Alternative game controllers abound for Amazon Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick in 2016
Shopping around for an alternative game controller can be a little daunting. There’s wired controllers, wireless ones, and Bluetooth.
With some you need a dongle. A what?
A dongle sounds kind of dirty. But don’t cringe. Dongles are actually your friends, and they can help you save some money if you already have a controller for say, an Xbox 360.
I’m here to help you sort through all these fancy terms, and hopefully land you a sweet game controller for under $50.
What’s so great about an Amazon Fire TV game controller, anyway?
Before we start, I should point of a few features on the Amazon Fire TV game controller that you can’t find on a third-party alternative.
It has Alexa voice-control just like on a Fire TV remote. So if you want to bark into your controller to pull up the latest Jessica Jones episode on Netflix, you can do that.
It also has outlet for private headphones or kids headphones, which are sold separately. Onboard trigger buttons allows user to control the volume of the game.
One upshot of this controller is that since it’s an Amazon product, it will get regular firmware updates just like your Fire TV device. One downside of this controller (aside from the price) is its lack of an on/off button. So if you have the remote synched to the Anynet+ function on your TV, it will turn on the TV when you accidentally bump into it.
What are the differences with wired, wireless and Bluetooth game controllers?
- WIRED: You’re plugging in your controller to the USB port on the back of your Amazon Fire TV. Obviously, this isn’t an option for you if you’re a Fire TV Stick owner. It’s generally the most inexpensive option.
- WIRELESS: Your game controller uses WiFi (2.4GHz) to connect to your Amazon Fire TV or Fire TV Stick device to play a game or perform some other function. You will need dongle specific to your controller to hook it up to an Amazon Fire TV device. The Fire TV voice remote and 2nd generation Fire TV game controller already uses a WiFi direct connection.
- BLUETOOTH: Similar to wireless, Bluetooth technology exchanges data over short distances using UHF radio waves between 2.4 to 2.485GHz. Amazon Fire TV devices are Bluetooth compatible, but for a gaming controller you’ll want a dedicated key layout files for the controller as well. (We cover that below.)
Why I’m going with an alternative game controller for the Fire TV
I like the look and features of the Amazon Fire TV game controller. If it arrived under the Christmas tree, I’d gladly accept it with a big grin ear to ear. But I’m not down with dropping $50 for one. That’s a lot a bread to drop to play a little Pac-Man once in a while.
Like I mentioned above, there are a few other cool games I want to check out.
Here, check out the full list of games offered for Amazon Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick if you haven’t yet.
When it comes to buying add-ons for my streaming devices, I always want to find a cheaper alternative if I can. So buying a Microsoft dongle for the Xbox 360 controllers that I have around my house is a no-brainer. And picking another game controller to buy will still be cheaper than dropping $50.
Sticking with my budget of under $50, I have options to get more bang for my buck. I could find a Bluetooth controller at half the price of an official Fire TV controller. Maybe I could even buy two if I wanted some multi-player scenario for a game like BombSquad. Or I could even buy an inexpensive USB hub and a couple of wired controllers for the price of a single Amazon Fire TV game controller.
What to consider when buying an alternative game controller for Fire TV
If you’re going to buy new controller, you want something that’s “future proof” – something that’s going to match up with your old hardware and newer tech as it rolls out.
For Bluetooth controllers, you may want to check and see if it’s has dual-mode Bluetooth so that it can work with older and newer devices. In other words, if you end up buying the new Fire TV device expected to roll out later this year, you want the game controller that you’re buying today to be compatible with it.
If you don’t mind having a wired connection from your controller to your box, then the future-proof concern may be less of an issue for you.
You could snap up an inexpensive Logitech Gamepad F310, and just plug it into the USB port on the back of the Fire TV. You’re good to go.
Same goes for a wired Xbox 360 controller. Just plug it in.
With a wireless controller, you will need a dongle that’s compatible with your specific controller. Some controllers come with a dongle (a.k.a. 2.4GHz receiver). A wireless Xbox 360 controller can be used with a Microsoft dongle for the Xbox 360.
TIP: If you’re having trouble with using an Xbox 360 wireless controller on the Fire TV, make sure USB debugging is turned off on your device.
Were you hoping to use your PlayStation 3 controller? If so, you’re probably going to have to root your device, or find another workaround. I’ll let you Google that one. A PlayStation 4 controller will work fine with Fire TV. Just go to your settings on the Fire TV and connect to it using your Bluetooth connection option.
Amazon Fire TV got more 3rd party game controller support in 2016
When the Fire OS 5 update happened early 2016, it broadened the number of compatible game controllers.
There are actually dozens of USB and Bluetooth controllers that work with Fire TV devices, but there’s a catch. Most of them don’t have what’s known as “dedicated key layout files” in the operating system. That can cause issues when you’re trying to play certain games.
About 17 more game controllers, including ones made by Razer and Mad Catz, got their own dedicated key layout file in the lates Fire OS update.
But the new selection can be somewhat overwhelming. And frankly, some of the price points for these third-party controllers cost about the same as buying an official Amazon Fire TV game controller.
What game controllers are compatible with Fire TV?
Here’s a list of game controllers that gained “dedicated key layout files” in the FIRE OS 5 update system.
Asus Gamepad for Nexus Player
Mad Catz F.P.S. Pro
Mad Catz Generic Xbox 360 Controller
OnLive Wireless Game Controller
Which game controllers worked with Fire OS3?
Here’s a brief list of game controllers that worked under the older version of software Fire OS3. Some of these models no longer work since the Fire OS 5 update. Xbox 360 controllers and PlayStation 4 appear to still be working fine.
Our picks for best alternative game controllers for Fire TV
This is a USB-rechargable controller so you don’t have to worry about picking up a huge pack of batteries at Costco to keep this powered up.
Being $33 lower than the Amazon Fire TV controller is a great deal. The analog sticks are a bit stiffer than an Xbox controller. The top of the controller has a soft rubber-like surface. The bottom has a hard plastic. Connectivity: Bluetooth
TIP: You’ll want to pair this device under the Bluetooth device pairing option under Settings. You’ll also want to select the “Keyboard Input” option, holding the Mode button and the A button. The controller will stay connected when you are actively using it.
A wireless game controller that has the look and feel of an Xbox 360 controller. We really like that it comes with a 2.4GHz receiver, so you don’t have to buy a dongle separately. Transmort has an easy plug-and-play set up. The controller’s framework has the look and feel of an Xbox 360 controller. It also comes with a Micro USB cable. It works with Android phones, PlayStation 3 and Android tablets and TV Boxes. Connectivity: Wireless/USB; receiver included
This wireless controller has dual vibration feedback and customizable controls. A 2.4GHz receiver is included with the controller and operates with 2 AA batteries. Works nicely with PC games as well. It comes with 10 programmable buttons for PC use. But it’s one of the higher priced options within our under-$50 standard. Connectivity: Wireless
An inexpensive wired controller that will give you basically the same layout and performance of its more expensive brother. This can also double as a controller for a PC. Connectivity: Wired
This dual-mode Bluetooth controller can be called “future proof” and has the ability to add remote-control functionality for Netflix, Hulu and Pandora. This controller can also work on your PC and on mobile devices. Note that this is a smaller game controller, but with good button placement and overall feel. Connectivity: Bluetooth
A wired controller that has a Xbox-style design. For X-Box 360 players, this will feel like a somewhat familar controller that fits nicely in your hands. For some reason the red model is priced a bit lower than the same models in white and black. Connectivity: wired
In a few more years, the XBox 360 controller will be considered a classic. But it’s still very reliable and provides a reliable design that’s made for hardcore gaming. That might be more important to you as Fire TV games begin to fray the edges of casual games. Think Grand Theft Auto series. Connectivity: wired
The overall versatility of this controller is what impresses us the most. Being able to use a Transmort on a PC, Android tablet and TV streaming boxes makes a decent value without killing the wallet. Adding a receiver and a USB wire is also pretty cool and gives us a couple less things we have to buy or go looking for after our purchase.
While it’s a smaller device than your average game controller, MadCatz still has an impressive performance. Like our top pick, MadCatz Micro can work on multiple devices and has dual-mode Bluetooth. We like that it offers a variety of functions as a general remote for a media streamer. So if you don’t have your regular remote handy, you can still fire up Netflix or Hulu without much fuss.
These picks will likely change over time. But I’m hoping you can find yourself a deal with this brief guide. What’s your favorite controller for the Fire TV? Let me and other reads know in the comments below. I’ll be interested to see what you suggest.