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Make iPhone gaming more fun with this Xbox-style controller [Review] ★★★★½

The PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus has the same basic design as an Xbox controller, but with a focus on Apple devices. Put your iPhone in the adjustable mount, or remove the mount for iPad or Apple TV gaming.

It stands out from the crowd with a built-in battery for recharging your handset while you play. Plus, PowerA added a couple of useful extra buttons.

I’ve enjoyed gaming on the Moga XP5-i Plus for a few weeks now. Here’s why.

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PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus review

An iPhone’s onscreen buttons are fine for casual games but can be frustrating when playing more advanced ones. Fortunately, Apple built support for a variety of external game controllers into iOS.

The Moga XP5-i Plus is the equivalent of an Xbox controller, but with additional features Microsoft didn’t build into its version. The ability to recharge an iPhone while playing is a game changer… if you’ll forgive the pun.

Almost exactly an Xbox controller… maybe better

I’ve spent more hours than I can count with an Xbox controller in my hands, and PowerA has recreated Microsoft’s hardware nearly exactly. I’ve used an official one enough that if this copy was off it would really bother me. But it isn’t – all the buttons, sticks, bumpers, triggers, etc., are just where my fingers expect them to be. True, the big power button was moved down a bit, but this isn’t used during actual gaming so that doesn’t matter.

I carefully compared the third-party controller’s buttons, etc. with an official Microsoft Xbox wireless controller looking for differences. Everything feels about the same – the buttons were equally clicky and the left and right sticks acted alike. PowerA’s D-pad is just a hair mushier, but I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t looking for it.

And some of the differences are to their advantage of the Moga XP5-i Plus. It’s lighter, coming in at 0.49 pounds compared to Microsoft’s 0.63 lbs.

PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus back view: PowerA added two buttons to the back of the game controller.
PowerA added two buttons to the back of the game controller.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

And PowerA added two useful buttons to the bottom of the controller where they’re positioned to be pressed with the middle fingers. You can set these to mimic any other buttons.

No matter the controller, I’m not a fan of the left and right bumpers, especially when I’m playing a game that doesn’t use the triggers. They aren’t that comfortable. I reprogrammed the additional buttons on the Moga XP5-i Plus to take their place and was very happy with how it worked out.

ready-to-game

PowerA’s game controller connects via Bluetooth, which means the accessory isn’t limited to iPhone. It can also be used with iPad and Apple TV well. And there’s no additional software to install – Apple computers all support many types of game controllers right out of the box, including this one.

I tested the Moga XP5-i Plus with an iPhone 13 and an iPad Pro, and it worked flawlessly with both. I used to controller to play games from Apple Arcade and from the Amazon Luna cloud-gaming service. They all worked well. The same should be true for any game that supports controllers.

There’s no noticeable delay caused by the wireless connection. Communication with iPhone/iPad is apparently instantaneous.

Handy, optional iPhone mount

PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus iPhone mount: PowerA's controller can hold any size iPhone where it's easy to see.
PowerA’s controller can hold any size iPhone where it’s easy to see.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Set an iPad in a stand and you’re ready to game with the Moga XP5-i Plus, but that’s not practical with an iPhone. That’s why PowerA bundles an iPhone mount with the controller.

It includes two hinges, giving a wide range of options for the angle at which the screen is tilted. And the iPhone can be positioned between you and the controller, or so it’s above the controller.

I tested the mount for hours and my iPhone never fell out. The clip is adjustable so it’ll hold my 6.1-inch iPhone while there’s also room for an iPhone Pro Max.

The mount connects firmly to the Moga XP5-i Plus. In all my use it’s never shown a hint of accidentally coming off. But it’s also easily removable. I can unclip it in about a second for gaming on my iPad.

An external iPhone battery, too

PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus top view: Charging the PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus is as easy as plugging in a Lightning cable.
Charging the PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus is as easy as plugging in a Lightning cable.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

When I sit down to play a game on my iPhone, I always check the battery level to make sure it’s not too low. The game is going to drain the battery, and I’ll also need the phone to not be almost dead when I’m done.

That’s not a worry with the Moga XP5-i Plus. It has a built-in 3000 mAh power bank to charge the iPhone while playing. Connect a USB-C cable between the two, flip a switch and electricity starts flowing.

In my testing, the controller was about to raise the battery level on an iPhone 13 about 30% while I’m playing a game. Knowing I’ll finish an hour or so of gaming with my phone ready for the rest of the day is a relief.

Of course, it can recharge an iPad, too. You just need a longer cable.

Just keep in mind, PowerA’s controller runs off the same battery. Recharging your iPhone reduces the amount of time the accessory runs on a single charge.

When it comes time to juice up, just plug a Lightning cable into the controller. Charging with the same cable as an iPhone is very convenient, but the port is set deeply enough into the body of this device that it seems only Apple cables can reach it. The third-party cables I tried couldn’t connect.

PowerA Moga XP5-i Plus final thoughts

There are top-tier games like Devil Immortal Available for iPhone and iPad. And cloud-gaming services like Google Stadia offer plenty more. So if there’s no room for an Xbox in your dorm room or apartment, the Moga XP5-i Plus combined with your iPhone or iPad makes a decent substitute.

★★★★

This controller is better than Microsoft’s official one in many ways. If it was a bit easier to charge, I’d give it top marks.

Pricing

The Moga XP5-i Plus costs $79.99. For comparison, an official Xbox controller is $59.99, but it lacks features PowerA’s does.

Buy from: PowerA

Buy from: amazon

A strong competitor is the GameSir G4 Pro, which I also reviewed. Or, if you’d prefer something that connects to your iPhone via a Lightning cable, there’s the RiotPwr Rotor Riot iOS Controller RR1852 PWR Plus.

PowerA provided Cult of Mac with a review unit for this article. See our reviews policy, and check out more in-depth reviews of Apple-related items.

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