Mad Catz first unveiled the S.U.R.F.R. bluetooth controller back in march 2015, but it’s only been available since December 2015. It is an interesting gadget marketed as a media and game controller. The concept seemed interesting to me, so I finally decided to get one to try it out. So, is it any good? Should you go buy one?
I thought I was going to love this keyboard/gamepad, but the truth is, I simply don’t. It has too many flaws to be worthwhile. I’m pretty sure that it’ll start gathering dust in a few weeks.
The Mad Catz S.U.R.F.R. has a few good aspects about it, so let’s talk about that first. It feels very solid and well constructed (this is my first Mad Catz product, so I don’t know if this is common with their products). If doesn’t feel too light, but it isn’t heavy either. And, the phone clip can hold a pretty big phone. I didn’t have any issue attaching a Galaxy Note 5, and then a Galaxy Note Edge to it; both are pretty large phones. It won’t be able to hold a tablet, but it isn’t designed for that anyway.
It is a bluetooth controller, so you pair it to your phone or android device as you’d pair any other bluetooth device. The controller didn’t give me any issues at all when pairing it, and it was recognized at once as a gamepad and keyboard. Mad Catz also published an Android app available on Google Play, which can help you connect and test the S.U.R.F.R.
The “media” features work pretty well. The left analog stick can be used as a mouse. A little cursor appeared on my phone, and was easy to move it around. The shoulder buttons act as mouse buttons; this feature is very useful on apps that aren’t designed to work with gamepads. However, the buttons on the left side also work to navigate left, up, down and right, which is more standard on devices that are running Android TV, although I didn’t have the chance to test the controller on my Nvidia Shield, so I don’t really know if it works well with it.
The keyboard is just ok. The phone recognized it as an input device without any issues. You can use it instead of the onscreen keyboard, and it just works. However, I think it was a little bit too clicky. The keys are a bit hard to press, and, above all, it is noisy. It feels as if you were playing with bubble wrap. The controller also feels a little bit too big, which makes it a tiny bit hard to type with. It isn’t comfortable to hold, much less to type using your thumbs. And this is were the issues start.
It is supposed to be a game controller. The first thing displayed in its package says “Play games and surf the web on your Android TV, tablet or set-top box”. You know, it is supposed to be useful to play games, but it is not that. It won’t replace any good (or bad) gamepad. Mad Catz thought it was a good idea to put the A/B/X/Y buttons and the direction buttons around the analog sticks, making it not only hard, but even impossible to use. It’s not an enjoyable experience. You might be able to play Crossy Road with it, but don’t even think about playing Asphalt 8 with it. So, again, it is not a good gamepad.
What about the battery life?
I saved the worse for last. The Mad Catz S.U.R.F.R. doesn’t have a rechargeable battery. It uses two AAA batteries; you know, the ones that were needed in every electronic back in 2001. To me, this is unforgivable and lazy. Even the cheapest of chinese controllers nowadays are rechargeable via usb. I’m sure Mad Catz isn’t happy about this, ether, because they barely mention it in their site, or even not at all. It’s a weird decision, too, because the L.Y.N.X 3, which could be called the brother controller of the S.U.R.F.R., can be recharged via usb.
And why is this so bad? The box says the two AAA batteries will last 20 hours of continuous use. Maybe that’s not too bad for a media controller, because you won’t use it all the time (that’s why the same 2 batteries last for a few years on a normal tv controller). However, if you use the controller as a gamepad, you know, to play games with, then you know you can go through the batteries in a week or so (yet another reason why this device is useless as a game controller).
The weird thing is that there’s a usb port in the controller, hidden in the battery compartment. I connected a phone charger to it, and it allowed me to use the controller for a couple of minutes, and then it would turn off itself. So it’s not even worth to use it as a wired controller. This also game me the idea of connecting a usb battery pack to it, but that was useless, as the controller didn’t even turn on. I really don’t know why that usb port exist. The only thing I could think of is that maybe Mad Catz was planning to sell a usb battery pack at some point? who knows!
I might get a couple of rechargeable AAA batteries to use with these devices, otherwise it really is nothing but a useless piece of plastic, because nobody wants to keep buying new batteries every few weeks. It’s not the 1980s.
S.U.R.F.R. Photo Gallery
If you only plan to use this as a media controller, and you don’t mind the stupidity of it using 2 AAA batteries, then you’ll be ok. You can buy the Mad Catz S.U.R.F.R. on amazon for around $59.99.
I personally think that the Mad Catz L.Y.N.X.9 is the better option, as it is everything the S.U.R.F.R. could have been. It’s a real gamepad, with a better design, and above all, it can be recharged via USB. However, it’ll cost you $299.99, which I believe is too much to ask for a game/media controller. I already feel disappointed by Mad Catz, so I can’t even imagine I could spend that kind of money at the risk of being disappointed one more time. Mad Catz really broke my heart with the S.U.R.F.R.
Still want it? Get the Mad Catz S.U.R.F.R. on amazon.