Rotor Riot recently released a new product – the Drone and Gaming Controller for iPhone and Android. It sounded like a “game changer” and I was super excited to give it a review!
Not What I Expected…
Coming from Rotor Riot, I blindly assumed this game controller was designed for drone racing simulators. I was super thrilled, because it would give everyone an opportunity to try FPV, bringing more people into the FPV hobby. And how awesome it would be if you could practice flying FPV mini quad on your phone with a proper controller anywhere you go?!
To describe it with an overly used word in the hobby, it would be a “Game Changer”! :D
However… Upon receiving the Rotor Riot Gaming Controller, I realized it’s something completely different than what I expected. It’s just a generic gaming controller that connects directly to a smart phone to play games.
Well, you can also use it to control DJI camera drones when it’s connected to your phone. That’s why they used the word “Drone” in the product name and description.
I don’t play a lot of games on mobile phone, nor do I own a DJI drone, but I will try my best to give it a fair review anyway :) I will also explain why I don’t think this controller is suitable for playing racing drone simulators.
Where to Buy
The Rotor Riot Gaming and Drone controller retails for $50.
There are two versions, iPhone and USB-C. The only difference I can see is just the connector. Oh, and the iPhone version has colour buttons, the USB-C version has black/white buttons.
The package includes:
- The controller
- Phone holder
Features and Closer Look
The controller connects to your smart phones or tablets through a cable. Compared to the popular Bluetooth connection, there are advantages:
- No battery required, the controller is powered by the phone,
- Less latency compared to wireless
However you are constrained by the wire and have to be near the device while playing, not a problem though if you use the phone holder.
I tested both iPhone and Android versions of the controller, both worked straight out of the box. The USB-C version was Tested on OnePlus 6 (Android), and the iPhone version was tested on iPhone SE.
The Rotor Riot Controller features L3 and R3 joysticks functionality, which basically means the joysticks can be pushed in like a button. This is useful if you play games like PUBG Mobile, you can run, aim and shoot with the joysticks without moving your fingers over to the buttons. (I haven’t actually tested it on PUBG, it’s just a possible application)
There are Rotor Riot logos on the bottom and back of the controller.
The phone holder can be mounted on top of the controller, unfortunately the tilt angle is fixed. And it’s only big enough to hold phones, not tablets.
Design and Build Quality
The Rotor Riot Gaming Controller has the same button and joystick layout design as my XBOX controller. I think it makes a good comparison on build quality because they are sold on similar price range (although the XBOX controller doesn’t support iPhone).
Note that the XBOX controller is wireless with bluetooth, check prices here: https://amzn.to/2D0wqFI
The XBOX controller has noticeably better build quality – the material, buttons, joysticks and overall feel. Not sure if you can see from the pictures, the plastic housing of the Rotor Riot Controller just seems to be of lower quality.
The joysticks are a bit looser than the XBOX one I have, and it feels considerably lighter probably because it doesn’t have any batteries in it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, some people might actually prefer the feel.
Regardless, the Rotor Riot Controller is totally working as intended.
Not every game in the App Store supports this controller, only certain games do.
Rotor Riot is partnering with an app called “LUDU MAPP” which collects all the games on the App Store (and Google Play) that support the controller.
I downloaded a few free ones recommended on LUDU MAPP, and they all work just fine. (I think I am getting hooked on Bouncy Smash)
Not For Drone Racing or Acro Flying?
It’s the same reason I don’t recommend beginners to learn flying racing drones (aka mini quads) using gaming controllers. The joysticks are too short and don’t have enough precision, and feel totally different from the proper radio transmitter we use in RC.
On top of that, both joysticks are spring-loaded and self-centred. That means the throttle stick stops at 50% which makes it even harder to control the quadcopter’s speed and altitude.
I did try flying FPV Freerider (the Android version) with the Rotor Riot Controller, surprisingly it’s even harder than flying the real thing! :D Maybe someone who likes challenges would enjoy that.
Perhaps someone will develop a simulator for this type of gamepad, where the drone hovers by itself. Instead of using throttle to change altitude, it’s used to make the drone go faster or slower… But then it would be completely different from the real thing, and you couldn’t really call that a simulator as it would be more like a game.
The Rotor Riot Gaming & Drone Controller is intended for iPhone and Android gamers, and it does works out of the box! DJI pilots might also enjoy this controller, unfortunately I don’t have a DJI drone to test this on yet.