RiotPWR ESL gives iPhone gamers lag-free performance

External game controllers have a fairly rich history in mobile gaming, and over the past few years we’ve seen a slew of new options as Apple finally chooses to take gaming more seriously.

Although the iPhone has always been about gaming like anything else, in the early days, Apple took a somewhat stubborn stance that a touchscreen should be more than enough for mobile gaming. It took four years before the first Apple-certified game console appeared in 2012. However, even then, support for it has been scant and inconsistent, with developers having to build that support for themselves, without any help from Apple.

A few Apple-certified game consoles followed in the ensuing years, but the concept never took off due to the high price tags demanded by Apple’s Made-for-iPhone program. Fortunately, a lot has changed in the past few years. In 2019, Apple stunned the gaming industry by announcing native support for Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox consoles in iOS 13, and has continued to build on that momentum ever since.

Although wireless game controllers are the most popular choice these days, many serious gamers still prefer the better reliability and lower latency that a wired connection offers. This is where the RiotPWR ESL console comes in.

Lightning based games

With a sporty design familiar to any Xbox gamer, RiotPWR ESL comes in iPhone and Android configurations. I tested the iPhone version. It relies on a built-in Lightning cable to connect it to your iPhone. This allows you to avoid the usual Bluetooth pairing process — it’s ready to go as soon as you connect it to your iPhone — and you also won’t have to worry about interference causing connections to drop or lag. After all, there’s nothing worse in competitive gaming than your controller stops responding just as if you’re about to take the decisive kill shot.

Like many third-party Lightning accessories, once you connect the RiotPWR ESL to your iPhone, you’ll be prompted to visit the App Store to install a companion app. However, in this case, you will be taken to a page that offers a selection of easy-to-control games, starting with EA games real racing 3 to Sega sonic the hedgehog. It’s far from an exhaustive list of games that support third-party consoles, but it’s not a bad way to start.

the design

RiotPWR partnered with ESL (formerly the Electronic Sports League) to design this console, and it shows. In addition to the prominent ESL logo on the iPhone stand, it is decorated with an ESL color scheme of green, yellow, and white.

RiotPWR ESL Game Console with Coiled Lightning Cable and iPhone Mounted on a Table.
Jesse Hollington/Digital Trends

These colors wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but RiotPWR did something reasonable by putting them out of sight in the first place so they wouldn’t be a distraction during normal gameplay. The top of the console is mostly white, with black for the buttons and top of the analog sticks. The eight-way D-pad, the four drivers on the front, and the iPhone mount hole cover in yellow, which also accentuate the base of the analog sticks. Green is reserved for the bottom.

The RiotPWR ESL includes a detachable iPhone holder, which fits into the slot above the three menu buttons. This can be tilted from a forward direction of approximately 30 degrees to where the top touches the rear of the console. Yellow rubber cover keeps opening closed if you prefer to use the console without an iPhone holder.

The yellow rubber grips hold an unwrapped iPhone securely without fear of dents or scrapes, and the spring-loaded stand expands enough to handle even the bulkiest iPhone cases. The RiotPWR ESL had no issues handling the Otterbox Defender or even the Catalyst waterproof case in my testing. The most important problem is that the Lightning connector may be convenient in some cases, because it has a slightly wider base than the standard Apple Lightning cable.

The back of the RiotPWR ESL features a non-detachable two-foot Lightning cable, with a built-in hook-and-loop strap to wrap the extra length—which is what you’ll definitely need when using it with your iPhone holder.

The cable length is a bit awkward. Although the RiotPWR ESL can be used with an iPad – as long as it has a Lightning port – it is too short to use comfortably. However, it is also much longer than it should be for use with a console-mounted iPhone. It’s easy enough to wrap the extra cable in the back, but it looks a bit clunky.

Close-up of the ports in front of the RiotPWR ESL gaming console.
Jesse Hollington/Digital Trends

There are also two ports on the front of the console: a standard Lightning Aa port for cross-charging, as well as a 3.5mm audio out for connecting a set of wired headphones — a nice touch for competitive gamers who need latency-free audio.

gaming experience

What RiotPWR ESL lacks in some of its design options, it more than makes up for in overall gameplay.

The touch feel and heft of the RiotPWR ESL is very similar to the standard Xbox One console. While you’ll naturally have to deal with a little extra weight if you’re mounting an iPhone on top of it, the stand’s placement makes it remarkably well-balanced and comfortable to use, even during extended gaming sessions.

Close-up of the RiotPWR ESL iPhone game console with the iPhone holder installed.
Jesse Hollington/Digital Trends

RiotPWR ESL has put it through its paces in a variety of games across different genres. This included Liu’s fortuneAnd the Mrs. Pak ManAnd the sonic the hedgehogAnd the Star Wars: CoutureAnd the real racing 3And the Asphalt 9: LegendsAnd the pubg mobileAnd the Jinshin effect.

In all cases, RiotPWR ESL met or exceeded my expectations. The ergonomics and feel of the buttons were very responsive and pleasant. The console’s balance also means it can be used comfortably with accelerometer-based controls, such as tilt to steer inward. real racing 3while still using catalysts for things like acceleration and braking.

The few issues I had were with either the iOS 15 bug or the games I was using, as the RiotPWR ESL wasn’t the only console affected by it. For example, it took some effort to get some games to recognize the console, but I had the same difficulties with SteelSeries Nimbus+ and Sony Dualshock 4.

In addition to the usual game controls, RiotPWR ESL has another nice trick worth noting: a “Share” button to the left of the D-pad that lets you quickly and easily take a screenshot or screen recording of your gameplay. By default, a single click takes a screenshot while holding it and hold to start or stop screen recording.

As with most game controllers, it can be customized or disabled within general > game controller in your iPhone Settings Implementation. You can also program the button to capture a video of the last 15 seconds of gameplay instead.

Conclusion

While RiotPWR ESL offers a great gaming experience, it also feels a bit fitting. Since Apple opened the doors to Xbox and PlayStation consoles three years ago, there’s a good chance that most mobile gamers already have a compatible console, and adding an iPhone holder will only set you back about $10.

On the other hand, games that are not so time consuming that the Lightning connection offers a certain appeal to fans of competitive games, where every millisecond counts. If so, and you can bypass the color scheme, RiotPWR offers a great iPhone gaming experience that won’t disappoint.

Pricing and availability

The RiotPWR ESL game console for iOS is available from most major retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, and Target as well as the RiotPWR website for $70. Requires an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad with a Lightning port running iOS 7 or later.

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