Look ma, no wires!
I'll be the first to admit that for most of the games I play, the keyboard and a good multi-button mouse are all I need. But there are some titles, especially ones ported from consoles, that really play better if you have a gamepad in hand. Between Bluetooth's proliferation and the rise of cordless mice, though, I've gotten used to being untethered from my controllers, and that's where Logitech's $40 Cordless Rumblepad 2 () comes into play.
Building on the success of their original Cordless Rumblepad, Logitech has built its successor with a more rounded shape that's very evocative of Sony's Dual Shock Analog Controller. That's a good shape to go with, and the button layout is very similar, so it's immediately comfortable to anyone with experience with Sony's device.
Logitech's Cordless Rumblepad connects to your Mac using a wired USB wireless receiver that can sit unobtrusively atop or alongside your Mac. Operating at 2.4GHz, the RF-based controller works up to 30 feet away from the computer and is powered by two AA batteries that last for up to 100 hours. This is an improvement over the original, which used four -- not only is it fewer batteries to replace, but the controller weighs less, too. It'd be nice to see Logitech add a charging base for a future model, as it does with its cordless mice.
10 programmable action buttons are in the familiar places -- four on the right side, in a diamond-shaped pattern, and four on the leading edge of the controller within easy reach of your index and middle fingers. A directional pad is on the left side, and within easy reach of your thumbs are two analog controllers. Two more programmable buttons lie amidships on the controller's face.
Under the hood, the Cordless Rumblepad 2 features dual vibration feedback motors. The force feedback engine is TouchSense technology licensed from Immersion Corp., which has been supported on the Mac since the days of Mac OS X v10.2. Unfortunately, this is only marginally useful on the Macintosh, as few games support force feedback. (There isn't a master list of the ones that do either, alas -- but I'm working on that.)
All in all, the Logitech Cordless Rumblepad 2 is a huge improvement over its predecessor. Its slightly more rounded feel is more comfortable, and the analog sticks especially feel good under your thumbs compared to the spindly, concave sticks found on the original. Battery life is better, from what I could tell.
Logitech includes programmable software for Windows only, alas, so in order to use the device with your Mac OS X games, the software will need to support HID Manager. You can also add a third-party utility like USB Overdrive to program the controller to work with games other than those that support HID Manager directly, but that will incur an additional expense. Logitech should take a cue from Nyko's AirFlo EX controller, and roll its own Mac OS X-native solution to help Mac gamers get the most of this controller.
Bottom line: The Cordless Rumblepad 2 come cuts the wires and the clutter and is a comfortable fit; too bad it doesn't have programmable software.
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