If you want to do serious gaming on the Apple TV, then using a wireless Bluetooth controller isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. Yes, Apple controversially made it a requirement for all games on its platform to support the Siri Remote, but that’s not going to cut it for any game with an even mildly complex control scheme.
Games like Alto’s Adventure and Mr. Jump play perfectly fine, and are even suited for the Siri Remote, but in most cases, you’re definitely going to want a controller as an option.
Unfortunately, there is no Apple-branded controller to speak of, but Apple did co-design a controller with the help of SteelSeries. The result of that partnership is the SteelSeries Nimbus, and Apple is promoting this controller as the de facto standard alternative input device for the Apple TV.
All of that considered, while there are other 3rd-party Bluetooth controllers that work with the Apple TV, the most obvious choice is the SteelSeries Nimbus.
I purchased a Nimbus on day one, and have been playing with it for weeks. Is the $49.99 controller worth your time and hard-earned money? Is it really the best way to control games on the Apple TV?
Unboxing and first impressions
The Nimbus comes packaged in a very simple box. Inside, you’ll find the controller, some documentation, and not much else. The Nimbus is a wireless Bluetooth controller that’s chargeable via a Lighting cable, so you don’t have to ever worry about replacing batteries.
This is a controller that features many of the basic controls that you’d expect from a game controller in this day and age. It features dual left and right triggers, dual analog, a digital input, and four pressure sensitive face buttons. In addition, you get a hold button, a Bluetooth pairing button, and an Apple TV-centric Menu button for navigating through the tvOS interface.
The Nimbus also features four lights above the menu button that help you associate player numbers, and calculate battery life. The way these lights functions is a little on the ambiguous side, but generally it’s not something you’ll have to worry about.
Pairing with Apple TV
Pairing the SteelSeries Nimbus with the Apple TV was a simple enough affair. In fact, I’ve already covered how to pair a Bluetooth controller with the Apple TV, but I’ll briefly discuss the process here as well.
Simply open the Settings app on the Apple TV and venture to the Bluetooth section of the Remotes and Devices panel. Once there, turn off the hold switch on the top of the Nimbus, and it should automatically show up under other devices. If it doesn’t, you may need to press the Bluetooth button. Once it shows up on the Apple TV, click on the Nimbus option with your Siri Remote, and the controller should pair with no issues.
Of course, all of this is assuming that you have enough of a charge on your Nimbus for it to power on. My Nimbus came pre-charged out of the box, but you can always use a Lightning cable (not included) to lend it some juice if you have issues pairing.
Once the Nimbus is connected, you should see one of the face lights turn a solid red color. This gives you a visual indication that the controller is on, paired, and ready for use. Speaking of pairing, the Nimbus can pair with up to four additional devices at once, making it a great option for using with the Apple TV, iPads, iPhones, etc.
Ergonomics and build
I’m not much of a console gamer anymore, but the Nimbus reminds me of an Xbox controller merged with a Wii U Pro controller. The best thing that the Nimbus has going for it is ergonomics, and in that regard, it feels like a bonafide gaming controller.
But ergonomics only do so much for the Nimbus. The controller’s build quality, while decent for set top box standards, is lacking when compared to traditional console first party controllers. That’s not to say that the SteelSeries Nimbus is a bad controller, it’s just a noticeable observation that those of you who are used to first-party console game controllers are bound to feel.
Despite lingering questions about build quality, the Nimbus performs fairly well when playing most tvOS games. The D-pad is responsive, triggers don’t feel too shallow or too soft, and the face buttons do an adequate job of reflecting input.
Compared to today’s console gaming controllers, the SteelSeries Nimbus is quite the bare-bones offering when it comes to features. For instance, there’s no accelerometer or gyroscope sensors to be found inside of the controller. The controller also noticeably lacks force-feedback, a gaming staple since the Nintendo 64 days. In other words, expect a solid basic control experience, but don’t expect much else.
Apple requires that all tvOS games support the Siri Remote, but let’s not kid ourselves, the Siri Remote is extremely limited as a game controller. That said, the Nimbus should be under strong consideration if you’re an Apple TV gamer.
The Nimbus is a simple controller with first-party ergonomics, third-party build quality, and a reasonable $49.99 asking price. If nothing else, it’s serviceable controller that will work with your Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone.
Have you purchased a Nimbus to go with your Apple TV? If so, please share your thoughts on the controller in the comments below.