This controller turns your Android phone into a portable Xbox

It seems unlikely that Microsoft will ever make a portable Xbox. Between Sony’s failure with the Vita, Nintendo’s dominance of the market with the Switch, and Microsoft’s device-agnostic business model, there isn’t really much need for such a product.

That doesn’t mean there’s no demand for portable Xbox games, though. Microsoft has been pushing cloud gaming hard with Xbox Game Pass, as well as the ability to stream games directly from your own Xbox console to your phone. And even though a surprising number of players are doing this with touchscreen controls — I know people who swear by the touch version of Hades, believe it or not — it’s not an ideal setup for most Xbox games.

That’s why I was interested to try the RIG MG-X, a mobile controller from Nacon. It’s an officially licensed Xbox controller that works with just about any Android phone, giving it all the buttons you’d find on a standard Xbox One pad. This should make it a good fit for Game Pass games on the go.

Mobile controllers aren’t a new idea, and there are solid options for Android out there already like the Razer Kishi — including a recently released Xbox-specific version. The RIG MG-X, though, has an appealingly straightforward design for a product category that can be a little awkward, which makes for a sleeker approach when coupled with the Xbox buttons. It’s nice not to have to think about which icons map to which commands; you can just naturally use the same buttons you’d have on a conventional Xbox setup.

The controller has a gap in the middle that extends out to clamp around your phone, which connects over Bluetooth. Nacon says it should work with any phone running Android 6 and above with a screen up to 6.7 inches; I mostly used it with a Vivo X70 Pro Plus, which is a giant phone with a 6.78-inch screen, and it works fine. (It does not, however, work with iPhones at all.)

This is quite a chunky device, and it’s wider than an Xbox controller even before you extend it to insert your phone. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — it feels well-built and and I wouldn’t have a problem tossing it into a bag when traveling. The use of Bluetooth instead of a USB-C connector is a trade-off I’m okay with, because it makes for a more compatible design and ensures the controller can be used with the phone in a case. It does mean that you have to manually pair with the phone, though, and charge the controller itself over USB-C from time to time; Nacon quotes around 20 hours of battery life.

Overall, the RIG MG-X’s controls are small but effective. The analog sticks aren’t as big as a full-size Xbox controller’s, but they’re bigger than a Nintendo Switch Joy-Con’s and feel more satisfying to use. The face buttons are also quite small but tactile and clicky, while the D-pad is accurate enough despite being a little mushier than I’d prefer. I have big hands and I found the RIG MG-X to have reasonably good ergonomics over time for most games.

The RIG MG-X’s triggers are its biggest flaw.

There is one exception, though, when it comes to the triggers. For some reason they’re unusually difficult to press in all the way, which is a big problem for games like racers where you need to hold them down a lot. A game like Halo Infinite where you’re regularly making individual squeezes to fire weapons is okay, but I was wondering why I was losing so many races in Forza Horizon 5 before figuring out that I didn’t have my foot pressed firmly enough on the gas. You can do it, but it takes more force than any other controller I’ve ever used, and it’s not at all comfortable for extended play sessions.

It’s unfortunate that this isn’t a good Forza Horizon 5 controller — you may have heard that it’s a pretty good game — but it does work well for most other genres. You can use it for non-Xbox games, of course, whether they’re from the Play Store or elsewhere — I played a lot of Fortnite with it, and you even get native Xbox button indicators in the menus.

The RIG MG-X is a decent controller with a single big flaw, so just know what you’re getting into if you’re a fan of racing games. I happen to be one, so that was disappointing for me, and I’d personally go with the Xbox version of the Razer Kishi for that reason. But for lots of other Xbox games, this is a solid solution that gets you closer to a portable Xbox than ever before, and other than the triggers I prefer its design to the Kishi. This month Nacon also announced the MG-X Pro, which looks much more like a standard Xbox controller — hopefully the triggers are better.