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The Logitech Cordless Rumblepad 2 is one of the few cordless USB game controllers that is advertised as Mac compatible. Luckily it works very nicely for all your Mac gaming needs.
There are three steps involved in setting up the Rumblepad. First, insert AA batteries into the controller. Next, plug the receiver into any USB port on your Mac. Finally, press a button on the controller to connect it to the receiver. There is no software install needed for Mac OS X to use this controller.Usage:
Worth noting is the setup in which I'm using the Cordless Rumblepad 2. I have a MacMini hooked up to a 46 inch LCD TV. The MacMini has a handful of emulators installed, which are getting the most use from this gamepad. The couch is across the room, approximately 10 feet from the MacMini to where the player's hands would be. The reason I mention this is because of the RF-based wireless receiver. The transmitter has a fairly annoying blinking green light on it when the controller is not synced up. To avoid seeing this light, I stuffed the receiver behind the entertainment center. Even without direct line of sight the signal is still very good. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who doesn't need the advertised 30 foot range.
Being a wireless controller, a large concern is battery life. The Rumblepad 2 uses two AA batteries, and Logitech claims they will last 100 hours. I have not done a scientific test of this claim, but just marketing the gamepad with such long battery life says something. A good comparison would be Playstation 3 controllers, which only seem to get around 20 hours of play time. I imagine that if you used lithium AA batteries, you could acheive double or triple the advertised battery life.
Speaking of the Playstation 3 controller, this gamepad has a very similar button layout. There is the 8-way directional pad on the left, four buttons on the right, four top trigger buttons (two left and two right), two buttons on the front (excluding the mode and vibration buttons), and two analog sticks. All of the buttons are numbered, which makes it very easy to map buttons to different actions on a per-game basis. The size and weight of the Rumblepad 2 is slightly bigger/heavier than the Sony controller. For my large hands, this is a bonus. But it's not too large as to be unwieldy for those with smaller hands (like the original Xbox controllers where). The Rumblepad 2 also has a solid feel to it; it feels like it could be dropped repeatedly without damaging the unit.
Of course, what good is a controller without game compatibility. I was not able to find a master list of Mac gamepad compatible games, but I have definitely run across quite a few. Many action or sports type games are compatible, and pretty much every emulator is. Richard Bannister is a developer of many Mac emulators. He also developed the essential Emulator Enhancer which adds gamepad and full screen support to all of his emulators. For the ultimate in configurability, USB Overdrive lets you map the Rumblepad's buttons to any action you want on a per-application basis.
One feature of this controller which has much less compatibility with Mac games is the force feedback. While Apple has included support for force feedback enabled gamepads since the Jaguar days (Mac OS X 10.2), very few games have taken advantage of it. Logitech has provided a button to toggle on/off the vibration function (turning it off improves battery life). However, there is no status light for this function, so it's impossible to know the current state.
Another interesting feature of the Rumblepad 2 is the mode button. This button swaps the behavior of the directional pad and the analog sticks. Luckily, this button does have a status light. With the light off (flight simulator mode), the directional pad controls your point of view, while the analog sticks control action. With the light off (sports mode), those roles are reversed. I have yet to actually find a use for this ability, but I'm sure that if I do, I will think it's a great idea.
One last thing to mention is compatibility with the current Apple operating systems. The Cordless Rumblepad 2 came out nearly five years ago. Often peripherals that old don't stand the test of time when it comes to operating system upgrades. While I cannot guarantee this gamepad will work with future updates, I can say that it works perfectly with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.Problems:
I encountered no problems with the controller itself, just a few games that we not programmed to properly handle analog sticks (for example, the Atario 2600 emulator Stella 3.0 has problems assigning axises properly).Conclusion:
This controller has everything I could want in a Mac OS X compatible gaming controller. A bunch of buttons, wireless without the need for direct line of sight, good size/feel, compatibility with games, and long battery life. For my uses (mainly emulation of old systems), I cannot think of anything else I would need.