Review

RiotPWR ESL gaming controller review: great iPhone gaming in a not-so-great package

3.0
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The RiotPWR ESL gaming controller is a great way to play iPhone games, but the bulk and color scheme leaves a lot to be desired.

RiotPWR partnered with ESL, formerly the Electronic Sports League, to create a custom gaming controller. The RiotPWR ESL controller has a standard Xbox layout with a detachable iPhone mount.

Even though Apple opened up controller support on iOS and iPadOS for Playstation and Xbox controllers, custom third-party controllers still run part of the market. There is a huge competitive space within mobile gaming where precision and low latency are key, which is where companies like RiotPWR come in.

RiotPWR ESL gaming controller review: Design

The green, yellow, and white color scheme is based on the ESL colors with a branded logo set in the iPhone mount. This is the only color option available for this controller.

A replaceable Lightning cable connects the iPhone to the controller. A Lightning port in the controller's base enables pass-through charging while playing games.

You can remove the iPhone mount, but there's nowhere to store it
You can remove the iPhone mount, but there's nowhere to store it

The iPhone holder sits securely in a slot and has a hinge for adjusting the device's angle. When the holder is removed, a small rubber flap covers the mounting slot, and there is nowhere to store the holder when it isn't in use.

The controller is lightweight and feels balanced even when an iPhone is placed in the mount. We didn't notice any issues with fatigue or reach when using the controller for extended gameplay sessions.

RiotPWR ESL gaming controller review: layout

The controller layout will be familiar to anyone who has used an Xbox controller before. It has four face buttons, an eight-direction d-pad, two analog sticks, hall-effect triggers, shoulder buttons, three menu buttons, and a share button.

The RiotPWR controller layout is near identical to an Xbox controller
The RiotPWR controller layout is near identical to an Xbox controller

When clicked, the share button activates a screenshot and starts a video recording when pressed and held. It functions using the built-in capture modes on iOS and iPadOS.

The three menu buttons will differ in functionality based on how the games use them. Gamers will know these as the start, home, and select buttons.

Using the RiotPWR ESL gaming controller

We found the RiotPWR ESL gaming controller to be a high-quality controller with excellent ergonomics and button feel. The hall-effect triggers were satisfying to use for shooters and racing games.

The hall-effect triggers feel great when pressed
The hall-effect triggers feel great when pressed

Other gaming controllers connect over Bluetooth, which risks lag and signal dropouts. This controller uses a direct cable connection, which means gamers will never need to worry about a missed button press during a critical moment.

However, the Lightning cable that connects the iPhone to the controller is excessively long. That extra length lets you use the controller with an iPad, but only when the iPad is extremely close by.

That cable is too long for the iPhone mount and too short for an iPad. This cable would have been much better if it was the exact length for connecting to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. We have wrapped the cable around the iPhone holder to keep it out of the way.

Storage and transport of the controller aren't great either. The mount disconnects but doesn't have a dedicated storage location.

The RiotPWR ESL controller has a large footprint and opinionated color scheme
The RiotPWR ESL controller has a large footprint and opinionated color scheme

Our complaints with the controller surround its design to be compatible with iPads. We'd have preferred if RiotPWR had focused on its use with the iPhone instead of making these compromises.

Outside of those minor complaints, we enjoyed gaming with the controller. We tested it with several Apple Arcade games like "The Last Campfire" and "Wonderbox." We also sunk several hours into Minecraft.

There's a headphone jack present for those looking to get serious about their audio connection. This would be important during competitive play, but we stuck with AirPods during our play sessions.

RiotPWR advertises a launcher app called Ludu Mapp for games, tips, and deals alongside the controller. We found it effectively useless since the controller couldn't navigate the app easily. Even with touch, the app didn't have much to offer, and it was simpler to launch the games we wanted to play from the Home Screen.

Should you buy the RiotPWR ESL gaming controller?

The attached Lightning cable is incredibly long
The attached Lightning cable is incredibly long

The mobile gaming market is flush with options for suitable controllers. It is difficult to determine precisely who the RiotPWR ESL gaming controller is for since most gamers will already have a compatible controller in their home.

Despite providing a good gaming experience, many other controllers do the same. Chances are, you'll already have a Playstation or Xbox controller laying around and an iPhone mount for those cost about $12.

For competitors looking for a dedicated mobile gaming controller, the RiotPWR ESL is a great option. However, other mobile controllers have better designs that are easier to store and carry, or have better built app experiences.

The Backbone One controller, for example, is compact, has a direct connection to the controller, and has a built-in social and game launching experience that works. It may be more expensive, but it is also more fully featured for the target market.

In the end, the choice comes down to three things: needing a dedicated, wired iPhone controller, liking the yellow and green color scheme, and desiring a full-sized controller versus a compact one. If you buy this controller, you'll get a great gaming experience on your iPhone.

RiotPWR ESL gaming controller Pros

  • Great button feel
  • Comfortable to use long-term
  • Balanced iPhone holder

RiotPWR ESL gaming controller Cons

  • Excessively long Lightning cable
  • Bulky for travel, no storage for iPhone holder
  • Very opinionated color scheme

Rating: 3 out of 5

Where to buy the RiotPWR ESL gaming controller

The RiotPWR ESL gaming controller is available at the following retailers: