Last week, Nyko released their brand new Cygnus Android Game Controller. At half the price of the official Fire TV Game Controller, I bought one to see if it was a good alternative to Amazon’s official gamepad for Fire TV and Fire TV Stick owners. Read on for my full review.
Powering On, Pairing Mode, and Powering Off
Pressing and holding the oval shaped “Home” button at the center of the controller for a few seconds will power on the controller. Once it’s on, the three LED lights on the front will blink clockwise as it’s searching for a paired device. Once it finds a device, the bottom LED stays lit to indicate the controller is paired. If you continue holding the home button after it has turned on for an addition second, the clockwise blinking lights will blink faster to indicate the controller is in pairing mode. If you continue holding the remote for another second, the controller will power off. So there is a short interval between powering on and powering off that puts it in pairing mode. It’s easy to hold the home button too little or too long and miss pairing mode, but thankfully you only have to pair it once. Once paired, the controller will reconnect automatically to the Fire TV once it is turned on without needing to be repaired. At any point you can hold the home button for 4 seconds to manually power it off. It will also power itself off after 15 minutes of inactivity. Nyko says the controller will last up to 35 hours of playtime on two double A batteries, which are not included.
Compatibility with the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
I was able to successfully connect the Nyko Cygnus to all Fire TV models, including the 2nd-gen Fire TV, the 1st-gen Fire TV running Fire OS 3, the 1st-gen Fire TV running Fire OS 5 Developer Preview, the older non-voice Fire TV Stick running Fire OS 3, and the newer Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote running Fire OS 5. Basically, there wasn’t a version of the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick that I could not connect this controller to. That said, while I could successfully pair and use the controller with Fire TV Sticks, the connection was unstable. There was noticeable lag and pressing a button or moving the joystick would cause that input to get “stuck” as if I was still holding down the button even though I released it long ago. I only experienced this with Fire TV Sticks, so for that reason alone, I would not recommend this controller for Fire TV Stick owners. For both the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV, the controller worked well without lag or getting “stuck” once it was connected.
Bluetooth Pairing with the Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
The game controller paired very easily on the first try with the 2nd-gen Fire TV. However, that wasn’t the case with the 1st-gen Fire TV or Fire TV Sticks. It took no less than 3 attempts on every Fire TV device other than the 2nd-gen Fire TV to pair the controller. This could be because the 2nd-gen Fire TV is the only Bluetooth 4.1 device. When pairing the controller with the 1st-gen Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, it would always be found as a “Gamepad” the first time and fail to pair. For the second attempt, it would show up as a “NYKO CYGNUS CONTROLLER” but still fail to pair, often with an error saying the connection was lost. By the third or fourth attempt, it would eventually pair. Once paired, I had no troubles with it disconnecting, however, it consistently taking several attempts to pair on anything but the 2nd-gen Fire TV makes me hesitant to recommend this controller for older devices. To pair the controller with the Fire TV or Fire TV Stick, I used the “Game Controllers” option in the settings menu, not the “Other Bluetooth Devices” menu option.
The controller can be powered using a USB cable connected to the micro USB port on the front of the controller, however a USB cable is not included. Both the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV’s USB port will power the controller just fine. You can also use any USB charger to power the controller, since it only requires 500mA at 5V. While running off of USB power, the controller does not need batteries installed. You cannot charge rechargeable batteries installed in the controller using a USB cable connected to the controllers micro USB port.
The controller can be connected and used via USB instead of via bluetooth. This works with both the 1st and 2nd-gen Fire TV’s USB port. The one weird catch is that the controller must have batteries to initiate the connection. You must power on the controller using battery power first and then connect it via USB to your device in order to use the USB connection in place of bluetooth. Once a USB connection is established, you can then pull out the batteries if you want and the controller will be powered by the USB port while it is simultaneously communicating over the USB port. If you plug in a USB cable while the controller is powered off, it will not establish a USB connection, with or without batteries installed. Instead, it will only use the USB connection for power. This is a very strange limitation. If you’re looking for a controller to use over a USB connection, this will work that way, but it is not ideal since you must always have batteries to establish the USB connection. Nyko does not advertise the fact that, once a USB connection is established, the batteries can be removed and you can run off of USB power in addition to USB connectivity, so I don’t know if using it this way is a bad idea, even though it worked fine that way during my testing.
Button and Game Compatibility with the Fire TV
The button arrangement for every game I tried playing with the Nyko Cygnus controller worked perfectly, with the exception of the “Menu” and “Back” buttons. The controller has two unlabeled buttons on either side of the center Home button which I hoped would act as Menu and Back buttons, but in most games they were not recognized. This wasn’t really a problem since most games don’t use those buttons at all, and when they were actually needed, you can still use the ones on the regular Fire TV remote. The Home button on the controller does act the same as the Home button on the Fire TV remote and depending on the app/game, the B button would occasionally work as a back button. That said, this controller cannot be used as a complete replacement for a standard Fire TV remote due to the lack of a menu button. For gameplay, I would not hesitate to say this controller is fully compatible with Fire TV games. I never ran into a game where the expected button didn’t work correctly or a game where I had to remap buttons to play.
Quality and Feel
The controller is lighter than both the 1st-gen Fire Game Controller and the new 2nd-gen Fire TV Game Controller, but feels solid. The fit and quality leaves a bit to be desired, especially with the battery compartment door which takes several attempts each time to line up correctly. The controller has a soft-touch plastic coating, similar to the Fire TV voice remote, which is very nice in the hand. The button and joystick feel is on par with the 1st-gen Fire Game Controller, but not nearly as nice as the 2nd-gen Fire TV Game Controller.
Overall, I would recommend the Nyko Cygnus Game Controller to any 2nd-gen Fire TV owner who wants a decent controller but doesn’t want to pay the premium price for the official Amazon made controller. Fire TV Stick owners should not buy this controller due to the connection and lag issues I experienced. As for 1st-gen Fire TV owners, while the controller performed well once it finally paired, the difficulty to pair makes me question whether additional connectivity issues, similar to the ones seen with the Fire TV Stick, would arise over long term use.
Hands-On Compared to Amazon Fire TV Game Controller