If you’re familiar with Nintendo and PlayStation gamepads, you’ll feel right at home with the SteelSeries Wireless Controller. It sports a D-Pad on the left, a four-button cluster on the right, select and start in the middle, two mini-analog sticks, and two shoulder buttons — all in a tiny, palm-sized design that proved to be much less cramped than we had expected.
The SteelSeries Wireless Controller has a rechargeable, lithium-ion battery that offers up to 20 hours of casual gameplay and 10 hours of non-stop playtime on a single charge. Its power-save mode will turn the controller off after 20 minutes of idle time.
The SteelSeries Wireless Controller comes with a micro-USB cable that you connect to your computer to charge. What’s more, it has play-and-charge functionality, which allows users to connect the cable, charge the battery, and keep playing via Bluetooth. The SteelSeries Wireless Controller is small enough to slip into a laptop bag and take with you; it comes with its own carrying case.
Mac and PC users will be able to remap and customize all 12 buttons to their liking via the SteelSeries Engine. Mobile users can download the SteelSeries Engine App for assistance with device pairing.
To use the SteelSeries controller with your Mac go to www.steelseries.com/engine and download the Mac version of the SteelSeries Engine (it requires Mac OS X 10.6 and or higher). It’s a configuration/helper tool for the controller.
Launch the SteelSeries Engine (which to our eyes, had a more Window-ish than Mac-ish appearance) wdddand click on the Tips menu on the bottom right to decide if you’d like to use the Keyboard/Mouse emulator provided in the engine or if you’d like to stick with the in-game controller support.
The first time you turn on the SteelSeries controller, hold down the “A” button for three seconds to turn on the controller. You’ll know the controller is on when a white light will start flashing. Unfortunately, we had to unplug and reconnect the controller several times before it linked with the SteelSeries Engine. Strangely, the linking worked much better wirelessly than it did when the controller was physically connected to our Mac via USB.
The controller will remember the last mode you were in. If you’ve used it on an iOS device previously, you’ll need to switch to Gamepad Mode by pressing “A+B” buttons for three seconds while the controller is off. If your SteelSeries controller is properly paired and connected, the white light will be in a “single blink” pattern.
In most versions of OS X you can go to System Preferences. Under the Internet and Wireless” section, you’ll find the Bluetooth icon Click on it, turn on Bluetooth, navigate to the “+” sign at the bottom of your Bluetooth window and look for the “Zeemote: SteelSeries Free.” Select it and it should pair with your Mac. If a code prompt is displayed, enter “0000″ to pair your device.
The SteelSeries Engine, when installed, places an icon in the OS X menu bar (on the top right side of the screen). Click it to open.
The Settings lets you change the skin on the Engine IF you have had certain devices connected while the Engine was running (for example, a Diablo III Headset will unlock the Diablo skin). There’s also a SteelSeries Firmware Update Tool that you can use to reflash the firmware on your device.
This can be used for troubleshooting, but is more generally used when a new version of firmware is released for that device (either adding new features or fixing some bugs). A couple of times, however, when we ran the Firmware Update it simply froze.
The Devices and Profiles can be found in panels on the left side of the main window. The size of the panels can be adjusted. To widen or narrow them, grab the right border and drag as desired. All SteelSeries Engine compatible devices that are currently connected will be displayed in the Devices section.
To make configurations to a device, just click on the name of the device in the list, and the Engine will load all available options for that device onto the main window. A single SteelSeries Engine profile will hold settings for all devices.
Preloaded and custom profiles will be displayed in the Profiles section. The SteelSeries Engine comes with default profiles, one standard default profile, and profiles based on hit games such as World of Warcraft and Diablo III. However, the software allows for custom profiles to be programmed with unique settings. Default profiles and Custom profiles are separated by collapsible sub-headers in the panel.
Profiles can be created, edited, copied, deleted, etc. The exception is that the default profiles can’t be edited or deleted. To make profile changes, right click on the profile name, and click on the desired function (Delete, Rename, Create a copy, etc).
To create a new profile, click the button labeled … d’uh … New Profile. This will create a button based on the SteelSeries Default profile. Changes made to any profile can either be saved with the Save button or reverted using the Cancel button. Only changes that haven’t already been saved can be reverted using Cancel.
The “Buttons” section allows you to assign custom actions to any of the programmable buttons on your device. It also provides an image layout of your device and a brief overview of its current button assignments. Almost every key or button can be customized using the SteelSeries Engine.
Once you’re ready to play a controller-enabled game, launch the game, go to the in-game controller settings and select the gamepad option. If you’d like to use the SteelSeries Engine to emulate your keyboard/mouse, follow the on-screen instructions in the SteelSeries Engine. If you have questions, go to www.steelseries.com/free/mac .
Some of the Mac compatible games are Trine, Trine 2, Super Meat Boy, Burnout Paradise, GRID, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Some of the iOS compatible games are Temple Run, Midway Arcade, Donkey Jump, Meganoid and Retro Racing. You can find a list of compatible games at .
We did have some issues with the SteelSeries controller. Occasionally, when we connected it our Bluetooth shut off. To fix the situation:
° Go to Spotlight.
° Search for and run the Terminal utility.
° In the new window, type in the following: sudo nvram bluetoothHostControllerSwitchBehavior=”never”
° Enter your Mac account password when prompted.
° Restart your computer.
The folks at SteelSeries say the reason for the Bluetooth issue is that when a powered Off controller is connected to a Mac, it incorrectly enumerates as a Bluetooth radio, much like a Bluetooth USB dongle. The Mac then assumes you want to use the controller as the primary Bluetooth radio instead of the on-board Bluetooth radio, so it disables the on-board Bluetooth radio. This continues on even after restarting the computer. Whatever the reason, it’s still annoying.
On iOS devices, the SteelSeries controller is recognized as a Bluetooth keyboard. So when it’s paired with an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad, you can’t type on an external keyboard after the on-screen keyboard disappears. When you need to use your keyboard, disconnect (or power off) your SteelSeries controller.
Using the controller with an iOS device works great with most compatible games. For example, using it with Temple Run on the iPad let us jump, duck and turn without using the touchscreen.
Rating: 7 out of 10