Device Review: Mad Catz M.O.J.O.
Recently, Google has been acquiring various companies to possibly expand the reach of the Android platform beyond just mobile devices and tablets. With the announcement of Android Wear, Google is creating a standard for wearables like smartwatches. And perhaps with less fanfare, Google is expanding into set-top gaming Android with their purchase of Green Throttle Games. However, don’t think that Google is blazing the trail in these areas! They are just widening the road. Smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Omate Truesmart were among the pioneers in that arena. Similarly, the OUYA and Nvidia Shield wielded their machetes to slice a path through the Android Gaming forest.
While the OUYA is an Android Gaming device mostly in spirit due to it having its own customized overlay and its own proprietary store, the Nvidia Shield was perhaps the device with the biggest impact in creating this market. But now, there is another device available for you to choose from: the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. It comes in at $199 and gives you access to the Google Play Store. Recently, it was announced that OUYA would make its “experience” available on other hardware, and the M.O.J.O. was announced to be one of the first supported devices.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on one to test it out, as was XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan. To see my thoughts on the device keep reading, and check out the video below to see Jordan’s take.
The MadCatz M.O.J.O. is an Android micro-console with Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 4 SoC running at 1.8GHz. It has 2 GB of system RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. However, with the size of some of the Tegra-optimized games, storage could fill up quickly. There is a microSD slot built-in for expansion, and Bluetooth 4.0 support. There are two full-size USB ports as well, one that is USB 3.0 and another USB 2.0. These USB ports can also be used f0r storage expansion. An Ethernet port, HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone socket and an AC adapter to power the device round out the connections on the rear of this device. The hardware is capable and handled everything I threw at it.
Since this is a microconsole and it connects to your television, a traditional Android touch interface proves impossible. But have no fear, as the M.O.J.O. comes with a controller. Branded as the “C.T.R.L.R,” the device takes up one USB slot for its dedicated dongle to communicate with the M.O.J.O. When I received the device, it was installed in the USB 3.0 port, moving it to the USB 2.0 port did not impact performance. The C.T.R.L.R itself is a capable device that feels good in the hands, is laid out exactly how you expect a current generation console controller to be, and can be used on other devices such as your computer. It even has a microUSB port under the battery to update the controller firmware if necessary. Being a Bluetooth 4.0 device, it never lagged during my use. Finally, the C.T.R.L.R comes with a clip that you can attach so you can use it on the go with your smartphone to play games.
So, the M.O.J.O. itself and the C.T.R.L.R are decently speced but there is one area that suffers, and it’s not the M.O.J.O or C.T.R.L.R’s fault. Android is still very much touch-based. So even though the C.T.R.L.R has a switch on it that can change it from a controller to a virtual mouse, navigating stock Android takes some getting used to. In my experience, I became proficient in about an hour. However, typing with the C.T.R.L.R proved to be rage inducing. Luckily, MadCatz has a solution with its line of gaming accessories, some of which include keyboards, mice, and headsets. MadCatz’s GameSmart line of devices can be used on the M.O.J.O. microconsole.
The M.O.J.O comes from the factory with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The device comes preloaded with Google Play and Nvidia’s Tegra Zone. Once you power up the device, you can go through the MadCatz welcome setup slideshow, which helps you through a recommended setup of the device that includes installing Flash, installing Dolphin browser, setting up Dolphin browser to use Flash, installing any firmware updates, and rooting the device. Rooting the device opens up more possibilities from the Play Store. At the end of the slideshow, MadCatz suggests some games and apps for you to try.
Gaming on the device using a 1080p television is a wonderful experience. Games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, and others show no stuttering or lag, and generally look amazing. Additionally, installing and playing emulators works as well as can be expected, depending on your emulator and ROMs.
Streaming services like Netflix and HBOGo work well. Similarly, Plex and XBMC work without a hitch.
Is this the end all be all of Android consoles? Probably not, but it certainly is a device that is worth its price if you are looking for an Android console. A decent controller will run you $60 and an Android stick or Roku for Netflix streaming will run you around $80, so having all these plus the powerful Tegra 4 is well worth the $60 premium.
Unlike the OUYA, if you already own games purchased on Google Play, you can play them on the M.O.J.O. without having to repurchase them. On the flip side, if you already are invested in the OUYA game store, in a few short months, you will be able to access them as well. The M.O.J.O. is on par with the Nvidia Shield in console mode, but the Shield is portable. That said, there has been no announcement of whether the OUYA experience will land on the Shield. Either way, the MadCatz M.O.J.O. is a solid player in the Android console market and well worth a look if you are considering purchasing an Android gaming device.