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3 of the best controllers for PC gaming

By Salehuddin Bin Husin - 28 Jan 2017

The top three controllers for PC gaming

 Controllers come in all shapes and sizes and not all of them are created equally. Some are great, most of them not.

In the realm of PC gaming, the keyboard and mouse combo is king. Ask any PC gamer and they'll tell you the same thing; nothing offers the precision of a mouse and the flexibility of a keyboard. It's been that way for decades, so much so that when you think of PC gaming, the combo has become ingrained into our minds.

However, with more console games being ported to the PC (or getting PC releases), it's getting to the point that while the keyboard and mouse combo is great, a PC gamer also needs a great gaming controller to keep up. Games like Ultra Street Fighter IV or WWE2K17 are meant to be played using a joypad firmly in your hand. You can play them on the keyboard, but chances are you'll be fighting the controls as much as your opponent.

In fact, fighting games are probably the greatest reason for a controller purchase, as they're not only seeing a resurgence of late but most of the more well known series in the genre such as Street Fighter and Guilty Gear, all have more entries slated to hit the PC.

Of course, even if you're not into fighting games, some people just prefer playing on a gamepad with force feedback.

Here then is our compilation of some of the best controllers you can buy for the PC from our usage experience.


Sony DualShock 4

The latest controller for the Playstation family, the DualShock 4 is sturdy, solid and feels great in your hand.

Sony's DualShock 4 Wireless Controller is a standard issue for the Playstation 4 console.

Of the three controllers featured, the DualShock 4 is the most recent to get official support on the PC by purchasing a Sony DualShock 4 USB Wireless Adapter. If you play PC games on Steam, the latest Steam client comes with support for this controller built in.

However, the best way to get the controller fully compatible on your PC is to use an unofficial program called DS4Windows. DS4Windows is a homebrew app that not only installs the requisite drivers, it is also a customization suite which comes with a boatload of options (macros, key customization, shortcuts) that you can use to truly customize your experience. Even the Sixaxis motion controls are working via DS4Windows and the touchpad even doubles as a mouse if you want it to.

The DualShock 4 is an excellent controller for a number of reasons. The segmented d-pad on the controller is great to use in fighters and the rear triggers have just the right amount of resistance. However, its battery life is a bit of an issue if you're using it wirelessly, but you can extend that somewhat by reducing the lightbar brightness settings.

Also, if you have a Sony Xperia phone/tablet and a PS4, you can use the DualShock 4 as a controller when using Remote Play.

Pros and Cons of the Dualshock 4 Controller
Pros Cons
  • Great D-pad
  • Comfortable trigger buttons
  • Can be used with Xperia phones
  • Short battery life if used wirelessly
  • Needs third party software to use on PCs

The DualShock 4 costs S$67.90 and you can get it from most gaming stores.


Steam Controller

The Steam Controller is part of Valve's drive to put PCs into living rooms.

The Steam Controller is the only controller in the feature that isn't console compatible. Part of Valve's Steam Machine initiative, the Steam Controller was created to complement the Steam machines, allowing users to play PC games in the living room without being tethered by wires. While it's debatable on whether Steam machines are a good idea, there's no doubt at all that the controller is a great piece of gaming hardware.

While the Steam Controller was primarily created for Steam machines, the controller also works on any PC, without any third-party programs or hoops to jump through. It even comes with a wireless receiver, so you can use the controller without using wires on any machine.

Created with the PC in mind, the Steam Controller is nearly infinitely customizable. It's meant to emulate console controllers, but also retain the precision a mouse gives. The haptic force actuators used in it for force feedback are some of the best, rivaling those found in the Xbox One controller.It uses two trackpads instead of the dual analog design console controllers often use, though it does have an analog stick too. These trackpads are the reason why the Steam Controller is one of the best controllers out there. You can configure the trackpads to do pretty much anything you want; as a mouse cursor, as a d-pad, as specialized macro buttons, as a steering wheel. The options are nigh limitless.

However it's those customization options that are also its downfall. Trying to find the perfect set of settings can take a tremendous amount of time, especially if you're trying to use the controller on a game that doesn't have controller support. You can download templates to remedy that but finding the perfect one can still take a while, and even then, you can find that the controls are still a bit awkward to use. Also, while the trackpads can emulate a d-pad, they don't offer the same feel as one.

Despite its setbacks, if you're game to try something unique and one that's very adaptable (if you can spare time to customize it), this page tracks the top games that Steam Controller owners are enjoying now.

Pros and Cons of using the Steam Controller
Pros Cons
  • Customizable
  • Great force feedback
  • Too much tweaking needed to get some games working
  • Trackpad isn't a good replacement for mouse/ d-pad
  • Can only be used on the PC

The Steam Controller isn't available locally, but you can get it from Amazon for US$49.99.


Xbox One Elite Controller

The Xbox One Elite controller is Microsoft's answer to those complaining of the lack of customization options on consoles.

Like the Roccat Nyth, the controller is a modular device that you can outfit with different analog stick types, paddles and d-pads. On top of that, the controller also comes with an app that allows users to customize it. While that is nothing new for PC gamers, it's the first time something like that has been done on consoles. Luckily, PC gamers on Windows 10 have a similar app they can use to configure the controller for use on the PC (but those not on Windows 10 are out of luck). 

Assuming you are on Microsoft's latest OS, you can use the customization suite to access a wide array of customization options, like button reassignment and sensitivity settings.  However, the app is only one part of the reason why the controller is so good. The other part comes in the form of the modular buttons. You get three different thumbstick types, two different d-pad covers and four pedals you can attach to the back of the controller to act as shortcut or alternate buttons. This is especially important if you love to play fighting games on a controller, as the concave d-pad cover is the greatest d-pad since the one found on the Sega Saturn controller. The pedals also deserve special mention as they come in handy in certain genres, like FPS and driving.

On top of that, the Xbox One Elite controller also has one of the best tactile force feedback systems in any controller. It feels exactly as it did on the Xbox One's normal controller, which is a testament to how good the rumble is on the normal controller.

However, unlike the other controllers, you have to shell out for a Microsoft Xbox Wireless adapter if you want to use it wirelessly. That means you'll need to spend another S$34 on top of the S$194.90 the controller costs, which is a mighty hefty investment.

Pros and Cons of the Xbox One Elite Controller
Pros Cons
  • Great customization options
  • One of the best force feedback systems for controllers
  • Modular hardware
  • Needs Windows 10 to be able to be used to its fullest potential
  • Needs wireless adapter to use as wireless controller
  • Price 

It might be more than double the price of a regular Xbox One controller, but it's definitely worth it.

Each of the controllers we've chosen have their good and bad points. Sadly, there's no magic 'perfect' controller out there but the three we've listed are the best money can buy right now. No matter what type of gamer you are, if you're looking for a controller, the three we've recommended will satisfy your needs.

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