily removed from the clear plastic shell. Upon first impression, the case is fantastic. It is portable, pocket-sized and feels very durable. The opening is perfectly sized for the iPhone but is a little narrow for anything more than a bumper style case. My iPhone X fit, sans case, into the slot without any issue. My fathers iPhone 7Plus had the same experience. Adding my Catalyst Impact Case for iPhone X made the fit a little tight. I was no longer able to rest my phone at an angle but still was able to use the stand with the phone at a 90-degree angle. Th Catalyst waterproof case was too big for the controller case. The Otterbox defender case for the iPhone 7 Plus was also too big for the Kanex case.
Opening the Kanex case, I was amazed at the lightweight feel of the controller. Measuring at 2.4 x 4.5 x 0.8 inches and weighing 8 ounces, the device was designed to look like a traditional controller but is on the mini side. Before you use the controller, you will want to charge the included LiPo battery. The device charges via lightning connection, which is a rather convenient feature. Now, all you need to take with you is a USB-A to lightning connector, your iPhone, and the pocket-sized Kanex controller. Thanks to the charging connector, you do not have to carry an additional USB-A to micro-USB cable. The 400mAh LiPo battery should fully charge in a few hours at 5V/1A input. Thanks to low energy Bluetooth 4.1 connection, I was able to play for a few hours per day for the past week. The packaging promises 20 hours of playtime with a single charge, and this seems to be on par.
The list of compatible games is not as vast as one would think. To be fair, this list is significantly larger than it was last year. The company included an app recommendation “Gamevice Live” to be downloaded from the iOS app store. The application does provide a list of paid and free games, that will support the gamepad. To test the device, I first downloaded and played Xenowork ($0.99 iOS), one of the game recommendations from the Gamevice LIve application. I really enjoyed the 3rd person shooter and felt that the controller added to the overall feel. The buttons on the controller have a nice click-feel but are not as soft/smooth as my Xbox One controller. The feel is more like a clicky keyboard, which did provide a good tactile response. There was no noticeable lag between the game and the controller, and the buttons were easily accessible, enhancing the experience. Combining the keyboard with the case/stand was more enjoyable than using the touchscreen buttons. You can pair the keyboard with multiple devices by pressing the little button on the back of the controller for three seconds. Rayman Classic (free), Rayman Adventures (free), Dead Trigger 2 (free), and Crashlands (6.99) also were utilized to test the controller. I felt that the controller helped with all of these games.
The kickstand case has its own set of pros and cons. The case will fit inside of a cargo pocket but is a bit too large to fit inside of tighter clothing. The inside of the case is plastic and the controller is plastic. There is a significant magnetic closure, which holds the clamshell case tightly closed. Unfortunately, there is a degree of wiggle room within the case, which causes the controller to rattle inside of the case. This was not a problem for me, but may be an annoyance to some. The only feature of the Kanex device that I truly feel needs improvement is the narrow 1/2 inch phone channel. As stated above, phones inside of larger cases, like the Otterbox Defender, will not fit. I understand that the device is designed for your smartphone and I also understand that a universal fit would cause issues for someone. If you must have your phone in a larger case, rest assured that you will still have an amazing experience with the Kanex controller. You will just have to rest your phone/device on a table or find another kickstand. I have tested other controllers such as the Terios T3+ but this was the first iOS specific case. I have read many reviews of the SteelSeries Stratus and StratusXL controllers and love that Kanex included a rechargeable battery. I rate this case at 4.5/5 stars.
- Charging with Lightning Connector
- Case is easily portable, Pocket Size
- Kickstand case with magnetic closure
- Bluetooth 4.1 low energy protocols.
- Rechargeable battery with good life
- Controller rattles in case.
- Will not accommodate moderate to thick cases.