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The best video game controller for the PC

By Julio Franco · 20 replies
Jan 10, 2018
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  1. Over the last decade, as more and more console titles have found prettier homes on the PC, and more and more indie action games hit the big time, the controller has become just as important as the mouse & keyboard for playing games. But out of the countless options available to PC gamers, which one is the best?

    In case the image up top didn’t give it away for you, it’s the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller.

    While peripheral specialists may offer more gimmicks, and Microsoft’s own Xbox 360 controller remains a reliable choice for most titles, it’s the Xbox One Elite that is the best choice for playing action games on the PC.


    • The design of the Xbox 360 controller was as close to perfection as a control pad has ever gotten, which is one of the big reasons it used to be our top choice here. The Elite retains this layout, only now everything just feels nicer, and is built to a better standard. It’s almost impossible to overstate how important the feel, heft and quality of the Elite is to the way you’re able to play and enjoy games.
    • The Elite doesn’t just copy the 360 controller’s layout, but adds a bunch of extra paddles and toggles underneath it as well. You can customise the use of these in the Xbox Accessories app for Windows, and it’s a double-edged sword. The potential for fine-tuning is great, but the program itself sucks.
    • The only area the 360 controller was clearly lacking was its awful d-pad, and the Elite fixes this by allowing users to choose between two swappable d-pad inputs, a regular cross-shaped one (vastly improved from the 360's) and a more experimental “dish”.
    • Just like you could with the 360 controller, if you plug an Elite into a PC and start playing a game, you’ll notice that nearly all developers have programmed their in-game prompts (button letters, start button icons, etc) to match those of Microsoft’s controllers. The importance of this cannot be overstated, particularly in games with complicated control schemes.
    • Wired solutions are always best for peripherals, and despite the “Wireless” in this controller’s name, it’s best to play it plugged in. The Elite ships with a long, fabric USB cable that lets you stay permanently connected (and charged). If you really want to play wirelessly, though, you can buy a dongle to plug into your PC.
    • But if you own an Xbox One, then you can simply unplug your Elite, take it wherever your console is and use it there too. That’s a convenience you don’t get from many other expensive PC peripheral purchases.

    At $150, it’s easy to view the Elite as a niche purchase. And in some ways it is, since you can get much of the same functionality out of an old Xbox 360 controller for less than half the price. But everyone on staff here who has bought one agrees that they’re worth every cent if you play a lot of video games.

    Just as a smart carpenter invests in quality tools, anyone who is serious about playing a lot of games on the PC (or at least a lot of PC games that are suited to a controller) should know this is the best controller out there for the platform.

    Permalink to story.

  2. Prosercunus

    Prosercunus TS Maniac Posts: 258   +105

    I still use an old wired xbox controller and it does the job just fine for the little I use controllers on my PC. seems like a very nice controller but that is about several dozen wants down a list of things floating around the $150 range.
    Reehahs likes this.
  3. Vulcanproject

    Vulcanproject TS Evangelist Posts: 505   +624

    The Elite Controller is the best experience, without doubt. Even though it's expensive and you need a receiver for it on PC. I have one. I love mine. It feels fantastic. But I could never recommend it to anyone else, despite this! It's the Alfa Romeo of game pads.

    The build quality is terrible. They all fall apart, have faults and break very quickly. Oh yes, it looks beautiful, it'll feel solid and quality at first and you'll ask yourself what is this guy on about, but after a year or so.....

    Google for problems with the thumb sticks drifting, the bases cracking, rubber grips falling off, and bumper bars snapping. The left stick was on it's way out after just 12 months with me, and I don't hammer these things. I care for my stuff. Maybe a dozen hours use a week on average and always kept in it's smart little zip case on my desk when not in use.

    Very widespread flaws, most fixable with a little self repair- though you better expect it after a while. I managed to get mine exchanged under warranty, but I bet most haven't.

    So it's far more expensive than a standard Xbox controller, far better to use and also far more likely to break apart after a year of moderate use if you're lucky. Purchase at your own risk.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
  4. shm0wie

    shm0wie TS Member Posts: 19   +17

    I can't disagree more! I own a 360 controller, an Xbone and a PS4. I by far prefer the PS4 for a few reasons:
    The analogs feel much better, have less force threshold and in general the PS4 controller is more comfortable to hold. Heck, even the original 360 controller is better than the Xbone imo!
  5. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 3,351   +1,133

    I'm with this guy, the PS4 controller is more comfy to use :)
    Reehahs, pencea and FPSChris like this.
  6. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Maniac Posts: 261   +174

    I agree that the Xbox 360 controller is probably the best controller ever.

    I can't comfortably use the PS controller's analog sticks because they are too close together. The person who offset the Xbox sticks is a genius.

    Unfortunately, the Xbox One controller has felt cheaper since day one, and I've gone through 4 of them because the triggers and buttons don't hold up under the stress of First Person Shooters or Mortal Kombat for long.

    I am NOT paying them $150 for an Elite controller. It's just not gonna happen.

    I use a Xbox One controller with an Xbox One wireless adapter in my USB port.
    Reehahs, FPSChris and darkzelda like this.
  7. Potato Judge

    Potato Judge TS Booster Posts: 148   +65

    Razer's Sabertooth for me was the best... when it was working. Unfortunately, it started having issues within 3 months. Never touched a Razer product since then.
  8. BigMack70

    BigMack70 TS Booster Posts: 34   +25

    I like the standard Xbox One controller the best. I've seen nothing to convince me the Elite is worth 3x the price, particularly with all the reports of them breaking over time. Had my normal xbox one controllers almost 5 years now and 3 of 4 controllers feel brand new; 1 of 4 has a slightly "sticky" left bumper button and otherwise is like new.
  9. Demur

    Demur TS Member

    I think the standard Xbox One controller is fine, and I'm not quite sure why it's not mentioned in the article at all. Unlike the 360, it actually has a decent d-pad, and it doesn't ask you to pay for a ton of only-useful-in-particular-situations extras like the Elite. I only use it for controller-centric PC games (I don't even have an Xbox One) and it does that very well.

    My only complaint with it is that R1 and L1 are a little weird, because they press in like a narrow sideways trigger rather than a button. But that's pretty much my only complaint.
  10. AvanCade

    AvanCade TS Rookie

    I have the xbox one elite controller and have none of the issues mentioned before. However the only reason that I would buy the controller again is because of the extra paddles. I can rebind it with the application reWASD so I have a dedicated push to talk button on my controller (you cannot do this with the default xbox accessoires application!!)

    Luckily the xbox one elite controller isn’t the only one with paddles these days, but they are all expensive or not wireless.
  11. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,590   +570

    I use mouse and squirrel
  12. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 3,140   +1,565

    I mostly played with a PS4 controller so I prefer it.
    pencea likes this.
  13. drjekelmrhyde

    drjekelmrhyde TS Addict Posts: 298   +89

    That's nuts
  14. fadingfool

    fadingfool TS Booster Posts: 84   +87

    I switch between an Xbox one wireless and a steam controller depending on the game. The additional paddles and the touch areas on the steam controller really help in some games (takes a while to get used to them) and its larger palm grips are more comfortable in my shovel like hands. Some games are designed around the xbox controller so I use that one for them (mainly capcom and microsoft).
    Also have a PS4 and whilst steam supports the ps4 controller I don't find much need to plug one in. £100 is a little steep especially as it isn't RGB :)
  15. HyPeroxya

    HyPeroxya TS Enthusiast Posts: 64   +6

    I read an art that said the PS4 controller was better ...still not bought either. Went for a Logitech K830 keyboard instead ... I can also use it to swat a burglar round the head, somthing these controllers lack.
  16. DeanLO

    DeanLO TS Rookie

    I kinda chuckled at the d-pad part about the experimental “dish”.
    Not that experimental ... if anyone remembers the controllers for the Intellivision.
    JaredTheDragon likes this.
  17. Nandiman

    Nandiman TS Rookie Posts: 19

    I use a very rare and highly unusual game controller, it's called "The Keyboard and Mouse".
  18. axiomatic13

    axiomatic13 TS Addict Posts: 188   +109

    I take very good care of my controllers but the USB connector on the Elite is trash and it usually breaks within a couple of months. Unfortunately its the same with a Skuf controller as well. If you get a new one, buy a USB cable with an extra long micro USB connector. It's the only way to fix the issue.
  19. JaymondoGB

    JaymondoGB TS Enthusiast Posts: 39   +12

    I like the Steam controller, but it would appear many do not, but you cant beat a decent keyboard and mouse
  20. pencea

    pencea TS Addict Posts: 142   +94

    I prefer the PS4’s remote to play with.

    When I’m not on my PS4 Pro, and playing a game on PC I just Bluetooth to the desktop and use it.
    Reehahs likes this.
  21. BadThad

    BadThad TS Booster Posts: 178   +88

    I use a CH Products joystick in my left hand (movement and various button binds) and a mouse in my right hand. I can perform things in game that are impossible to do with a keyboard.

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