Review – Chainpus BGP-100 Bluetooth Gamepad

by Reads (14,764)

At first glance, the BGP-100 doesn’t look like a gamepad so much as–well, at first, it doesn’t really resemble anything at all. In its collapsed shape, it’s a simple bar shape, about twice the size of a Bluetooth GPS. In its fully unfolded configuration, the gamepad looks like the victim of some horrible assembly accident. I guarantee that you’re going to wonder if you unfolded it the wrong way. But no, it’s supposed to be like that. The flippers rotate together, via a mechanism in the broad, flat base. At full extension, they lock in place with a satisfying click, and can be released by way of a button on the upper right of the base. Despite the questionability of having moving parts, the gamepad is really quite solid, and feels like it is in absolutely no danger of mechanical failure.

Partially unfolded

I might have liked to see a slightly more traditional styling, even if it took up a bit more space. The whole point of having a seperate gamepad would be to improve the ergonomics, and as it stands you’ve got a definitely odd design.

Fully unfolded

Besides being able to fold up for easy carrying, the form factor has a second purpose. It allows the gamepad to hold a mobile device between the flippers, snugged tight by the adjustable rubbery pads on either side. The width is too small for most PocketPC devices, however, meaning that you’ll need to prop your device up against something else to play, reducing the mobility of the system. The only devices that the gamepad’s size really suits are smartphones, and a few of the narrower PocketPCs.

The gamepad is compatible with Bluetooth enabled devices running Windows Mobile for the PocketPC, Windows Mobile for the Smartphone, Symbian UIQ, and Symbian Series 60. Despite having drivers for both forms of Windows, and both forms of Symbian, there aren’t any Palm OS drivers available at the moment. Almost immediately after receiving the gamepad, I emailed Chainpus customer service, inquiring about the availability of Palm OS drivers. According to them, Palm drivers were ‘under construction,’ but in the 8 weeks since then there’s been no further indication of this. A second email on the subject, sent to them a week ago, received no response. It’s not quite over, but it looks like PalmOS Driver Syndrome may have struck again.

Battery compartment

The gamepad runs on one AAA battery, which is not much power at all for a wireless device. According to Chainpus, a single battery will power the BGP-100 for about 3 hours of active use, and that figure is backed up by testing. If you use the gamepad heavily, you can anticipate going through a lot of AAA batteries.

The BGP-100 doesn’t have to function as just a gamepad, though. Since it includes all the functions of the directional pad, you can use it as a kind of Bluetooth remote. I hooked my Axim X50v up to an external monitor, and used the gamepad to page through a book I was reading without ever touching the Axim. The same can be done for other applications, such as PowerPoint presentations, web pages, etcetera. This makes the gamepad an interesting alternative to manual control or a Bluetooth Keyboard for some applications: you could easily use it in its collapsed state as a remote control for a presentation. Unfortunately, the main Windows interface doesn’t recognize the A, B, C, and D buttons as being the real application buttons, even if you have them assigned that way, so there’s a limit to how much you can do in this mode. And despite major improvements in the most recent driver version, there are still some problems, for instance with reconnecting the gamepad to a PocketPC after power-off.

Compared to what I expected, the BGP-100 is a lot more, and a little less. It’s far more durable and useful than I would have imagined, particularly for the gaming niche that it’s marketed to. It does have some significant failings, in terms of battery life, drivers, and some button-control issues. Even so, it’s a nifty little item, and worth it for those for whom the typical mobile device controls don’t measure up to their favorite games.

Pros:

  • Better gaming controls than most devices
  • Compact design
  • Can be used as BT remote

Cons:

  • No Palm OS support
  • Some buttons can be awkward
  • Doesn’t fit many handhelds
  • Eats batteries

Bottom Line:

Eccentric, but good for gamers and some specialty uses.

More information is available at the Chainpus site.

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