Serafim S1 Review Bluetooth Controller With Portrait Mode

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

Recently funded on Kickstarter, the Serafim S1 is a neat bluetooth controller that supports touch screen button mapping emulation and Portrait gaming, which enables you to play games (i.e Clash Royale and Dragon Project) like an old school GameBoy!
Once the phone is slotted in the Serafim S1 controller, it stays in place securely, thanks to the small rubber bits on the side, which overlap the phone while wedging it against the controller. As long as the phone is no thicker than 1.3cm, it will fit with no issues. You are also able to safely tilt and even turn the controller upside down without the phone falling out of the controller.
The Serafim S1 controller connects via Bluetooth 4.0 to an Android and iPhone but, you can also use it without a phone, which means you can use the Serafim S1 as a bluetooth gamepad for playing games on a computer (Windows 10 only), Nintendo Switch or tablet. When connecting via a computer, you will need to use the included wireless USB-A dongle to connect. You can maintain both connections (wireless dongle and Bluetooth connection), although the wireless dongle connection takes priority. Macros and button mapping functions are only supported on mobile phones.
The Serafim S1 controller is designed to fit most phones (up to 16cm long) in landscape but not all, especially larger phones like the Galaxy S20 Ultra and Note 20. The Serafim S1 controller is also designed to fit phones vertically (portrait style) by using the included rubber wedge, which helps anchor the phone in place. Portrait mode is a neat addition and also means you can charge your phone while playing.
Serafim S1 different modes (i.e. Android, iOS and PC) are activated by selecting different key combinations. For instance, holding down Home and A button enables Android mode. Home + Y enables iOS mode and Home + X enables PC/HID/MTK mode. If your smartphone uses a MediaTek Bluetooth chip, you will need to enable PC mode. You will also have to enable PC mode when streaming a game from PPSSPP app or Steam Link app. As far as PC games, only Steam PC games are supported, as well as Epic Games as long as the game linked to a Steam account. The S1 controller also supports "Steam published" BlueStacks games and Stadia. Playstation 4 (PS4) is not supported due to the PS4 touchpad.
Serafim's Play mobile app is the other half to the S1 controller. Without the Play app, the S1 controller does not work. The Serafim Play app features dozens of games to play with, including Streets of Rage 2 Classic, Sonic Forces and 1945, all of which come with optimized button placement pre-installed. The Serafim S1 controller is compatible with any gamepad supported game but, you have to manually configure the button placement. The button mapping can also be customized as per the included user guide, which explains in detail how the S1 controller works. There is also a Serafim S1 online PDF you can access that explains in more detail the process of creating macros, configuring buttons and setting up overlay customization.
The Serafim S1 controller has two rubberized analog sticks, four buttons (ABXY) with Xbox layout, Start/Select/ Home buttons and split D-pad with four separate buttons. When connected to a Switch, the button layout gets remapped automatically to Nintendo's BAYX button scheme.
On the top edge of the Serafim S1 controller, there are four more additional buttons - two bumper buttons and two half-trigger buttons. Both analog sticks have button press functionality, which is useful for toggling and re-centering the camera in-game. On the bottom edge, there is a small power button, a reset button pinhole and a rubber grommet, concealing the micro USB charging port, which is charging input only. Speaking of charging, the S1's built in 250mAh battery takes 1 hour to recharge and can deliver up to 20 hours of runtime (25 hours in standby). There is no quick charge support.
As mentioned earlier, the Serafim S1 controller has a telescopic design, meaning the middle section of the controller has a spring loaded mechanism that allows you to manually extend the width of the controller. When removing the phone, both sides of the controller recoil back automatically. The S1 controller is completely made of hard plastic, including all the buttons (which are clicky). The telescopic plastic frame is reinforced with a brushed aluminum metal band.
The backside of the S1 controller features two rubbery pads and, you can also use the included rubber hand grips for additional grip. The rubber hand grips are made of thick rubber so, they also double as a protective cover against bumps and scratches. Removing and reattaching the hand grips is easy without much hassle. The hand grips are lightweight but, they do add extra weight to the S1 controller, which weighs 156 grams, while the hand grips weigh 63 grams.
In the close/retracted position, the Serafim S1 phone cradle measures 8.4cm wide, while the side grips measures 8.5cm long from top to bottom. The height of the Serafim S1 controller is 3cm high (including the height of the joysticks)
When downloading the Serafim Play app onto an Android device, it requires that you grant several permissions: usage access, drawing over other apps, phone's location, photos, media and files. You are also required to register an account, which can be done via email, Facebook or Gmail. As far as games, they are not psychically installed; instead, the Serafim Play app provides links directing you to each game to download. From the Serafim Play app, you can also update the firmware. You can buy the Serafim S1 controller from amazon.

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