It seems unlikely that Microsoft will ever make a portable Xbox. Between Sony’s failure with the Vita, Nintendo’s market dominance with the Switch, and Microsoft’s device-independent business model, there’s not really a need for such a product.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t demand for portable Xbox games, though. Microsoft has pushed cloud gaming with Xbox Game Pass, along with the ability to stream games directly from your own Xbox console to your phone. And while a surprising number of gamers do it with touch controls – I know people who swear by the touch version of underworld, believe it or not – it’s not an ideal setup for most Xbox games.
That’s why I was interested in trying the RIG MG-X, a mobile controller from Nacon. This is an officially licensed Xbox controller that works with just about any Android phone, giving it all the buttons you’ll find on a standard Xbox One pad. That should make it a good choice for Game Pass games on the go.
Mobile controllers aren’t a new idea, and there are already some solid options for Android, like the Razer Kishi, including a recently released Xbox-specific version. The RIG MG-X, however, has a simple and attractive design for a product category that can be a little awkward, allowing for a sleeker approach when paired with Xbox buttons. It’s nice not to have to think about which icons correspond to which commands; you can of course use the same buttons you would on a conventional Xbox setup.
The controller has a space in the middle that extends to squeeze around your phone, which connects via Bluetooth. Nacon says it should work with any phone running Android 6 and above with a screen up to 6.7 inches; I mainly used it with a Vivo X70 Pro Plus, which is a giant phone with a 6.78-inch screen, and it works well. (However, this does not work with iPhones at all.)
It’s quite a chunky device, and it’s wider than an Xbox controller before you even extend it to fit your phone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it feels well built and I’d have no problem tossing it in a bag when traveling. Using Bluetooth instead of a USB-C connector is a compromise I agree with, as it allows for a more compatible design and ensures the controller can be used with the phone in a case. That does, however, mean you have to manually pair with the phone and charge the controller itself via USB-C from time to time; Nacon quotes around 20 hours of battery life.
Overall, the RIG MG-X’s controls are small but effective. The analog sticks aren’t as big as a full-size Xbox controller, but they’re bigger than a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con and are more satisfying to use. The face buttons are also quite small but tactile and clicky, while the D-pad is quite precise although it’s a little more muscular than I’d prefer. I have big hands and found the RIG MG-X to have reasonably good ergonomics over time for most games.
There is, however, an exception when it comes to triggers. For some reason, they’re exceptionally hard to press all the way down, which is a big deal for games like runners where you have to hold them down a lot. A game like Infinite Halo where you regularly do individual pressure to fire weapons, that’s fine, but I was wondering why I was losing so many runs in Forza Horizon 5 before realizing that I didn’t have my foot pressed enough on the accelerator. You can do it, but it takes more force than any other controller I’ve ever used, and it’s not at all comfortable for extended gaming sessions.
Too bad it’s not a good one Forza Horizon 5 controller – you may have heard that it’s a really good game – but it works well for most other genres. You can use it for non-Xbox games, of course, whether they’re from the Play Store or elsewhere – I’ve played a lot of fortnite with it, and you even get native Xbox button indicators in menus.
The RIG MG-X is a decent controller with one big flaw, so just know what you’re getting into if you’re a fan of racing games. I happen to be one, so it was disappointing for me, and I would personally go with the Xbox version of the Razer Kishi for that reason. But for a lot of other Xbox games, it’s a solid solution that brings you closer to a portable Xbox than ever, and triggers aside, I prefer its design to the Kishi. This month, Nacon also announced the MG-X Pro, which looks much more like a standard Xbox controller – hopefully the triggers are better.