The mobile gaming space is an interesting one at present, as game developers on both iOS and Android work to straddle the line between games designed for touchscreen devices, and shoehorning analog controls into console-style gameplay. Digital analog sticks can never replace an actual controller and button presses, and touchscreen real estate is small enough without fingers blocking the view.

That’s the problem PowerA is attempting to fix with the new MOGA Mobile Gaming System for Android smartphones. A few sizable mobile developers are already signed on to support the Bluetooth controller, and after spending time with it ourselves, it isn’t hard to see why. The MOGA may be among the first of its kind, but mobile gamers looking for a high-quality, well-designed peripheral aren’t likely to find a better solution. And at this point, it’s hard to demand more than what the MOGA provides.

The compact design of the MOGA controller is without a doubt its best feature. Sporting two analog nubs (more similar to those found on the PSPGo than the PSVita), four face buttons and twin triggers, the system itself provides the variety of inputs needed for most games. Acquiring those games is as simple as downloaded the MOGA Pivot Companion App, purchasing games through the marketplace, and pairing the Bluetooth device with your Android smartphone.

Pairing the device to a smartphone is effortless, achieved by simply loading the app while the MOGA controller is turned on. Both the controller and the touchscreen is active during most menus and gameplay, allowing far more flexibility of play styles. The limited range that the analog sticks can slide can be problematic for certain games (N.O.V.A. 3 in particular) yet the performance and intuitive control scheme for titles like Asphalt 7: Heat HD and Riptide GP are executed with precision.

MOGA Android Controller

The differences in even a small selection of games shows that the issues lie with the list of developers supporting the MOGA (growing every day), not with the device itself. The choice of games is somewhat slim at present, but the strength of the device is likely going to change that, and there have even been rumors of iOS support somewhere down the line.

The most surprising aspect of the MOGA system is the compact, sturdy design that never feels frail or cheap in any way. With a rubberized set of rear grips, those worrying about sore wrists from the weight of heftier Android devices may be pleasantly surprised, as we had no issues, even during extended play sessions.

The actual functionality of the device shows some inspired design, as the center portion folds outward and upward providing a clamp for even sizable smartphones. MOGA claims the expandable clamp (rubberized on the inside edge to prevent scratching and ensure a secure grip) expands up to 82 mm, large enough for even a Samsung Galaxy Note. For those with Android tablets, the pairing distance proved to be large enough to make the combination functional.

MOGA Portable Gaming System

The pairing of such a compact controller with larger devices can make the combination feel a bit off-center, but not as much as might be expected. That would be a potential deal-breaker, yet the small scale of the MOGA makes carrying it along for a commute or travel absolutely practical, while never feelingĀ too small or difficult to use.

The only criticisms would be minute in nature, like smartphone volume buttons made inaccessible by the MOGA’s clamp, or face buttons that could be a bit quieter and more flexible out of the box. But for ease of use and form factor, it’s hard to conceive of a mobile controller that could be any better than what PowerA’s MOGA offers.

If you’re the owner of an Android device and are considering picking up an external controller to make the gaming experience a bit more enjoyable, there really is no reason to not try out the PowerA MOGA. And considering it’s priced at just USD $49.99, it’s more than worth the price.

PowerA’s MOGA Mobile Gaming System is available at major retailers and online now.

Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.

tags: Android