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Without challenging the claim of keyboard and mouse being the best controllers for PC gaming in their own capacity, we also find the need for the conventional console-based controllers for the same purpose. Thanks to the increasing player base of video game consoles, more and more people are also playing games using infamous peripherals like the Xbox Elite Controller or the PlayStation DualShock 4.
As video game controllers have been around since the good old days of the NES glory days, there is a large number of manufacturers to choose from. However, we have done the hard work for you and cut down to the best you can get for different wallet sizes. But affordability isn’t the only thing we have considered.
Picking The Best Controller For PC Gaming – And How
During our testing phase, we have given multiple gameplay hours to different platforms including Windows and Apple PCs, and laptops. In order to evaluate the controllers to our best knowledge, a number of key considerations were made. For instance, the range of button mapping and customization as well as the placement and usage of D-pads, analog sticks as well as function buttons.
When you play for long enough, you’ll also learn the importance of ergonomics. Which is why we have only picked up the controllers that we have deemed healthier for extended gameplay sessions as compared to other available choices.
Best Overall PC Gaming Controller
PlayStation DualShock 4
Get the DSWindows and Its Unbeatable
If you’ve been down this road before you’ll ask why choose a controller that isn’t officially plugged and play for Windows platform? The answer is because it costs half as much to perform at least equally as good! The DS4 windows compatibility is, however, a non-issue as compared to how exceptionally well-balanced it is in terms of game performance.
The fact that Xbox is a Microsoft-owned brand does have an impact on how the Windows and Xbox can help each other with native support. But that certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be competition. Sony Corporation, despite showing their reluctance towards anything from the rivals, has made their mark even in PC gaming thanks to the DualShock 4.
The game controller needs some extra effort in the setup stage. If you wish to avoid spending money, you can use software like the DS4 Windows which allows you to seamlessly connect with the games by emulating an Xbox 360 controller. The other way to do this is by using a Bluetooth adapter, either the official one from Sony or any other adapter that supports Bluetooth 2.0 and above.
Once you are done with the setup, though, you’ll notice how smooth the controller is. It feels at home in your hands when you are playing on the PlayStation 4 and nothing changes on Windows and even Steam. Talking of, the latter has native support for the game controller since 2016 and even has specific PS4 controller functions.
Nonetheless, our highlight of the PS4 controller on PC was in its performance. You get one of the most responsive and interactive experience thanks to the fluid feel of its switches and features like rumble, its touchpad, and customizable LEDs. Although the DualShock 4 isn’t as big as the Xbox Elite Controller, it still fits almost all sizes of hands. The placement of its triggers, joysticks, and buttons is exceptionally accurate, allowing for easy reach.
With the new gyroscope technology instead of the Sixaxis motion detection technology, the controller is even more precise, even more accurate when fine-tuned to perfection.
We aren’t saying the Xbox One Wireless Controller or the Elite version isn’t as accurate. They certainly are! We also dote over their button layout and comfort. But the reason why they didn’t make it to the top is that their offer is the same, but for a higher price. Additionally, the PS4 controller has bonus features like using the touchpad as a cursor, rumble effects, LEDs and impressive analog feeling triggers.
So far the community has found only one notable flaw in playing with the DS4 windows emulation. The audio jack on the controller doesn’t work well. But you aren’t always supposed to use that one specific audio jack, are you? And we’d happily trade such a minuscule caveat if it gets us such an all-around high-end performance for an affordable price. And if you spend some more on the official Bluetooth adapter even this issue is fixed.
Not willing to settle for anything that needs a way around? The Xbox Wireless Controller – official controller of the Xbox One – is not only released for Windows officially, but it is also the layout standard followed by notable names like the Razer Wolverine Ultimate among a number of other Razer controllers. The controller is famed for its responsiveness, perfect fit, comfort, and ideal layout of the D-pad, buttons, and triggers. Moreover, it is one of the most sturdy game controllers in the market that gives enough consideration to a gamer’s needs: you get removable batteries, button remapping, and the infamous textured grip.
Best High-End Controller for PC
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
Go-to game controller for hardcore gaming
We agree that the Xbox Elite Controller is literally not for everyone. At the price of three DualShock 4 controllers, it is one of the most expensive choices. But if you are a hardcore gamer you’d want to spend the extra dollars to benefit from its additional functionalities and premium build quality.
Even we were not sure whether launching such an expensive game controller was a mistake. But having the accessory as a regular pick in the office, we know better now. The controller is by far, the most suited for hardcore gamers, especially among the first-person shooter community. It didn’t take long for the pro-players to notice what the new Xbox controller brought to the table.
And really, the visibly superior build quality is only just the tip of the iceberg. It does replace a few plastic buttons with metallic ones, shading it grey and silver to make the product sleeker than all its predecessors. However, people who actually end up buying it would pay more attention to things like the additional back paddles.
Four in total, these paddles are placed perfectly in the range of your fingers and offer four additional mappable buttons. A very beneficial feature for competitive multiplayer games and other fast-paced titles. These paddles are interchangeable, alongside high-quality rubberized diamond grips that give you the feeling of complete control over the game.
Moreover, by allowing users to swap and customize D-Pad caps and thumbsticks, Microsoft has further improved how flexible it is to use the official controller. Talking of flexibility, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller also has what they call Hair Trigger Locks. Essentially, these let you tweak the sensitivity on the triggers. Helping you in shooting games by, say, requiring you to pull the only half trigger for the fire. This, in turn, would allow the player to rapidly use the same function.
Needless to say, you get all the good parts of the vanilla version. That is, a sturdy build quality that can take gamer rage and not complain, as well as the same iconic layout of the buttons. You can assign profiles to your button assignments, sensitivities on triggers and so on, which is even better for multiple players.
The high price of the Elite controller is a known fact. And as we said, it is one of the rare occasions when the word Elite has not been used just as a marketing gimmick. Therefore, it is not a negative aspect for us, the size and weight are. Unlike the super-accurate size of the DualShock 4, Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is somewhat heavier and also slightly larger. We don’t recommend it to exceptionally small-handed gamers.
There are small-handed gamers who complain that the weight starts to feel on your wrists quicker than some other controllers. But that is a subjective matter and a great majority of users have not considered this as a dealbreaker.
When it comes to the controller, you are very limited by the type of layout you get, you can either get a PS style layout or an Xbox One, but what this controller offers you, other controllers don’t. Introducing the first modular controller, ASTRO Gaming C40 TR Controller, easily modular, simple but high-end controller. This controller features elevated analogs, concave-shaped analog covers, but that is not the modularity we were talking about. You can actually switch the D-pad with analogs as you wish, with the removal of the front cover using an included screwdriver designed for the controller’s screws, you can switch positions of the analogs and D-pad with each other.
This is a PS4 controller, so those of you who were team Xbox and switched to PS can just change the layout to match what you are used to. Isn’t that great? It is a plug-and-play controller, it comes in two modes, wireless and Bluetooth, you get the wire and a Bluetooth dongle especially for this controller. The only bad thing about this beautiful modular controller is the fact it comes with a 6-month warranty and that it is crazy expensive, standing at $200.
Best Budget PC Controller
IFYOO XONE Wired PC Controller
Best Controller under $20
When you are searching for the market for quality products under $20, you will not find a lot of variety, specifically for a good controller, the most you can find are cheap knock offs of original console controllers for that price tag, but the IFYOO XONE is an exception, it does not act like a knockoff but is originally really good.
When you hold the IFYOO XONE controller in your hand, you immediately feel the difference from the cheap Chinese knock-off controllers. The controller has a really good feel to it, the size is somewhere between an Xbox and PS controller.
The IFYOO XONE wired PC controller has a classic Xbox controller layout for its digital and analogs. This allows for people who are more into the Xbox to be able to transition to this controller easier. Sadly it does not support an Xbox which is kind of a bummer seeing that it has the same layout, but it is designed to be used with a PC.
It has a textured grip with an anti-slip design, so when you hold this controller, you can expect to not budge from your hands for quite a long while, which is great for longer runs of gaming when your palms become sweaty during an intense match.
The analog sticks are also designed with an anti-slip edge so when you are moving through a difficult situation, the analog won’t slip under your thumbs and put you in a vulnerable position in the game. The analogs can feel a bit stiffer than the usual console and high-end PC controllers, but well for what you pay you are getting plenty.
It has all the features of a great controller including vibration feedback, which is absolutely necessary for the immersive experience during gaming.
It can also be plugged into an android device, for instance, if you want to game on your phone with the IFYOO XONE controller, then all you need is an OTG cable and you are good to go for your PUBG mobile and COD mobile gaming.
With a price tag just under $20, you might not find a better deal than this on the market, the appearance of the controller is really cool, it also comes with a turbo button as well.
Before Xbox Elite Controller’s paddles, before the touchpad of DualShock 4 and well before the control schemes of Steam Controller, there was the official Xbox 360 Controller. And now that it is as cheap as our budget pick, why not bring out the ol’ friend again? It was responsive, accurate, reliable in quick paced games, and flexible. You can choose between the wired and wireless version, and also upgrade it to afford recharging. People might complain about the accuracy of the D-Pad, but if you aren’t using it as a primary control things won’t go too south.
Best For Non-Controller Based PC Games
Control mapping at its finest
Who wants a controller for non-controller based games and functions? Well, a lot of us apparently because there are games you can only control with a mouse or a keyboard. Valve’s Steam Controller is one such solution, and the only controller of its kind too.
Back in 2015, we weren’t really impressed with what Valve churned about. Much ado about nothing, we thought. But the Steam Controller grows on you. Agreed, it isn’t as straightforward as the traditional controllers we get. But there is an interesting feat that it tried to achieve. There are developers who still don’t fully swing with cross-platform support. This is why some games still limit the controls to mouse and keyboard only.
If you happen to fall for such a video game on PC, but decide that keyboards and mouse are still not your foray, the Steam Controller might help you out. The unique design gives versatility in how you control the game: there is just a singular thumb-stick, coupled with four face buttons and two trackpads. These trackpads not only help fill the gap for the missing D-Pad and second thumb-stick but also open the doors to a range of other control functions.
Thanks to the trackpads, the controller can be used to point the cursor in-game where it is the modus operandi. Since the controller was made to fill the gap in how PC games are controlled, it is no surprise that each and every bit of the controls on it are mappable. The trackpads, thus, can be used for a variety of purposes including being used as a mouse.
One of the reasons why we believe the PlayStation DualShock 4 is the best controller for PC gaming because of how its gyroscope works, among a long list of other feats it can achieve. However, as far as the gyroscope functions are concerned, Steam Controller takes the lead as it couples the gyroscope with a state-of-the-art accelerometer too! The result is total control over sensitivities through the motion controls. This is shooting aim fine tuning at its best.
Similarly, we love how the DS4 uses its vibrators to make the experience more immersive. But Valve has taken a step further. Thanks to high-quality haptic feedback, the vibration motors are able to sync with the game more precisely. The list doesn’t end there, we were also thoroughly impressed with the battery life of the controllers. Whether you use the AA batteries or rechargeable ones, there is a noted reduction in power consumption over other controllers.
Despite such intelligent features, the controller hardly managed to be included here: naturally, there are reasons. In trying to sit between the keyboard-mouse controls and video game controllers, Valve wasn’t as precise as a keyboard and mouse are. But more importantly, the unorthodox layout is quite hard to get used to.
There are pros and cons of each model mentioned here, but the fact is there is no one single correct choice here. Someone else’s best controller for PC gaming might not suit you because you have larger than usual hands. Similarly, a person might detest the Steam Controller while another person could be sticking to it for dear life because that’s the type of games he/she plays. Usually, it works to get yourself an overall balanced product like the PlayStation DualShock 4 – unless there is an exceptional reason against it.