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RiotPWR ESL iPhone controller review: Power up your mobile and Xbox cloud gaming

Colorful and convenient.

RiotPWR ESL unboxed
(Image: © Windows Central)

RiotPWR is a company focused on mobile gaming accessories, albeit with a modest range of products to date. Their first entry, the Rotor Riot, was a mobile-gaming controller available for iOS and Android devices. It enjoyed reasonable success, establishing RiotPWR as a formidable player in the hardware game. Their latest is the RiotPWR ESL, adorned with the vibrant color pallet of its namesake, ESL Gaming, the world's leading esports professional gaming company.

RiotPWR offers its ESL controller in two flavors again, one for iOS devices and another for Android. It's clear that the pad is designed with the Xbox controller as inspiration but also features some neat extras to keep your device charged and comfortable during extended gameplay sessions. Being so similar to the Rotor Riot, how much has RiotPWR improved upon for the ESL controller?

RiotPWR ESL: Price and availability

RiotPWR ESL boxed

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

RiotPWR sells its ESL controller through its official store and major third-party retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy. The RiotPWR ESL currently enjoys good stock availability and comes in one color, matching the ESL theme. Two configurations are available, one for iOS and the other for Android. Be sure to select the correct model for your device since the included cable is not cross-compatible.

RiotPWR ESL: The positive

RiotPWR ESL gameplay

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Mobile gaming has grown to an incredible level over the past decade, with console-quality games available on many phones and tablets. A downside to these AAA games is finicky touch screen controls, often too frustrating for more complex and competitive games. Initially concerned with how much compatibility might exist for mobile games, the RiotPWR ESL automatically directs you to the Ludu Mapp mobile app. The app, designed by T2M, the parent company of RiotPWR, categorizes mobile games with controller support.

The app proved invaluable and saved me plenty of time scouring the internet for controller-supported games to play with the ESL pad. The good news is that everything I played worked perfectly without having to re-map controls for any of the games that I tried. The delight of a device advertised as plug-and-play living up to its promise was fantastic. Most games allow you to hide on-screen touch controls, which gives them a genuine console-quality feel.

In hand, the controller feels comfortable if a tad on the smaller side. It makes sense to be a little more petite given its mobile game nature where portability is paramount. The detachable phone mount saved me space when I kept it in my backpack, but it would comfortably fit in a larger jacket pocket too. Looking at photos, you might think mounting a phone would have the ESL pad feeling wobbly and heavy, but it's surprising how balanced it is when your device is angled just right.

RiotPWR ESL mobile app

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

One thing that always discouraged me from playing games on my phone is how fast the battery can drain. Luckily, RiotPWR included a pass-through charging port on the ESL controller. This way, you can position yourself near a charging socket or connect a portable power bank. Perfect for long-haul flights or train journeys, it helped me focus less on preserving my battery life and more on enjoying the games.

Having a port for wired headphones here is a welcome addition.

Next to the charging port is a 3.5mm audio socket, which relays the sound from your device whenever you connect wired headphones. If you plan to travel on loud transport, this will help drown out the noise of plane engines and similar distractions. Modern phones are doing away with headphone ports, so having a port for wired headphones here is a welcome addition. Of course, you're still free to connect wireless headphones to your device directly, and the ESL controller won't interfere.

RiotPWR ESL gameplay

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Since the RiotPWR ESL connects to your device via a USB cable, there's a concern about getting into a tangled mess. Fortunately, the phone mount has a clip and a Velcro tie on the cable to keep things gathered neatly together. Even with wired headphones, I never had any problems with cords becoming twisted. There is a slight sense that the USB cord is oversized, pondering what kind of gigantic phones it's intended for, but the clips and ties keeping everything together means there's no issue.

For gameplay, the rear triggers stood out as particularly impressive, especially compared to other third-party controllers that I've used that suffered from weak and flimsy trigger action. The resistance feels great, suited to driving games allowing careful adjustments to throttle and brakes. The face buttons feel as sturdy as they should, without anything wobbling around in place. A share button sits underneath the left-hand analog stick and cleverly snaps a screenshot, which is much easier than wrapping your fingers around your device mid-game to try to capture an epic moment.

RiotPWR ESL

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

For Xbox Cloud Gaming, the ESL pad is perfect. Since it physically mimics an Xbox controller, it feels just right. The latency over its USB cable is less than anything I've used via Bluetooth, making xCloud even more appealing. Seated reasonably close to my wireless router and with pass-through charging connected, I comfortably played through the first couple hours of Psychonauts 2 with no issues. Sitting my phone separate from the controller gave the lengthy cable more purpose, and the pad is more lightweight this way.

Overall the build quality of the ESL pad is admirable. Though it's on the smaller side, it does feel like a legitimate gaming accessory. Whether it gives anyone an advantage in esports competitive gaming is debatable, but it provides much more versatility than playing games on a touchscreen.

RiotPWR ESL: The negative

RiotPWR ESL triggers

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Not everything on the ESL controller is perfect, but the list of downsides isn't too lengthy. One issue that stuck out like a sore thumb while playing was the cheap-sounding clicky-clack of the shoulder L1 and R1 buttons. Curiously enough, the face of the RiotPWR ESL features buttons reminiscent of an Xbox pad, yet the shoulder buttons and triggers are more in line with the PlayStation. Weird. Not as frustrating as the plastic clap that sounds out every time you press the shoulder buttons, heard from across the room.

It's a shame how loose the analog sticks are on the ESL pad.

Considering how great the triggers feel, it's a shame how loose the analog sticks are on the ESL pad. Not without some resistance, but they felt too feeble to make subtle changes in direction while moving carefully in certain games. It was tempting to use the D-pad for navigating characters around instead of the sticks, but it was hardly an improvement. Resembling the dome-style D-pad of modern Xbox controllers, it sadly can't promise the same quality. It's not so bad to put me off using the controller entirely, but it does feel like a shame when the rest of the device feels so premium.

Though I praised its collection of ports, the iOS model regrettably does not support the use of lightning-connected headphones. The lightning port is exclusively used for pass-through charging, leaving the 3.5mm port as the only way to connect wired headphones. A minor downside, but a curious one considering those earphones come boxed with modern iOS devices and are commonplace for Apple users.

For build quality, the RiotPWR ESL is superb. Let down only by a few minor features, but anyone intent on taking their mobile gaming for extended sessions shouldn't be too bothered by them. The color theme does feel slightly less professional than its esports nature implies, but that's no fault of RiotPWR. Bright green and yellow may appeal more to a younger audience, as its primary colors certainly have it stand out as a vibrant accessory.

RiotPWR ESL: Should you buy it?

RiotPWR ESL unboxed

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Without a doubt, the RiotPWR ESL is one of the best ways to enjoy mobile gaming on your phone, and I had a blast checking out games I would usually avoid with complicated touch controls. A step up from their previous endeavor, the Rotor Riot controller, the ESL stands out as one of the better mobile controllers I've used.

Compared to some of the best Xbox controller phone mount clips, the RiotPWR ESL controller is an admirable effort in third-party mobile accessories and one I'd be happy to use for as long as possible.

You should buy this if ...

  • You spend a lot of time gaming on mobile devices
  • Touchscreen controls feel awkward and frustrating

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • Smaller controllers feel uncomfortable
  • You rely on lightning-connected headphones

Anyone spending more than a few minutes playing games on mobile devices should strongly consider the RiotPWR ESL controller. It's a high-quality and practical accessory that makes it easier to enjoy gaming on the go, with pass-through charging removing the worry of battery drain.

With its second entry into the mobile gaming controller scene, RiotPWR has nailed the design with the ESL controller. A comfortable and practical solution to long gaming sessions that otherwise use touchscreen controls. Anyone who enjoys mobile gaming will love it.