PC Gaming Controller Buyers Guide
We review the best gaming controllers for PC gaming in 2018, from Sony, Microsoft & Razer we select our top choices for budget, wireless in our hunt for the top PC gaming controller available on the market, if you're looking for a new controller we have everything you need below.
Since its release back in 2013 together with the PS4 console, there have been plenty of updates to the controller since then, with also plenty of potentially better designs from rival tech companies. Regardless, years down the line after its inception, it’s still just as appealing to the eye as it is to the hands.
With its notable ergonomic design, the game-play is definitely topnotch and intuitive, making you feel comfortable. Just like the rest of the design, the buttons have a buttery quality thus the response time is excellent.
The DualShock trackpad is what’s sets it apart from similar controllers. Acting like a button itself, it’s more like a diving board as there’s a space between the end of the button and the body of the controller.
Recent updates to the track-pad have seen it has a handy redesign, which now has a light bar above it thus adding an extra dimension to your games as it glows different colors for different kinds of action, in addition to showing you when it needs charging up.
With the built-in speakers, the gameplay feels more immersive than before, although there isn’t much to expect in terms of best-in-class audio quality from a controller. However, it certainly adds to the gameplay and the audio you hear from your monitor.
Furthermore, there’s a 3.5mm stereo audio jack for your headphones if you feel like listening to all the important additional sound effects in private without interference.
With nothing new about the integration of both an accelerometer and a gyroscope, they both are highly sensitive thus ensuring a more accurate and enjoyable gameplay.
Regardless of the lavish and pro-only price suggests, the Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless controller has an appealing look that every gamer can enjoy. Its rubberized grips coupled with a cool touch finish and stainless-steel components makes the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller one of the most comfortable controllers in the market.
The controller has paddles located on the back that when assigned the function of any face button, it helps control sensitivity levels. In addition, the pad works on PCs running Windows 7 or higher.
Having the distance on the right trigger, one is to shoot non-automatic weapons faster, and crouching becomes quicker upon mapping it to one of the back. Paddles.
Racing games have more dynamic experiences while using the Elite controller, an example being Forza Horizon 2.
When it comes to the paddle buttons and stick sensitivity, one size doesn’t fit all and to that effect, Microsoft released an Xbox Accessories app that allows you to set up customized profiles on the controller. In addition, the app also allows you to assign functions to the paddles. On the downside, the app doesn’t allow you to set a string of buttons to the paddles
While the controller can save two profiles at a time, switching between them is pretty simple.
The Microsoft Xbox Elite Wireless controller is heavier and more comfortable than the standard Xbox One pad. The rubberized grip and the amazing matte finish ensures comfort.
On the face of the controller, there are three magnetic interchangeable parts, the d-pad, and the two thumb-sticks. The concave rubber pads are the standard sticks which are familiar with the Xbox One, while the other options include convex PS3-style sticks or extra-long, arcade-style pieces.
The d-pad comes in two types: a standard cross or the new 360-degree design, with the former being more comfortable than the latter, though the latter comes in handy too.
The six other face buttons – share, menu, A, B, XY – aren’t any different than their standard controller counterpart with the exception of their color: they’re all jet black.
Spinning the controller around, you’ll find the four aforementioned paddles, named P1, P2, P3, and P4.
If you aren’t comfortable with the paddles, you can either detach them from the controller or simply disable them by pressing the sync button located at the top of the controller twice, as such, Microsoft has definitely changed the game.
In addition, the lock mechanisms for the triggers that allow you to halve the press of the left and right trigger buttons are also present here
The last feature worth mentioning is that it comes alongside with a USB cable to connect it to your PC and two AA batteries.
The $150 razer wildcat Xbox One and PC controller is built for those with e-sports aspirations. Inclusive of four remappable extra buttons and built-in audio controls and optional grips designed to keep you glued all the time, the razer wildcat is definitely geared towards professional gaming. Coming with a ton of useful features for competitive players, this premium pad is a gem worth having, despite a few design drawbacks which keep it from being truly ready for the big leagues.
Design and Comfort
The Razer Wildcat puts a clear focus on function over form. Save for its colored face buttons, the Wildcat sports a simple, all-black design that’s complemented slightly by Razer’s snakelike logo on the bottom right.
Once you attach its sporty-looking neon-green rubber grips, the Wildcat becomes comfier and easier to hold through their implementation feels cheap. The grips attach to the gamepad via an adhesive material.
With the Wildcat’s design nowhere near as cozy or cohesive as Microsoft’s Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller, which is coated entirely in a soft-touch material with rigid grips built into the back, the Wildcat however feels nicer with lesser weight advantage over the elite. Razer’s 9.2-ounce pad is notably lighter than the 12.3-ounce Elite and just a bit heavier than the default 8-ounce Xbox One controller. Some players might prefer the Elite’s heft, but the Wildcat is less likely to give you hand fatigue after hours of play.
The Wildcat sports four extra inputs that you can program in whatever way you like in addition to its standard array of thumbsticks.
While the M1 and M2 buttons provide two extra bumpers for your pointer fingers, the removable M3 and M4 keys serve as extra triggers in the rear.
By simply holding down the remap button at the bottom of the Wildcat and holding down the M key you want to program and then tapping whichever button you want it to mimic, mapping the extra buttons is definitely a cinch. The pad will then rumble to confirm your selection, and the M button will start performing its new function instantly. You can create up to two custom button configurations using the pad’s profile switch button, and you can remap the controls at any time — even in the middle of a heated Halo match.
While it’s easy to remap the Wildcat’s buttons on the fly, physically customizing them takes a bit more work. The removable M3 and M4 triggers have to be unscrewed via a tool that comes with the controller. This ensures that the triggers won’t fall out while you’re playing, but it also makes them difficult to swap out in between rounds. But compared to the magnetic, easily removable rear paddles on the Elite controller, the Wildcat’s screwed-in triggers seem like a mild inconvenience.
The Wildcat’s face buttons feel snappier and more mechanical than the Elite’s, making it easy to mash them repeatedly when you need to get out of a tight spot.
One of the Wildcat’s most distinctive features is the Quick Control Panel, located just above its headset jack. In addition to button-remapping and profile-switching buttons, the panel features audio controls for muting your headset’s mic and adjusting the game/chat volume balance.
While it may take time to get used to the Wildcat, its lightweight design and extra controls proved their worth in the heat of battle. The premium pad seems tailored primarily to shooter players.
The extra triggers and bumpers make it possible to do things like run, jump and change weapons without ever taking your thumbs off the sticks, which is crucial for players seeking complete control over both combat and movement.
The Wildcat’s trigger locks allow you to lower the travel on either trigger and to fire faster in shooting games. The feature requires just a quick flip of a switch and makes it extra easy for you to rapidly unload rounds from your magnum. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you should activate the Wildcat’s hair-trigger mode (which heightens the triggers’ sensitivity) before using the locks. If you don’t, you’ll have to squeeze harder to register a shot, which isn’t something you want to worry about during competitive play.
The Wildcat ditches the standard, unified D-pad design in favor of four independent directional buttons. This layout makes sense for shooter players looking to pinpoint the right direction when changing grenades or calling in airstrikes, but it’s less-than-ideal for other genres, especially fighters.
When it first came out, the Steam Controller brimmed with potential. The atypical touchpad setup and customization options set the Steam controller on top. Precision on mouse and keyboard was also a guarantee courtesy of the touchpads’ tweakable sensitivity.
However, its distinguishing feature is the loadout system. The Steam Controller lets you customize what each button and axis do on a game-by-game basis. You can then share any control scheme you make with the Steam community.
The Steam Controller’s design is more like a beast, not wildly wider or taller than the Xbox One or DualShock controllers. It is a lot fatter, with the handgrips curving into your palm rather than away from it, together with four face buttons which are smaller than those on the Xbox One controller.
The analog sticks on the Steam Controller are solid with enough stiffness for precise movements, with the rough-rubber top providing plenty of grips too.
With two additional paddles tucked away beneath the controller, just where your little and ring fingers rest, it’s definitely great to have a couple of extra buttons that are easy to use.
The Steam’s Big Picture Mode is a layer that takes over Windows and makes your PC all about gaming. Coupled with its own browser and YouTube app, its core is about getting you into a game with a minimum of fuss.
With the dual trackpads, the Steam controller trades the second analog stick and the D-pad for two highly responsive trackpads. These can serve almost any purpose, from simple mouse control to steering wheels, or anything else that a particular game may require.
Every quality controller has vibration motors built into it, but Valve’s Steam controller takes vibration to a new level with its superb haptics. It offers precise, high-fidelity haptic feedback that enables maximum immersion.
The Steam controller is the best PC controller when it comes to motion control capabilities, as it sports both a gyroscope and an accelerometer. Thanks to this, users can utilize motion controls either for fine-tuning their aim in shooting games, using it as a steering wheel in racing games or just as a regular mouse pointer on the desktop.
Carrying a retail price of for $40, the Xbox 360 Controller is currently available in only one color, and it plugs in via the console’s USB port. The controller’s cable measures in at nine feet and has a breakaway component that keeps the console from falling if someone trips on the wire. The USB connection poses a problem; the system has only three USB ports, one of which is on the back of the console. In order to hook up four controllers (the maximum allowed by the system), at least one has to be wireless.
The design encompasses left and right analog sticks and triggers, the control pad, and the face buttons that are in the same spots, constructed rather similarly. The start and back buttons have been moved to the center, flanking the new guide button, which allows access to your gamer card at any time.
Removed from the older controller are the black and white buttons and taking their place are the left and right bumpers, which make their home on the top of the controller in front of the triggers. The slight changes have resulted in a nearly perfect design; not only is the controller great for 360 games, but you may just prefer the new layout for the backward compatible Xbox One titles, as the bumpers are better located than the black and white buttons.
On the bottom of the controller is a headset input. You can plug in any headset with a 2.5mm jack (standard for cell phone headsets), but the input is form-fitted to accept the Xbox 360 Headset, which has built-in volume and mute buttons. Compared to the wireless controller, this model is slightly lighter and less bulky due to the absence of a battery pack at the back of the controller.
The performance of the Xbox 360 Controller on the console is phenomenal, with instantaneous response time. The controller syncs with the system much faster than the wireless controller, and the force feedback is a bit stronger.
On the PC, the controller performs more than admirably. Once you download the software from Microsoft, the controller will work with any controller-compatible game. As long as the game you’re playing allows you to customize button usage (most do), the controller ranks among the best available for the PC. Games specifically designed to work with the controller can also make use of the headset input and the force feedback.
All said and done, the Xbox 360 Controller is one of the best-designed and best-performing controllers on the market.
For you to decide which of these controllers is the best PC controller for you, a few considerations have to be put to book. These include and not limited to:
1. Other than PC, do you own any other gaming system?
If the answer is “yes”, considering a controller that you can use with the other systems should definitely suffice.
2. Do you need Bluetooth connectivity?
With almost all the high-end controllers today having wireless connection capabilities which are enabled by Bluetooth, it’s a thing which should definitely not taken for granted. On the other end of the spectrum, the more affordable controllers still come with wired connection support only.
If you are shopping for a budget controller for your PC, and you intend to sit at your computer desk while using it, then you don’t need to spend money on a more expensive wireless one. If on the other hand, you like to connect your PC to the TV and play on the big screen, a wireless connection allows for much more freedom.
3. What games do you play the most?
This might not seem relevant at first, but some controllers can be exceedingly better at certain types of games than others.
For example, DualShock 4 has a quiet, responsive and comfortable D-pad, which makes it a great choice if you’re into side-scrollers or fighting games. On the other hand, the Xbox One’s bigger and more ergonomic triggers make it ideal for shooters.
4. How much are you willing to spend?
As for determining your budget, it all comes down mainly to how much you intend to use the controller. If you’re going to be playing a lot of games suited for one, then you certainly won’t regret paying upwards of $50 for a proper console controller.
Conversely, if there is just a handful of games that need a controller and you’re buying one just for those, then a more affordable solution would be a wiser choice.