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Nacon’s MG-X Pro smartphone gamepad is comfortable but a little too basic

With cloud gaming here to stay, you need to keep your phone charged.

Photo by Mat Smith / Engadget

Nacon, now both a games publisher and peripheral maker, has been making gamepads for consoles for a while. It was one of the companies that Sony chose to make its wired ‘pro” PS4 controllers before Sony announced its own ‘pro’ controller for the PS5.

Not that it stopped Nacon. It has introduced two mobile controllers, including, most recently, an iPhone-compatible model that lands in the middle of smartphone gamepad pricing. It’s cheaper than Backbone and Razer’s technically impressive gaming peripherals, and unfortunately, Nacon made some sacrifices to get to that price.

The MG-X Pro is light, even with its built-in battery. Compared to some smartphone controllers, the grips are more substantial and closer to typical console gamepads. This is the most comfortable smartphone gamepad I’ve ever tried by a wide margin. It feels controller-sized, with similar spacing between the d-pad and analog controls and full-sized trigger buttons at the back, making it far more comfortable during long gaming sessions.

Nacon MG-X Pro
Nacon MG-X Pro (Photo by Mat Smith / Engadget)

The buttons are responsive but a little too squishy. I couldn’t notice any latency difference between wireless and wired smartphone controller options when playing through several Apple Arcade titles, Into The Breach, and some Overwatch 2 streamed on PS Remote Play. The buttons don’t wobble around in their housing, but the d-pad feels a little doughy and loose. The two analog sticks are made of sturdier stuff, fortunately.

Between the two controller halves, the vice part of MG-X Pro has a ridged rubberized surface to keep your iPhone locked in, with a little lip on both sides to keep everything in place. The vice works on every iPhone I have, from the Mini to the Max models. And, unlike some other vice controllers, even with a protective case, my iPhone 14 Pro fits in fine.

It’s easy to while away the hours with the MG-X Pro – until your phone battery runs out. Unlike more expensive options like the Backbone, this is a wireless model. There’s no lighting cable plug to connect your iPhone into) which means there’s no power throughput.

This problem is compounded when you’re using cloud gaming services, like Xbox Cloud and PS Remote Play, which need a lot of power to stream games. If you want to play for extended periods, you’ll have to be prepared to take similarly extended breaks. Other shortcomings include a companion app that doesn’t offer enough to warrant its download. There’s the ability to calibrate the two analog sticks – which makes me worry that they could drift in the future – and walkthroughs of what the MG-X Pro is capable of. That’s not all that much.

Nacon MG-X Pro
Nacon MG-X Pro (Photo by Mat Smith / Engadget)

The MG-X Pro is the most comfortable smartphone gamepad I’ve ever used. Still, the ability to offer comfortable gaming over time is limited by its inability to keep your smartphone powered up. For more money, you could go for the Backbone or the Razer Kishi, which offer pass-through charging. Or, a little more inelegantly, you could swap the vice-style controller for a more comfortable Bluetooth controller (I rate the 8bitdo controllers) and keep your phone propped up, but plugged in.