Review: The SteelSeries Nimbus is a Convenient, Affordable Bluetooth Controller for Apple TV and iOS Devices

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There's a range of Made for iPhone-compatible Apple-approved Bluetooth controllers available, all of which will work with the new Apple TV, but the SteelSeries Nimbus is the only controller that was designed specifically for the Apple TV in partnership with Apple.

As such, it's been heavily marketed by Apple and it's sold alongside the Apple TV as an accessory in Apple Stores. We went hands-on with the SteelSeries Nimbus to figure out whether it's worth its $50 price tag and if it's a must-have gaming accessory for the new fourth-generation Apple TV.

Design

The Nimbus is similar in size and design to the Stratus XL, an earlier controller SteelSeries released. It looks like a cross between an Xbox One controller and a PlayStation 4 controller, with a shape that's close to the Xbox controller but a PlayStation-style layout. It's also very similar to many existing Made for iPhone controllers like the popular Mad Catz C.T.R.L.i.


If you've used one Made for iPhone controller, you've essentially used them all. The Nimbus is not much different than the rest of the available controllers on the market, so choosing a controller to purchase really comes down to preference for things like size, button layout, trigger shape, and overall design.


On the Nimbus, there's a d-pad at the top, located across from four action buttons. Two analog joysticks sit at the bottom, adjacent to one another as on the PS4 controller. In the middle, there's a large Menu button, and at the back, there's a Bluetooth button, a Lightning port for charging, and a "Hold" button that toggles the power on and off. There are two triggers on each side, along with shoulder buttons above those.


A lot of early Made for iPhone controllers were expensive and had a poor build quality, but over the last several months, things have improved. I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the SteelSeries Nimbus, especially at it's $50 price point. It has a solid feel in the hand and it seems like a product that's going to hold up well to years of heavy use.


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Article Link: Review: The SteelSeries Nimbus is a Convenient, Affordable Bluetooth Controller for Apple TV and iOS Devices
 

4ubrey

macrumors member
Jun 23, 2010
62
124
Apple nuked gaming on the Apple TV by forcing developers to make their games work with the included remote.
Agree. This makes gaming TOO basic on the platform and developers are limited to less-than-Wii-like games. Super annoying, but hopefully they will lift the restriction and update the OS to only allow purchases for devices that have a controller paired to the device (like they did with removing ability to review apps from beta OS builds).
 

aardwolf

macrumors 6502
May 30, 2007
359
124
I bought one from Apple, and got one in the Disney Infinity 3.0 Starter Pack for AppleTV. I LOVE them. I can't imagine playing Disney Infinity any other way. Plus, I can pair it with my iPad if I want a totally mobile gaming experience.
 

arkmannj

macrumors 68000
Oct 1, 2003
1,614
373
UT
Apple nuked gaming on the Apple TV by forcing developers to make their games work with the included remote.
Agree,

What Apple should have done was provide a standard set of Input/Output signals/commands that each controller must work with And Apple should have made (sold separately) an actual gaming controller that uses those standards. say moderately priced around $45.00 US, to help set a standard for competition.

That way you don't end up with each individual game maker trying to gouge you by requiring its own controller (the scenario I'm guessing that Apple is trying to avoid) but you still allow game makers much better flexibility and consumers options.

I feel like that would be a decent balance.
 
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Pakaku

macrumors 68020
Aug 29, 2009
2,283
2,396
Agree,

What Apple should have done was provide a standard set of Input/Output signals/commands that each controller must work with And Apple should have made (sold separately) an actual gaming controller that uses those standards. say moderately priced around $45.00 US, to help set a standard for competition.

That way you don't end up with each individual game maker trying to gouge you by requiring its own controller (the scenario I'm guessing that Apple is trying to avoid) but you still allow game makers much better flexibility and consumers options.

I feel like that would be a decent balance.
Apple cares so little about gaming, that seeing them produce a controller would be extremely shocking.

They easily cater to selling games, though.
 

Icaras

macrumors 603
Mar 18, 2008
6,141
2,748
Agree,

What Apple should have done was provide a standard set of Input/Output signals/commands that each controller must work with And Apple should have made (sold separately) an actual gaming controller that uses those standards. say moderately priced around $45.00 US, to help set a standard for competition.

That way you don't end up with each individual game maker trying to gouge you by requiring its own controller (the scenario I'm guessing that Apple is trying to avoid) but you still allow game makers much better flexibility and consumers options.

I feel like that would be a decent balance.
That's exactly what they did. It's called MFi and that's what this controller is. All of these controllers are MFi certified. The only thing Apple didn't do was design their own controller. But the MFi guidelines are standard across all certified controllers.

And because the Nimbus controller is MFi certified, it will work with any game on the Apple TV that supports controllers. It is not game specific.
 
Last edited:

TXCherokee

macrumors 6502
Aug 24, 2012
338
180
I bought two for my ATVs and the box notes it is Mac compatible. Forgive my ignorance, but if a Steam game is Mac and Controller comparable, wouldn't this thing work?
 

BulkSlash

macrumors regular
Aug 20, 2013
146
479
I love the Nimbus, I had the Stratus and the Stratus XL before and they were both OK but had significant drawbacks. The Nimbus on the other hand is pretty much perfect and if you compile Provenance for your iDevices and Apple TV is perfect for playing old favourites like Mario and Sonic.
 
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NotJamesCameron

macrumors newbie
Jun 30, 2011
10
18
The four LEDs are required by the MFi controller spec.

What's supposed to happen is that games set which controller is Player 1, Player 2, etc. and the corresponding LED on their controller lights up. On my SteelSeries Stratus XL this is exactly what happens, but it's up to game developers to set.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the MFi game controller SDK is that it was designed for phones and iPads, and that shows in some of the design decisions. One is that it doesn't have a way for users to specify a system-wide (or persistently per-app) which controller is for Player 1, which is for Player 2, so games must determine this on their own *each time the game is started*. So you see, "Press A on Player 1's Controller" in multiplayer games, etc.

edit: having four LEDs is kind of ridiculous when the Apple TV doesn't support more than 3 controllers (remote + 2 game controllers), but maybe that's a limitation in the device's BlueTooth hardware and will change in future AppleTVs.
 

triple-tap

macrumors 6502
Feb 18, 2013
264
45
Has anyone here personally tried this controller with a rMBP or an iMac?

I would like to get a controller to use with Borderlands 2, Knights of the Old Republic (1&2), Call of Duty 4 on Mac, etc.

I was planning to pick up a PS4 controller and make it work. However, this controller looks like a much better option IF it works with a Mac.
 

ZZ Bottom

macrumors 6502a
Apr 14, 2010
805
206
Just received my Hori Pad Ultimate today and it is fantastic. Haven't used this Steel Series one, but just thought potential buyers should know about all options. The Hori Pad has same quality feel as a PS3 remote, but a little bit heavier. Can't comment on overall battery life as I've only been using a day. Bought it on Apple online store for 49$.

 
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NtDs90

macrumors member
Jul 15, 2015
57
46
I prefer the Xbox controller layout. Never been a PlayStation fan. I hope the PXN controller works with the atv4.
 

jclo

Editor
Staff member
Dec 7, 2012
1,666
3,343
California
The four LEDs are required by the MFi controller spec.

What's supposed to happen is that games set which controller is Player 1, Player 2, etc. and the corresponding LED on their controller lights up. On my SteelSeries Stratus XL this is exactly what happens, but it's up to game developers to set.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the MFi game controller SDK is that it was designed for phones and iPads, and that shows in some of the design decisions. One is that it doesn't have a way for users to specify a system-wide (or persistently per-app) which controller is for Player 1, which is for Player 2, so games must determine this on their own *each time the game is started*. So you see, "Press A on Player 1's Controller" in multiplayer games, etc.

edit: having four LEDs is kind of ridiculous when the Apple TV doesn't support more than 3 controllers (remote + 2 game controllers), but maybe that's a limitation in the device's BlueTooth hardware and will change in future AppleTVs.
I wondered if that was the case. I was reading through the requirements and didn't see anything about the LEDs, though, so I wasn't sure.
 

garylapointe

macrumors 68000
Feb 19, 2006
1,668
1,065
Dearborn (Detroit), MI, USA
That's exactly what they did. It's called MFi and that's what this controller is. All of these controllers are MFi certified. The only thing Apple didn't do was design their own controller. But the MFi guidelines are standard across all certified controllers.

And because the Nimbus controller is MFi certified, it will work with any game on the Apple TV that supports controllers. It is not game specific.
But Apple said all games must work (reasonably well, I suppose, or able could reject it) with the standard Apple TV remote. So it kind of limits how a game might work.

What good are all those knobs and controller if all they can do is expand what the limited controller can already do. You with the touch screen on a iDevice, you can easily make more complicated games than with the AppleTV remote.

Gary
 

NotJamesCameron

macrumors newbie
Jun 30, 2011
10
18
Has anyone here personally tried this controller with a rMBP or an iMac?

I would like to get a controller to use with Borderlands 2, Knights of the Old Republic (1&2), Call of Duty 4 on Mac, etc.

I was planning to pick up a PS4 controller and make it work. However, this controller looks like a much better option IF it works with a Mac.
Being an MFi controller, it *will* work, but whether or not any games on OS X were written to support Apple's MFi game controller SDK is another matter. (probably not)
 

NotJamesCameron

macrumors newbie
Jun 30, 2011
10
18
But Apple said all games must work (reasonably well, I suppose, or able could reject it) with the standard Apple TV remote. So it kind of limits how a game might work.

What good are all those knobs and controller if all they can do is expand what the limited controller can already do. You with the touch screen on a iDevice, you can easily make more complicated games than with the AppleTV remote.

Gary
Apple (understandably) does not want people to be in a situation where they buy an AppleTV and then discover that they also have to plunk down another $50 just to play most single player games, and then *another* $50 to play multiplayer. It creates a bad customer experience.

And while they originally said that they *would* allow games that only worked with game controllers, the large number of lazy developers who were saying they were glad of this and that their games wouldn't support the remote probably caused Apple to backtrack.
 

Mamaw

macrumors newbie
Oct 27, 2013
15
6
Has anyone here personally tried this controller with a rMBP or an iMac?

I would like to get a controller to use with Borderlands 2, Knights of the Old Republic (1&2), Call of Duty 4 on Mac, etc.

I was planning to pick up a PS4 controller and make it work. However, this controller looks like a much better option IF it works with a Mac.
For Borderlands 2 and Call of Duty or any first person shooter games i highly recommend you to use a keyboard and mouse.
 
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