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 that phones and tablets have the potential to be productive gaming devices. But a device like the iPad isn’t exactly comfortable to use with touch controls. Enter the Gamevice for iPad, a new controller attachment from the company of the same name that turns the tablet into a handheld gaming device.

The Gamevice is a scaled-up version of the company’s iPhone and Android supplement, slightly modified to work with non-Mini Lightning-based iPad models. It’s a plastic controller grip with a rubber back, which can be adjusted to fit a few different iPad models. The Gamevice has bumpers, triggers, two analog sticks and a button layout similar to an Xbox controller. It comes with a pass-through charging port, but does not require charging 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 connected, the Gamevice works with any iPad game with controller support. This includes Apple Arcade games, as well as any game 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 similar product.

So is this worth buying for iPad owners? Is it comparable to comparable handhelds, such as the Switch and the Steam Deck? Does it make any sense to compare the two? Respectively, I say yes, sort of, and yes – to some extent.

Ultimate screen real estate

The goal of the Gamevice is to transform the iPad into an oversized Switch-like console. This makeshift handheld, coupled with the many cloud gaming and streaming services out there, gives gamers both the means to play and access hundreds of games. That’s not a unique claim in this market – the Switch and the Steam Deck are both handhelds that offer access to hundreds of games. But the Gamevice satisfies both by virtue of what it is: an extension of an existing piece of hardware with more general utility.

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

The downside to such a large screen is that the controller attached to it has to be of similar size. And the Gamevice certainly is. It measures almost 14 inches at its widest point and the controller grips are 5 inches high and 2 inches at its thickest point. This makes the Gamevice a difficult device to store when not in use. It can be folded thanks to the rubber backing, but no fold can make it less bulky.

This also means that the iPad will be much heavier. And because the weight is concentrated in the grips of the controller, that makes balance difficult. Freeing up a hand to reach for a glass of water is a quick way to drop the whole device in your lap, as I found out the hard way.

Aside from the weight, the Gamevice is a comfortable and responsive controller. I never noticed any latency issues and it functioned exactly as it should in any game. The controls can be a bit clunky compared to a dedicated controller – while playing Forza Horizon 5 I found myself overdriving at times, more so than when playing on the Series X. But it still offers the same general utility as your average controller.

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Competing in the handheld market

If the Gamevice came out even a few years ago, it might not have offered as many benefits as it does now. But the rise of game streaming on mobile means you can play a lot more than just mobile titles on an iPad. Be it Game Pass or GeForce Now, the industry offers more options for users on mobile devices.

The Gamevice app, which users can install with their controller, gives you the ability to collect a library of their favorite games on each service for easier access. It’s a bit simplistic, but it gets the job done. The device also works with any mobile native game that supports controllers.

What makes the Gamevice especially attractive is that the iPad also has other applications in addition to a game console. That’s why I say the Switch and Deck comparisons only work to a certain extent: the Gamevice lets a multifunction tablet do double duty as a great handheld console. The Switch and Steam Deck are portable consoles first, which also double as stationary consoles with multi-purpose use.

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

However, there is one caveat: if you already have an iPad and want to turn it into a gaming device, the Gamevice is a great addition from a purely mechanical point of view. 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 are tons of cheaper options in both tablet attachments and wireless gamepads.

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Let me put it another way: if you don’t already own an iPad, the cheapest (new) model at the time of writing costs about $330. That, combined with the price of a Gamevice, puts an iPad+Gamevice in the same price range as a Steam Deck, and well above the price of a Nintendo Switch. My point is, if you’re just looking for a portable gaming device, the iPad + Gamevice combo isn’t a particularly cost-effective option.

Who is this product intended for?

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

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

But for those who have the required hardware, the Gamevice is a good, if a little expensive, option for bringing some of the goodness of cloud gaming into your life.

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