The Xbox has been gaining steady ground in the console gaming community and while it may still have a long way to go until it catches up with the PS2 in popularity it’s still achieved a dedicated following of it’s own. That following is interested in the same thing that every generation of console gamers before them was too: more games and accessories for their pet gaming system!
Well, luckily for them NYKO Technologies, Inc. is more than happy to oblige. Nyko was founded back in 1995 and is headquartered out of Los Angeles. They make accessories for most of the major entertainment systems including Sony PlayStation 2, Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance. These include such notable products as the Wormlight, Wormlight Plus, UFO Light for the GBA, and the subject of today’s review: the NYKO AirFlo™ game controller.
Since the Xbox only comes with one controller you’re going to need at least one more unless you don’t have any friends. While you could buy another factory stock controller of either the original or the S size, or another aftermarket brand, the Nyko Air Flo brings something a little bit extra to the table that the others don’t: fans.
Yep, you read that right. The Air Flo has built in cooling fans to keep your grubby, sweaty paws in tiptop shape for hour upon hour of fragging fun. Let’s take a look at the factory specs on the Air Flo before we get into personal impressions of the controller and the hands on test.
Air Flo for Xbox
- Multi-speed fan for customized ventilation
- Patented Air Flo Technology ends sweaty hands and allows for comfortable game play
- Rubberized grips for added comfort and control
- Responsive dual analog control sticks and 8-way D-pad
- Built-in variable vibration function
- Pressure sensitive analog buttons
- Dual expansion slots for memory cards and accessories
- Trigger-shaped analog shoulder buttons
Nyko’s Air Flo controller is a little bit smaller than the standard Xbox controller although it has similar shape and button layout. It appears to be made of the same materials as the standard controller and it has a solid, well-made feel to it. The feature that stands out the most on the Air Flo is the light green, vented handgrips on each side of the controller. This setup provides an excellent gripping surface for game playing. These vents channel air to your hands via an intake fan on the bottom of the controller. In addition to the standard Xbox gamepad controls, the Air Flo has two additional buttons on the top face to control the fan. The first is the on/off switch. This is a nice feature for times when you don’t want to cool your hands. If you’re in a cool room, or playing a game that isn’t that intense you can just leave the fan off. When the action heats up and your grip starts to get slick with sweat you can put the fan into action to cool things down. The second button allows you to select either a high or low fan speed depending on your personal preferences and heat generating capabilities. The fan generates a minimal amount of noise at either speed but it can be noticeable in some settings.
Looking at the bottom of the controller you can see the intake fan as well as the controller triggers. The trigger buttons are light green in color that matches the grips and are not as thick as those of the standard Xbox controller. Moving to the front of the controller you can see the dual memory card ports and the connector cable. Overall the Air Flo appears very stylish and matches the theme colors of the Xbox well.
In order to properly test out the Air Flo we gathered together a small group of testers and an appropriate quantity of games, adult beverages and snacks and got to work. We used both a standard Xbox controller and the Nyko and swapped out as we played to get a feel for both controllers in side-by-side comparison. Lets take a look at some of our impressions:
I was very impressed by this controller. Aside from being a novel idea it does cut down on moisture on the hands during game play. When using a normal controller my hands do sweat over a period of time. The Air Flo alleviates this quite nicely. Additionally, the controller vibrates much like the standard controller. I played a lot of MechAssault using the Air Flo and I noticed no real difference in gameplay over the standard controller. It had the same basic feel and response as the stock controller with the added bonus of the active cooling.
Believe it or not, this was actually my first hands-on experience with the Xbox. We played a mix of MechAssault, Hunter the Reckoning, HALO, and Test Drive Off-Road Wide Open. After a bit of adjustment (hey, I’m used to a keyboard and mouse for my games!) I started getting used to the feel of gameplay with the stock controller. I have medium sized hands and didn’t really have a problem with it but I did notice that it was rather large. When I shifted to the Nyko Air Flo I immediately noticed that it fit my hands a bit better and seemed more comfortable for me to use.
I tried the fans and while they seemed fine it wasn’t immediately apparent what the advantages were at first. That was until I swapped out controllers again and let Gene give the Nyko a try. The standard controller that he handed me was disturbingly warm from his grubby paws and didn’t cool down any once I started into Hunter the Reckoning with it. It was obvious at that point that the fans do indeed make a difference and made for a more comfortable gaming session. I was glad to swap back to the Nyko after that!
Besides Tim complaining about my sweaty hands, the Air Flo was a welcome change over the stock controller. Personally, I hadn’t really noticed how clammy my hands had become after playing for an hour or so until I switched to the Nyko Air Flo. The fan, even on the low setting, worked wonderfully in cooling my hands off. Another big bonus is that the Nyko is noticeably lighter than the stock controller. My only gripe was that the Start button was unidentifiable. Those buttons are rearranged from the stock controller and you’ll have to stare at the controller for a while to remember which is which. The general gaming, colored buttons are positioned as normal and function fine.
In the end I really liked the Nyko Air Flo. It offers a very similar setup to, and the playability of, the standard Xbox controller but it has the added bonus of a viable cooling mechanism to eliminate sweaty hands. The controller is only slightly smaller than the standard unit and it did not cause my hands to hurt as the smaller controllers do, but was still comfortable for those who found the standard ones a bit large.
The only negative aspect that I can see some gamers finding with this controller would be with the sound of the fan. While I didn’t find it overly loud, some may find it distracting. I just turned up the volume of my television. If playing in a roomful of people, the Air Flo’s fans would be inaudible.
If I had my druthers I’d hope that Nyko might also produce a smaller version of the Air Flo for those who’ve been looking for something along the lines of Microsoft’s S type controller. Additionally, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible to make a quieter fan. While I’m sitting here wishing, I would also like to see a wireless model of the Air Flo! As it is though, the Air Flo was very functional product and good to go as it is. (Options are always welcome however!)
If you are in the market for a new controller, I’d give this one a serious look. Sheer gadget coolness alone makes this a worthwhile purchase and, if that’s not enough, the fans really do make a difference in extended gameplay. Plus, if the standard Xbox controller is a little big for you, but you don’t like the feel of the smaller type S controller, then the midsize feel of the Air Flo may be just right for you. I look forward to seeing more products from Nyko and I would definitely recommend that Xbox gamers consider this controller as an alternative to the standard ones. Especially, given the fact that it runs for a retail price of $29.99, the same as a stock unit without any fans!
For its innovative cooling design, reasonable price and great handling characteristics, I’m giving the NYKO Air Flo controller an 8.5 out of 10 and the Bjorn3d Seal of Approval.