When I was growing up on a heady mix of Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis/Megadrive, you always did your best to avoid the third party controller when it came to gaming with your friends. Sure they often had more buttons and gimmicks but they were normally bought because your parents weren’t willing to splash out on the costly branded controllers.Which meant you often got what you paid for when it came to a controller.
Roll around to 2021 and there is so much variety in the third party accessory market. You can get your unbelievably cheap controller knock offs that go for only a few dollars online all the way through to several hundred dollars for some of the ‘pro’ controllers produced by big names like Razer. Even so, the stigma of third party controllers still exists and that is often to where it sits on the pricing spectrum.
The Gamesir T4 Mini is a controller that largely fits in the more budget range of controllers, but does that mean that we should be writing it off too?
What is the Gamesir T4 Mini controller?
Well, let’s talk about what this controller is. Gamesir is a Chinese manufacturer with their site based in Hong Kong. They are not necessarily a big name brand but we have covered some of their mobile and PC orientated devices before.
The T4 Mini is a literally smaller version of their T4 Pro controller. It is advertised as wirelessly compatible with the Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS devices (such as Apple Arcade and MFi games). It will also work with Windows machines (7 & upwards) but note it only works when connected via USB to your machine. More on that later.
It retails at their store for $35.99 USD or around £28 here in the U.K. Which, as we mentioned, puts it firmly towards the budget end of the market, especially for a wireless controller that supports so many devices. We should note here that we were provided a copy of the controller for review purposes.
Yes… it is small
So when the box arrived, it came in a nice and compact box. Nothing flashy, but well branded and designed. Apart from the nicely wrapped controller, there was a USB C to USB cable for charging and PC use, as well as a short instruction manual.
The first thing that we have to mention is that this controller is called the Mini and, yes, it is small. If we compare it to an Xbox One controller, you’ll find that it measures very much the same across the face of the controller, particularly in width. It is the grips where the mini comes in. They are small, not that curved and quite a lot shorter.
It feels smaller to grip because of this. This reviewer is cursed with small child-like hands and this grip fits perfectly. Likewise, this fit well in the palms of the 9yr old that we (voluntarily) tested it with. Be warned though, if you have big hands and are worried about cramp… this probably isn’t for you.
Mini for the Switch
However, if you are, you know, buying a controller called a Mini, we would assume you know that this IS smaller. Clearly he Gamesir T4 Mini is aimed at those with smaller hands or someone that wants a controller that is more portable and easier travel with.
It is also very much aimed at the users of the Nintendo Switch. The buttons match the layout and coding of the Switch Pro Controller, such as the + & – buttons, as well as home. The D-Pad resembles the Pro Controller. As does the casing material. From our side, we think this is a smart move. Firstly, the Switch is a mobile console so a smaller controller (albeit one that is bigger than the Joycons) make it great for travel. Secondly, the Switch is very popular with children and the size as well as price point will suit the little tikes well.
So what about build quality? Honestly, we were surprised. It feels surprisingly solid to grip. The buttons are satisfying to press, the thumb sticks are tactile and responsive and the D-Pad has good travel. Compared to other comparably priced controllers, this feels more premium than it has the right to be.
Lighting heaven or hell?
The casing is black but slightly translucent which allows for the lighting. This is something that we can see users either digging or hating. There is some very colourful and bright lighting on this controller. The A/B/Y/X buttons are clear until you get the controller on, then the colours light up into the more familiar XBox colour configuration. Each thumbstick has a glow underneath it and the pairing lights flicker on and off.
The lighting sure ain’t subtle. You can configure it, even turning off the thumbstick lighting but the controller buttons are going to light up. So again, this is personal preference but it could be argued the lighting makes the controller look slightly more gimmicky than it feels.
Outside of that, you have a turbo button that you have some slight configuration options on to programme how you want. To be honest, we aren’t huge fans of turbo buttons on controllers but again, it’s nice to have some customization options. It also features vibrations too – again in something you can keep or get rid of. It supports L3 & R3, and has two shoulder buttons. For those interested, the trigger buttons are not analog with just a standard click.
The first thing we did was get this setup on the Nintendo Switch. We would note that controller buttons you need for configuration differ slightly by device so we had to check the instructions for each test. However, connecting to the Nintendo Switch using the instructions took a few seconds and worked first time. It also remembered that connection when we next booted up.
We are big fans of the official Switch Pro Controller and yes, this doesn’t quite hit those heights when it comes to feel and design. That said, it does a pretty good job of trying. We first gave it a few hours play on Hades, something that requires a lot of frantic controller action and the response times seem to be on par with the Pro controller and we felt we played to our normal (low) standard on each of our runs. We also gave Hollow Knight a few hours using the controller. This really put the D-Pad to test with its platforming. We were slightly less enamoured of the D-Pad for platforming but it was still fully playable. The D-Pad just felt a little spongier than the Pro Controller.
Next up, we hooked it up to our iPad and iPhone 12. On both, the connection was faultless (appearing as an XBox controller in the bluetooth settings). We tried it with Death’s Door via GEForce Now on cloud and found it an enjoyable experience. We also booted up a couple of Apple Arcade titles that support controllers and the controller was recognised and played great.
Unfortunately we didn’t have an Android device to test but we did plug it in to the PC with the supplier USB cable and once the driver installed, it worked fine with Steam. We put several hours into The Witcher 3 and found it equally as usable.
We were a little bit interested to find out whether this could also work wirelessly with the PC. To be clear, it is not advertised to but since we had seen it work with Bluetooth and be recognised as an XBox controller, why not?
Well, yes you can connect. The game will also recognise it and the buttons do work after you set it up in Steam as a Nintendo Switch controller. However, the performance was all over the place and the L-Stick would get locked into random positions. We got pretty dizzy watching Geralt run around in circles on his horse.
We aren’t going to mark it down for something it isn’t advertised to do. Besides, maybe someone can get it to run wirelessly better with some messing around. We aren’t really knowledgeable enough for that so we can just say, don’t buy it for that purpose.
In terms of battery life, Gamesir advertises this as having 10 hours of battery life. We aren’t so sure. We put in a good 6 hours with no issue but when we connected to test on PC, we noticed that the charging LED seemed to have dropped a fair bit. So your mileage may vary depending on your time and the features you use. We’d guess that the lighting & vibration plays a major factor. The controller took us about 2.5 hours to charge from a low charge. From flat, we’d say about 3 hours.
Whether this is OK for you is up to you. It isn’t the 40 hours of the Pro Controller but then again, it is pretty much on par with a DS4 controller on the PS4.
Gamesir T4 Mini Controller – Conclusion
So, how do we feel about this controller? Well, there are some quibbles. The supplied USB C cable was really too short for PC gaming. For mobile gaming, we aren’t sure how well this would fit with attached cradles to slot your phone in. So for us, the primary use is going to be with the Nintendo Switch or possibly something like an Apple TV. The device is very light, which again, might be an issue for some. Lastly, we have mentioned it but the lighting is going to be a love it or hate it kind of thing.
With that said though, the positives really outweigh the negatives in our opinion. The Gamesir T4 Mini is solidly built whilst maintaining a very low price point. It is small but that fits well with the mobile and Switch orientation it is going for. We don’t think that many third party controllers manage to tick as many boxes as this little pad for the same cost. Where we really think this controller shines will be a replacement or additional controllers for your kids. It is small, not too fragile and really easy to hold.
All in all, if you want something cheaper and/or smaller to use on your devices, we really would recommend this controller to you. It is better than it has any right being and we enjoyed using it when gaming.
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A nifty budget controller that's solidly built
- Overview - 8.5/108.5/10
+ Solidly built and good to use + Excellent Price + Ideal for kids and mobile gaming – Lighting may not be to your taste – USB cable is too short for our liking – Best suited to small hands
Rudy Manchego has been gaming since the days of the BBC Micro Computer and spreads himself thin with a love of retro, indie and mainstream gaming. He’s one half of the Jambags Comedy Gaming podcast and likes nothing better than kicking back with a nice pot of lapsang souchong, a good game and a background podcast on the intricacies of Spanish cheese making.