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Moga Pro controller review - a must-have for gamers

The Moga Pro hits stores today for $49.99, and in addition to playing around a bit with it at PAX East, we got some time to try out with the Bluetooth controller before it arrived at retail. There are a few things you get in the box besides the controller itself: a tiny instruction manual, a micro USB cable, and a foldable tablet stand. I'm a huge fan of this stand since it's highly portable and can support fairly large tablets at a reasonable viewing angle. 

Those who are familiar with the Moga Pocket controller will already know that these guys make controller accessories for mobile games, and offer developers hooks so they can optimize for the hardware. Like the first model, the Pro also includes the retractable brace to hold your Android device in landscape while you play. The Moga Pro expands on the original by more than just adding two shoulder buttons, clickable joysticks, a backlight toggle, and filling out to be more comfortable in the hand. Arguably the biggest new feature in the Moga Pro is the ability to support HID Bluetooth profiles thanks to a little switch in the middle of the controller.

The Human Interface Device profile is most commonly used for mice and keyboards, but since a lot of gamers have been working on using their PlayStation controllers with their Android devices, game developers have taken the cue and started supporting HID input for their titles. That said, this could potentially open up the door to the Moga Pro working double (or triple) duty with PCs and consoles. Unfortunately, the best I could do was pair up the Moga Pro with non-Android devices; inputs didn't go through at all, but I hold hope that this will change eventually.

You can find the HID games that work through Moga's Pivot app for Android, which showcases optimized games and helps you pair up the controller with your Android device. The catalog spans Moga Pro games, HID games, and a bunch of genre-specific sections. So, how do the games actually play? For the most part, really well. It's especially nice to be able to see the full screen and soak in a game in its entirety.

The controller is about a million times more comfortable to use than the original pocket controller, plus the buttons all have the right amount of spring and give. Moga's usefulness may be restricted to titles that go the whole nine yards with control optimization and still use the dual-stick control scheme (as opposed to a more gesture-based one), or games that leverage the HID profile, but that includes more games than you would think. The only blip in performance during my time with the Moga Pro had me stuck on run mode in Modern Combat 4, but overall, the connection stayed stable. 

While using the HID Bluetooth profile to play Android games with proper controllers is hardly new, it's not something that a lot of more casual gamers will go out of their way to get to work. Moga Pro is aiming to make something that's easy to set up and easy to start enjoying, which I think is laudable. The controller itself is really comfortable, and well-designed for its niche purpose. Gamers that love dual-stick games but need more finely-tuned control definitely want to try out this fine accessory. 

Simon has been covering mobile since before the first iPhone came out. After producing news articles, podcasts, review videos, and everything in between, he's now helping industry partners get the word about their latest products. Get in touch with him at simon@futurenet.com.
58 Comments
  • How much of MC4 did you play? Were you able to get through the quick time events without having to touch the screen? I had my Nexus 4 slimport'd to my TV playing with the Moga Pro and it was great till I ran into a QTE and couldn't find any button that registered the swipes that the game was looking for. I was hoping for a console-like experience with the slimport+moga combo but it seems devs aren't supporting that set up yet. Deadzone, for instance, doesn't even let you navigate the menus with the controller.
  • That's a very good point. Depending on the game, there are parts where you'll still need to use touch input, which may hamper TV dock set-ups. If you've got the device in the brace or tablet stand, I don't see it being that much of an issue. 
  • I slimported my Nexus 4 to the TV and had noticeable lag trying to play Link to the Past and other games. Just enough to throw you off. Did you get any lag with MC4 while slimported or any other game?
  • I connected my Note 2 to my TV via MHL and I too noticed the same lag time. Probably running the intensive graphics, mirroring the game and sound, and running Bluetooth and control inputs all at once has a tendency to be very taxing on the processors. I'm going to experiment with turning off GPS and data and see if it makes a difference tonight. But you're not crazy.
  • I played it last night after my MOGA Pro came in and I could not find a way to get through those scenes without touching the screen. Got stabbed in the gut like 8 times. Otherwise, everything was smooth and responsive like you'd expect. Updated mapping for the controls is really stellar as well.
  • Simon, will this controller eventually be compatible with BlackBerry 10? Would be awesome if it would
  • No dice so far even for pairing, which is weird since BlackBerry was showing off HID support at GDC. I'll rassle around with it a bit more today to see if I can get it to work. 
  • I don't think they support every controller. See http://devblog.blackberry.com/2013/02/blackberry-10-gamepad-support/
  • What exactly does the HID support do? (In layman's terms, please!) Does it mean less lag? Faster? More button support? I really have no idea...
  • Basically, it means wider compatibility with games and systems. Instead of requiring game developers to explicitly include Moga support in their titles, devs can build for HID, which would enable more than just Moga controllers.
  • I have the MOGA Pro and all I know is that I need to be in HID mode to get the controls to work with my NES, SNES, DS, and MAME emulators.
  • Is this a confirmation that it does work with android emu? Any specifics (My Boy!, or SuperGNES)?
  • Yup, it works great with NES.Emu, SuperGNES, and MAME4droid Reloaded. I completed Bad Dudes, Rygar, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the MAME emulator since I got the MOGA Pro. :) I'm now working on the Double Dragon games on MAME.
  • Does it work with Android 4.2? AFAIK, HID was broken in 4.2
  • Sorry, not sure about 4.2. I'm running this on my Note II, which is 4.1.2.
  • I'm not quite sure if i understood you right. Does it work with the My Boy! Games? 'Cause that's the only thing i wanna know, Yes or no? Hope you're replying to this, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for the review, good job.
  • I just picked up the Moga Pro and was wondering what I need to download to be able to use it with emulators. Also, can someone do a step by step guide of how to actually configure everything? I can't seem to figure out how to get it to work. Thanks