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The Gamevice proves the value of a handheld, but only if the price is right

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The rise of cloud gaming services means phones and tablets have the potential to be productive gaming devices. But a device like the iPad is not really comfortable to use with touch controls. Enter the Gamevice for iPad, a new controller attachment from the eponymous company that turns the tablet into a portable gaming device.

The Gamevice is an enlarged version of the company’s iPhone and Android attachment, modified slightly to work with non-Mini Lightning based iPad models. It’s a plastic controller grip with a rubber backing that can be adjusted to fit a few different iPad models. The Gamevice features bumpers, triggers, dual analog sticks, and a button layout comparable to an Xbox controller. It has a pass-through charging port but does not need to be charged itself. It also adds a headphone jack to the iPad.

The Gamevice is a large controller clip that turns an iPad into a portable gaming device.

Once plugged in, the Gamevice will work with any iPad game with controller support. This includes Apple Arcade games, as well as any games on cloud gaming services such as Xbox Game Pass, GeForce Now, Google Stadia, etc. Being a connected controller, it has virtually no input lag or latency issues. Gamevice is the same company that worked on the Razer Kishi, so this is a comparable product.

So is it worth buying for iPad owners? Can it compete with similar handhelds like the Switch and Steam Deck? Does it even make sense to compare the two? Accordingly, I say yes, sort of, and yes – to a point.

Ultimate screen space

Gamevice’s purpose is to turn the iPad into an oversized Switch-like console. This makeshift handheld, combined with the many cloud gaming and streaming services out there, gives gamers both the ability to play and access to hundreds of games. That’s not a unique claim in this market – the Switch and Steam Deck are both handhelds that offer access to hundreds of games. But the Gamevice beats both because of what it is: an extension of existing hardware with a more general use.

The biggest advantage of the iPad is its huge screen. The iPad models that work with Gamevice have much larger screens than the Steam Deck and Switch OLED – roughly 11 inches to the latter’s 7 inches. Having such a big screen to play with is so good it might spoil you. I played Ori & the Blind Forest on my iPad using the Gamevice and it looked just as great as it did on my PC.

Gamevice iPad 1

The disadvantage of such a large screen is that the controller attached to it must be of a comparable size. And Gamevice certainly is. It measures nearly 14 inches at its widest point, and the controller grips are five inches tall and two inches at their thickest point. This makes the Gamevice a difficult device to store when not in use. It folds thanks to its rubber backing, but no amount of fold can make it any less bulky.

This also means that the iPad is significantly heavier. And because the weight is concentrated in the controller grips, it makes balance difficult. Freeing one hand to reach for a glass of water is a quick way to ditch the whole contraption in your lap, I found out the hard way.

Weight aside, the Gamevice is a comfortable and responsive controller. I never noticed any latency issues and it worked exactly as it needed to in every game. The controls can be a bit clumsy compared to a dedicated controller – when playing Forza Horizon 5 I noticed that I sometimes clipped, more so than when playing on the Series X. But it still offers the same overall utility as the average controller.

competition in the handheld market

If the Gamevice had come out a few years ago, it might not have offered as many benefits as it does. But the rise of game streaming on mobile means you can play far more than just mobile-only titles on an iPad. Whether it’s Game Pass or GeForce Now, the industry is offering more options for users on mobile devices.

The Gamevice app, which users can install with their controller, offers the possibility to compile a library of their favorite games for each service for easier access. It’s a little simplistic, but it gets the job done. The device also works with any mobile game that supports controllers.

What makes the Gamevice particularly attractive is that the iPad has other uses besides a gaming console. That’s why I say that the comparisons to the Switch and the deck only work to a limited extent: The Gamevice lets a multi-purpose tablet do double duty as a decent handheld console. The Switch and Steam Deck are primarily handheld consoles that double the power as multipurpose stationary consoles as well.

Gamevice iPad 3

That’s why I say the Gamevice is a great companion for an iPad owner who has access to these game libraries. It offers a comfortable, adequate way to play without input lag.

However, there is one caveat: If you already own an iPad and want to turn it into a gaming device, the Gamevice is a good addition, purely mechanically. But at $100 for a new model, the Gamevice is on the pricier side. Ever since Apple expanded its Bluetooth to work with virtually all controllers, there have been a variety of cheaper options for both tablet attachments and wireless gamepads.

Let me put it another way: if you don’t already own an iPad, the cheapest (new) model is around $330 at the time of writing. Combined with the price of a Gamevice, an iPad+Gamevice is in the same price range as a Steam Deck and well above the price of a Nintendo Switch. My point is that if you’re simply looking for a portable gaming device in the market, the iPad+Gamevice combo isn’t a particularly cheap option.

Who is this product for?

I think iPad owners who also want to be gamers might find the new Gamevice model appealing. What it lacks in slimness or portability, it makes up for in ergonomics and efficiency. And it makes the most of the iPad’s big screen.

It’s not a replacement for other handhelds on the market as it doesn’t offer the same types of games as they do. For example, it won’t play your Steam library or your Nintendo games. And if you have a USB-C iPad, then you’re just out of luck. So the audience for the Gamevice isn’t as wide as it could be.

But for those who have the requisite hardware, the Gamevice is a good, if slightly pricey, option to bring some cloud gaming goodness into your life.

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