BARCELONA - There's certainly no shortage of Bluetooth game controllers or keyboards for Android, but few devices combine the two as seamlessly as Mad Catz' new Surfr peripheral. Available in April for $60, the wireless Surfr melds gamepad controls with a full QWERTY keyboard to create an all-in-one media controller for any Android-based set-top box, smartphone or tablet. I played with the Surfr at MWC 2015, and came away impressed by the versatility it offers for the price.
The Surfr is a compact, plastic gamepad that features a full keyboard flanked by two analog sticks. While most controllers have a d-pad and face buttons under the left and right analog stick, Mad Catz has cleverly wrapped those buttons around each respective stick in order to maintain the Surfr's pocket-friendly size. The controller felt comfortable and responsive when playing Sonic the Hedgehog 4 on a Mad Catz Mojo console, and it only took a few seconds for me to wrap my brain around its unique button layout.
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When you're not playing games with Surfr, you can navigate app menus using the analog sticks, with the left and right shoulder buttons providing left and right click functions. The controller has a dongle at the top for attaching your smartphone, and has small, retractable grips on either side that you can pull out for a more gamepad-like feel. I especially enjoyed the Surfr's keys, which are coated in soft-touch material and provide a satisfying click.
Surfr has a lot to offer someone who consumes a lot of Android content on their TV, either via a set-top box or by mirroring their smartphone or tablet to the big screen. The accessory has all of the controls you need to play console-style Android games, and its small footprint and cozy keyboard make it an ideal companion for surfing the Web or browsing your Netflix queue.
Mad Catz also debuted a new version of the Lynx Bluetooth controller, which was one of our favorite peripherals of CES 2015. While the $300 Lynx 9 is a modular, metal monster that can adapt itself to just about any mobile device, the new Lynx 3 is a $60 alternative that offers the same core button layout in a simpler, plastic design. While not modular, the Lynx 3's grips and analog sticks can be adjusted for comfort, and you can dock your Android smartphone to the top of the controller when playing on the go.
Between the Surfr and Lynx 3, Mad Catz is making it increasingly easier to get quality, console-style controls for your Android device at a fair price. We look forward to playing with both peripherals even more when they hit this April.
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Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.