The BSP D8 Bluetooth Game Controller

Since it seems to be , I thought I’d rewind back to my , when as a concession to the need to relax I decided to pack some form of gaming device. But since I also wanted to minimize packing, I settled on a game controller and using my iPad Pro for light gaming.

Might not look like it, but it does stretch out to fit a 10" iPad Air or Pro

Note: I paid for the D8 with my own money, but nevertheless this article follows my .

This happened in a bit of a haphazard way, but in short I have grown fond of . But since I knew well in advance I wouldn’t be able to stream games via 4G in the countryside, I decided to order a D8 game controller1 because at first glance it seemed to tick all the boxes:

  • Hall effect joysticks and analog triggers
  • Good sized directional pad
  • Full MFI support (at least in PlayStation mode) for legacy iOS (we have a couple of old iPads around)
  • Can advertise itself as a regular Xbox or Nintendo Pro controller as well
  • Fits all the mobile devices I have on hand (including my regular sized M1 iPad Pro with cover)
  • Charges off USB-C (a must for me when traveling)
  • Relatively cheap (you can hunt around for bargains)
  • You can turn off the RGB (yay!)

The manual (such as it is) provides all the button combos for setting the various paring modes and turbo functionality, but all you really need to memorize is:

  • Power + RB to set it as discoverable in PC X-input mode (which is what I used, because in-game button prompts match the controller labels)
  • Power + B for PlayStation/MFI
  • Power + RT for Switch mode
  • or Power + X for Android compatibility.

Build Quality and Controls

It’s a bit creaky, but not by much. Considering the price and that it is able to stretch out wide enough to fit a 10” tablet, the injection moulded parts (which have a slight texture to them) were sensibly designed to afford rigidity at each end and have a central conduit between them.

This means whatever you wrap the D8 around will be well supported around the sides and back, and there are grippy grey rubberized insets to avoid damaging your device.

Each half is held together by four Philips screws that I have so far resisted the urge to open to peer inside (when I do, I’ll update this, as usual), and the odd shape (like a cartoon bone) makes it somewhat awkward to travel with2.

The controls themselves felt responsive (triggers are analog indeed, although the plastic protrudes a bit too much) and most buttons felt OK and were completely silent–except for the shoulder buttons, which are a tad on the clicky side.

Surprisingly, it has rumble support as well (which few iOS games seem to make use of).

The only negative thing I can say about the controls is that the lettering on the B button is a bit marred, but I suspect that’s due to travel and rough packing (something seems to have scraped on it).

My kids steal it away from me sometimes--this is the D8 in the wild, in use with one of our 10" Airs

Bluetooth Coexistence

However, the D8 has a possible hidden flaw that will depend on your setup: despite claiming to support Bluetooth 5.0, when trying to play using the Bluetooth 5.2 in-ear adapters I was traveling with, I got an immediate warning from my iPad Pro that it might affect Wi-Fi and Bluetooth compatibility, with the practical effect that it completely destroyed Wi-Fi connectivity to a 2.4GHz network and made audio incredibly garbled even when I set my headphones to low-latency/”game” mode.

Back home, I tried the controller again with my iPhone Pro–this time on a 5GHz Wi-Fi network and different headphones–and had no issues. Then I tried it in MFI mode on my iPad Mini and had no issues either, but the moment I switched back to X-input mode, the iPad Mini complained again.

This is a bit strange, and the only reasonable explanation is that it is likely that X-input mode forces some form of legacy PC compatible Bluetooth profile (I didn’t bother doing some Bluetooth sniffing yet, but if I ever bind this to a Linux machine and do so I’ll update this post).

But the main gotcha is that the D8 completely covers the USB or headphone ports on most devices I’ve tried it with, and that also means you may have no alternative if you need to play in a quiet setting or without disturbing others.

Conclusion

I already have too many game controllers (and no plans to get more), but at nearly half the price of an Xbox controller (and cheaper if you hunt around), this was a relatively risk-free purchase and saved me the time (and effort) to 3D print a holder for Nintendo Joy-Cons (which was something I was actually working on way before I got the ).

I guess that as long as you’re aware of the potential pitfalls regarding headphone use, the D8 will be a cheap, effective way to get into the fresh new, explosively hyped iOS emulation scene (it fits all of our phones perfectly except a 12 Mini) or for casual gaming on an older tablet.

It is certainly more ergonomic than juggling both a tablet and a standard controller, but it’s not a must have–just a cheap, nice toy that won’t break the bank.


  1. I actually got mine from AliExpress, but linking to that is a challenge at best, so this is an Amazon link. ↩︎

  2. I’d recommend stuffing it among clothes rather than your electronics bag if you’re not flying–I think that’s why my B button got scraped. ↩︎

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