A Man Who Has Used The PS4's New Controller Tells Us Why It's Better

You have (probably) not held a PS4 controller yet. Neither have I. But Shuhei Yoshida has. He's the head of Sony's worldwide studios, so he better have!

Yesterday, I had to rely on him to tell me what the controller feels like. Sony, you see, wasn't letting reporters touch the new PS4 controller — the DualShock 4. They didn't even let us look at them, taking them off-stage as soon as they weren't needed for live demos.

The Touchpad

The DualShock 4 retains the dual-analog, four-trigger, four-main-face-button and d-pad design of previous PlayStation controllers. But Sony has added a touchpad. We've reported on it before, describing, as Sony's official documentation for the thing notes, that it is clickable and supports two points of touch.

But what does it feel like to use it? And how exactly should we think of using it?

Me: Is the touchpad a thing for my thumbs? For me to reach in to touch it? Or is it for me to take my hand off one of the controller's prongs and use it with my pointer finger?

Yoshida: Both. Having a touchpad or touch input we really wanted to do because, these days, all these devices have touch control. Instead of trying to replace buttons or sticks with touch we thought that some things cannot be done as well as they can with a touchpad — like swiping or pinch-to-zoom. These functions are easier to do with multi-touch. But we didn't want to make the main control with sticks and buttons more difficult. We really focused on making this basic stuff better… We worked on that first and then looked at what space we had left to incorporate this.

It's designed so that you can reach into the edge of the touchpad with your thumb to do simple functions…

Me: To scroll and things like that?

Yoshida: Yeah. Or some applications, you might want to put the controller down and use the touchpad like...the touchpad on the PC. We are thinking about other ways to use it.

The Triggers

Yoshida cited improvements here, too, comparing the DualShock 4's bigger analogue triggers with the relatively shallow ones from the PlayStation 3's current controller: "It's more concave," Yoshida said. "And it has more play. On the DualShock 3 it's hard to use L2 and R2 the analogue way. It's ‘press down' or ‘not press'. But with the DualShock 4, you can do something in between."

He said the shape might feel like the T-button on the PS Move controller. I suggested it might also feel a little more like the Xbox 360 controller. Cue chuckles. Yoshida's a good sport.

For reference...

PS4 controller.

PS3 controller.

The analogue Sticks

The DualShock 4 has two analogue sticks, of course. They look the same, but there are some invisible, tangible differences.

Yoshida: It's improved in terms of precision. The centre area is more useable. When you try the games, you'll notice you have better, more subtle control when you're driving.

Me: Are you saying there's less of a dead zone in the middle? There's more range?

Yoshida: Yeah.

Me: Small motions will be detected better?

Yoshida: Yeah, you'll have more, tighter control.

The controller will also include a speaker, a light bar, and a share button.

The speaker emits mono sound and seems to crib the concept from the Wii Remote.

The light bar, according to Sony's press releases last night, "illuminates to match the colour of characters in a game to offer a simpler, more friendly way to identify players, even when playing side by side. The light bar also changes patterns during gameplay to provide useful information to gamers, such as when a character is critically low on health or has taken major damage."

The share button is a very big deal and will let you share clips of games you're playing on the fly, among other things.

But in researching this story, I must say I found one detail about the DualShock 4 to be more exciting than anything else. Now, it's exciting in the way that a person depriving of you of cereal for five years finally giving you some cereal is exciting — which is to say that it probably should never have been an issue that needed correcting in the first place. Nevertheless, I will put this in large text, because, well… if you have a PS3 you'll understand:

"gamers can charge DUALSHOCK®4 while PS4 is on standby."

My god, people. We are living in the future!


    I'm still confused about this light bar business. Is it literally just an LED indicator? It doesn't have any functions like that of the silly glow ball on the PS Move controller? If so, that's good news, because it means developers won't be tempted to add gimmicky Move functionality to their controller-based games.

    Seems all good, i always have a controller on charge when i'm playing anyway. I wonder though, what's the battery life likely to be with the touchpad and all.

    That last feature is pure win! Now I can always use my favourite red controller and not have to cycle with that nasty black one!

    would have preferred if the touch pad was on the bottom

      I'm wondering if there may be something like a second touch surface underneath. I don't think they've shown any pictures of the under-side of it yet, and the fact they wouldn't let anybody look at it up close makes me wonder if it still has a few secrets that they're holding back for E3 or closer to launch.

        i doubt there would be though because the light bar looks like its going to come back towards the front in a triangular shape sort of like the battery on a 360 and that wouldn't make for a very good surface for a touch pad

    Yoshida: It’s improved in terms of precision. The centre area is more useable. When you try the games, you’ll notice you have better, more subtle control when you’re driving.
    Me: Are you saying there’s less of a dead zone in the middle? There’s more range?
    Yoshida: Yeah.
    Me: Small motions will be detected better?
    Yoshida: Yeah, you’ll have more, tighter control.

    This is what I've been wanting to hear for about 10 years now!

    Last edited 22/02/13 12:55 pm

    Charging the controller while the console is off, finally.

    The charging change is the biggest megaton of the whole thing. I can finally charge it while the console is off.

    Thank fucking god.

    Although technically the PS3 does too if you have remote play on.

      Indeed, been able to with the Wii and the 360 all this time, always found it silly I couldn't with the ps3. Thank god they rectified this.

    Unless I am missing something, how is the light bar going to provide any useful information to a player (e.g. critical health) when its on the front/bottom of the controller, and can't be seen?

      Move is integrated into the Dual Shock 4. Hence the Light bar.

        I understand that part of it - I was referring to Sony's claim that it served other purposes as well - e.g. health info.

          I thought they meant the touch screen on the front could do that.

    Longer charge cable please.

      Yeha the USB cables that come with every device are getting shorter and shorter. I just bought a USB extension cable for a few bucks off Ebay, the thing is about 4 meters long now.

    I charge my controller from my PC!

      I do mine from my TV. I think the use of standard USB is a an obsolute genius move by Sony. You can plug it into any USB charger you have. The 360 is terrible, I mean... batteries.... AA batteries!

      Last edited 23/02/13 9:01 am

    Will it still feel like lumpy shit that requires changing grip 3 times to reach all the buttons?

    What about holding both thumbs fully extended and at unnatural angles at all times?

    Its a controller from 1997 and it needs an update.

    I still cant get over how ugly it is. As long as it feels good in the hands it wont be that bad though.

    The Dualshock 4 looks cheap from afar, but pretty nice up close

    As an Xbox fan, I don't think too much about PS4, but it looks like it's shaping up to be a damn good machine so far

    And here I'd thought they'd put a microphone on it for voice activation, without having to wear a headset.
    I love using my 7.1 surround sound, and having to wear a headset for voice = suxor.

      The new PSeye has like three mics in it.

      Last edited 23/02/13 9:03 am

    seriously how many features does the new PS4 have that the xbox 360 has had for ages.
    multiple accounts, comfortable controller, charging while on stand by, paid online (ok not all are improvements).

    That said im glad all these things are being integrated and must say that the controller actually looks pretty good, even if im not sold on the uses of such a small touch area.

    im sure i will get all the consoles again this generation but maybe it might not take me as long to want a playstation this time round. it all sounds pretty solid if not completely exciting

    I'm intrigued by the soft touch stuff on the handle and underside, it looks very comfortable.

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