PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus Review: Part Controller, Part Charger

Genshin Impact sadly doesn’t have controller support ... yet.

Genshin Impact sadly doesn’t have controller support … yet.
Image: Quentyn Kennemer

PowerA Moga XP5-X Plus Mobile Gaming Controller | $70 | Best Buy

I’ve long been a proponent of mobile gaming, but for the few advantages my smartphone gives me in portable click-clack freedom, the negatives have been too oppressive for me to fall comfortably in love. Valid knocks against the practice include battery drain, the smaller display, heat issues, and the once questionable quality of most mobile games.

But the control schemes have been one of the biggest deterrents. It’s a moot point for tap-and-draggers like Hearthstone and Candy Crush, but action-oriented games like shooters, racers, and even some RPGs have assaulted app stores in droves. Have you ever tried playing one of those without a Bluetooth controller? They plaster your field of view with virtual buttons and analog sticks, which alone is bad enough, but then I also have to smear my greasy Jimmy Dean fingers across the screen and attempt to interface with them? I can’t see shit, cap’n!

And the list of charges against virtual controls doesn’t end at obstruction of vision alone, but also the hand-eye coordination and blistering finger gymnastics required to move between buttons with efficiency, all the while you have no tactile confirmation that you’re actually pressing anything.

Thankfully, we have Bluetooth controllers to cover most of these pains. We’ve had them for a long while, and PowerA supplied most of the notable mobile-centric ones over the years. That’s why I was eager to try the company’s new Moga XP5-X Plus, an Xbox-licensed controller being pushed alongside Microsoft’s cloud-driven Game Pass app, which allows you to stream Xbox games to your smartphone.

Illustration for article titled PowerA’s Moga XP5-X Plus Mobile Gaming Controller Charges Your Smartphone Mid-Session, and I Love It

Photo: Quentyn Kennemer

What we have here is a full-sized, fully featured mobile controller with enough tricks to make it an easy decision for anyone looking to upgrade their on-the-go gaming experience. I didn’t even know where to begin with this review, so I created one of those digital Wheel of Fortune boards and put all its redeeming qualities in for a spin. I landed on “color scheme,” and as much as I like the green-on-gray garb, that’s kind of boring, so I’ll make an executive decision and start with the fact that this thing doubles as a freakin’ portable charger.

That’s right: there are two USB ports on the controller (and a switch that allows you to use it in wired mode). One of them actually sends a current out to any USB-powered device for charging—that’ll undoubtedly be your smartphone in most cases. There’s a 3,000mAh pack inside capable of powering the controller and topping up your smartphone simultaneously, giving you peace of mind to crank up the brightness and settle in for longer sessions.

The battery charges the smartphone at a decent rate. It took about an hour for me to go from 70% to full on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ with the included multi-faceted USB cable while testing out cloud gaming within the latest Xbox app beta on Android. That won’t match the efficiency of most modern smartphones with Quick Charge 3.0 or USB-C fast charging, but if you’re just maintaining a steady battery level, it does the job.

Illustration for article titled PowerA’s Moga XP5-X Plus Mobile Gaming Controller Charges Your Smartphone Mid-Session, and I Love It

Photo: Quentyn Kennemer

I haven’t gamed with it long enough to get a real beat on total battery life while it’s not in charge mode (activated by a handy switch on the lower left), but it outstretches the six hours PlayStation 4’s DualShock controllers deliver by a mile, and the same might be true for Xbox One depending on the batteries you use. One nice touch is the dedicated button for instantly checking battery life, with four LED lights denoting 25% each.

You’d expect something weighty with all that, but actually, this thing is much lighter than my official Xbox One controllers. Much of that owes to a lack of rumble motors, a downer to be sure considering it’s meant to play Xbox One games, but that trade-off is a necessary evil considering it has to hold a smartphone. You might feel over-encumbered with even just another gram of weight.

Speaking of holding smartphones, Moga controllers used to integrate the smartphone clip into the controller body, but the XP5-X Plus uses a detachable clip. It doesn’t look nearly as elegant, but the flexibility makes it just as appropriate to use on PC as your smartphone. The clip design also features two separate adjustable joints to find the perfect angle, plus a rubberized clamp to keep your smartphone in place. After just a minute of tweaking and tinkering, I found the perfect viewing angle that allowed my smartphone to stay propped up while the controller lays flat, which I wanted to do For Science™. Each button and port is also fully accessible with the clip in place, too.

Illustration for article titled PowerA’s Moga XP5-X Plus Mobile Gaming Controller Charges Your Smartphone Mid-Session, and I Love It

Photo: Quentyn Kennemer

My biggest question mark going into this review was the sturdiness and security of the clamp. The plate where it sits is about an inch and a half wide, and with those rubber guards on the spring-loaded clamp, there wasn’t much rock or sway. I never sensed my smartphone was in danger of taking a nasty fall (it also had an Otterbox affixed), and the result of my super unscientific shake test confirms you’d need to be commuting on a rocket ship for it to come ajar.

As for the controller itself? It works as intended. I was a little worried I might not like the buttons—others in PowerA’s lineup can be on the stiff side—but the face buttons on the XP5-X Plus don’t require much force to press, and the action is satisfying enough. The directional pad is a slightly different story, but considering most control schemes use analog sticks for critical actions, I mind little.

You’ll find two advanced gaming buttons on the back, which is just PowerA’s fancy term for rear facing paddles. You can reassign either to emulate any standard button, and there’s a big green button on the bottom for on-the-fly programming. The feature and buttons work flawlessly. PowerA placed them in the perfect spot for my middle fingers to bump while my hands contour the Xbox-style ergonomic grip (the rubber fillings on which gives it a premium feel). I only wish the buttons had more travel.

Going back to those analog sticks: they travel smoothly with very little sway, and I’m going to hate it whenever the textured rubber caps wear off—they feel awesome. The shoulder buttons and triggers also feel nice, and I was hoping for a little more travel out of the latter, but apparently that’s a controller feat only Microsoft can achieve. Reconsider this one if you’re a d-pad evangelist for fighting games.

The Moga XP5-X Plus is great whether you’re on mobile or PC. The integrated smartphone charger is a killer feature, the detachable arm clamp gives you the best angular customization of any competing product, and I don’t get the sense it’ll fall apart after a few short months. It had better not, anyway, with a $70 sticker price. Should you siphon that much from your own pockets to buy one? That depends on how serious your mobile gaming habits are.

Illustration for article titled PowerA’s Moga XP5-X Plus Mobile Gaming Controller Charges Your Smartphone Mid-Session, and I Love It

Image: Quentyn Kennemer

If you’re heavily into Fortnite, PUBG, GRID, and other competitive mobile games with traditional controls, it’s almost a must-have. If you have a gaming PC, it’ll pull double duty better than Microsoft’s cheaper official controllers. The overall utility and quality of the controller earns PowerA the right to ask that much, but wait for a sale if you’re on the casual side.

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