PowerA’s gone and made one of the strangest-looking controllers I’ve ever seen, and yet, this thing that looks like it should have never made it past the concept stage is the first non-Microsoft gamepad to be wirelessly compatible on Xbox consoles. The PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra doesn’t just have a name only a mother or Elon Musk could love; it also wants to try and bridge the gap between mobile game streaming on services like Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and console and PC play with just one form factor. And it does this by offering a convertible form factor, transforming from a small-ish mobile gamepad to a full-size controller — all for $129.99.
We’ve seen something like this before with the Turtle Beach Recon Cloud controller, but that attempt at cross-platform compatibility was hindered by a restriction to wired USB-C on Xbox. PowerA went the extra mile with the MOGA XP-Ultra by licensing Microsoft’s proprietary wireless protocol to allow wireless play, and then, it went many more extra miles to offer four different transforming controller setups: compact mini-pad mode, full-size mode with the attached grip, and then either of those with the included mobile phone clip attached.
And what’s it all for? Ideally, it’s to give you the best of all worlds. The MOGA XP-Ultra does kind of have it all: wireless for Xbox as well as PC (if you use an Xbox Wireless USB adapter on PC), wired USB-C on Xbox and PC, and Bluetooth 4.2 LE wireless connectivity for PC and Android phones. But even though it has full Xbox compatibility, the controller doesn’t work with iPhones or iPads.
There’s Android support, but nothing for iOS or iPads
Outside of all the connectivity stuff, the XP-Ultra sports a built-in rechargeable battery, full-size sticks, buttons, and triggers — the latter being impulse triggers with their own tiny vibration motors. The core mini-pad itself has its own rumble motors, and when it’s locked into the full-size hand grip, it syncs up with larger rumblers that feel more like a standard Xbox controller. (Rumble on the mini-pad alone is a little tinny and annoyingly noisy at times.) Like many other PowerA controllers, there are two programmable buttons on the rear of the attachable grip. The included phone clip is a lot like the standard MOGA phone clip, using a pressure clamp to hold your phone in place — though it’s a little easier to attach and slightly more stable than the universal one since the XP-Ultra and its clip are designed for one another. The Recon Cloud from Turtle Beach may have this beat in terms of rigidity and solidness (its phone clip strongly screws into the controller, after all), but the MOGA clamp offers more articulation that helps to better balance a phone above your hands.
In my brief hands-on time with the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra, I found it to be a mixed bag of ergonomics. The quality feels there, but my average-size hands felt a little too big and overbearing in mini-pad mode yet also a touch too small and lacking my normal, comfortable reach of the buttons and sticks in full-size mode. It wasn’t enough to make things unplayable, but I could feel that I was slightly out of my comfort zone. And if you mount a heavy plus-size Android phone to the top of it, especially using just the mini-pad, I fear it could become Hand Cramp City as you awkwardly grab it in a weird claw-like grip.
What’s that saying about a jack-of-all-trades? As cliche as it may be, the XP-Ultra is indeed that master of none. The sticks, buttons, and triggers are on par with other PowerA controllers — some of which I admire for their excellent mix of quality and value proposition — but I can’t help feeling most people buying this controller may settle into using it in just one or two form factors. And at that point, you may be better served with a dedicated mobile controller for your game streaming needs in tandem with a regular-ass controller for console and PC use. Perhaps the XP-Ultra may make more sense once there are some inevitable deals (as we often see on PowerA accessories), but at $130, you can get an Xbox Elite Series 2 Core and a basic PowerA MOGA phone clip and have a better experience.
Photography by Antonio G. Di Benedetto / The Verge