This Is The Best Gaming Controller You Can Buy

Controllers matter, especially if you're making the shift from console gaming, where choice is limited, to PC gaming, where the only thing stopping you from grabbing a specific controller is money. But while every controller is trying to give you an edge, some do a better job than others. Some feel more comfortable, some allow you to do more, and some just look cooler. So I spent the last few weeks playing a lot of video games to find the very best controller you can buy.

The Tests

Identifying the best controller might seem like a question of personal taste - and to an extent it is! If you truly hate the feel of an Xbox One-style controller then you should go with a PS4-style device, but some controllers are objectively better, and the very best ones allow you to tweak little things like the joysticks and the draw strength on the triggers, so you can avoid annoyances and have the best gaming experience possible. So my first criteria for the controllers in the running was how customisable they were.

While you can pick custom colours on the Xbox One controller if you're willing to pay more, that's not the kind of customisation I was looking for. As a result, it (and the less customisable Dual Shock 4 controller and the Steam controller) were excluded from this test. They're great controllers, but they lack the ability to tweak the parameters that might make them truly exceptional.

These are great controllers, but aren't customisable enough to be included in this test.

That left me with four controllers to evaluate: The Scuf Infinity 4PS, Scuf Infinity 1, Microsoft Xbox One Elite, and Razer Wolverine Ultimate. We judged them by their customisability, how well they handled, and their price.

What's the most customisable controller?

I first picked up the Scuf Infinity 4PS because I was constantly wearing down the joysticks on my Playstation controllers and wanted something with joysticks I could replace when they wore down. The Infinity 4PS was also appealing because of other cool little features, like the ability to customise the length of the triggers, as well as their pull distance. After a weekend playing Destiny 2, I became a committed fan of customisable controllers, and after a few weeks of testing, the Infinity 4PS and its Xbox One-like sibling, the Infinity 1, came out as the best of the bunch by this criteria.

The Scuf Infinity 4PS uses a lock and ring combo to keep joysticks secure.

Both controllers are significantly more customisable than the competition. Depending on how you build the controllers on the Scuf website, you can choose to tweak the triggers, joysticks, and D-pad, opt for different size paddles on the back, and even switch out the grips.

Scuf's joysticks also lock in place with a fussy lock ring. You use the accompanying lock to twist and remove the ring so you can switch out joysticks. It can be difficult to get the joystick situated just right, and the lock takes some practice to use - which made me thrilled by the method employed by the Razer and Microsoft controllers. Both use a magnet to keep the joysticks in place.

The magnet system made it so easy to replace joysticks I felt like I was living in a luxurious future. Until I dropped the Microsoft Xbox One Elite and a joystick shot across the room like a rocket was attached to it.

The Scuf lock-and-ring system can be annoying, but it is much more durable than the systems the Microsoft and Razer controllers use. Combined with the sheer number of options for configuring your controller, the Scuf controllers come out as the clear winners.

Winner: Scuf Infinity 4PS and Scuf Infinity 1

What's the best feeling controller?

Three of the four controllers we tested are based on the Xbox One controller design (the Scuf Infinity 4PS was the outlier, modelled on the Dual Shock 4). These controllers feel, for the most part, exactly like the controllers they're modelled on. But there are small, subtle ways that they're very different. Like the placement of the paddles or triggers on the back of the controllers.

The paddles are positioned differently on all the controllers, and in each case the layout is more than adequate. You rarely accidentally press a paddle on one of the Scuf controllers, and the placement of the triggers on the Razer Wolverine Ultimate are perfect. They're easy to reach when needed, but not so close by that you might press the wrong button at a crucial moment.

Each controller has it's on specific paddle layout on the back. From top left, clockwise, Scuf Infinity 1, Razer Wolverine Ultimate, Microsoft Xbox One Elite, Scuf Infinity 4PS.

The Xbox One Elite, however, was one of the worse ones tested in this regard. The paddles are positioned nearly on top of the grips of the controller. While that might work with a lot of practice in a professional gaming space, it led to the most accidental presses while playing for this weekend warrior.

It's also the heaviest controller, which makes it feel more expensive, but the weight is too much for extended gaming sessions. After an hour with the Elite, I was always eager to go back to anything else.

And the buttons are super mushy! There's a noticable and unpleasant squish with the Elite. That squish wasn't present in either SCUF controllers, which feel nearly identical to their cheaper counterparts, the Xbox One and Dual Shock 4.

Yet what really surprised me was how different, in a good way, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate ended up feeling.

An added bonus, the Wolverine Ultimate is the only controller with a full communication module. It makes it easy to mute chat.

Razer designs its own switches for a lot of its peripherals (including many of its keyboards). The company's attention to detail shows on the Wolverine Ultimate. This thing has the best button feel in the bunch. Snappy and responsive, the buttons remind you of playing on an arcade cabinet or with a top-notch keyboard. Between the great feeling buttons and the excellent trigger placement, the Razer Wolverine Ultimate clearly comes out on top here.

Winner: Razer Wolverine Ultimate

For the Person Who Needs to Save Cash

Of course, the big problem with these fancy controllers is that they cost more than twice what a standard-issue Xbox or Playstation controller would. So cost starts to matter, a lot. The Razer Wolverine Ultimate, at $240, is the most expensive controller. It includes a carrying case and some extra parts, but it also requires connection via USB (cable included) at all times. $240 for a controller that can't go wireless is simply too steep a price.

The Razer Wolverine Ultimate and Microsoft Xbox One Elite both come with their own cases, cables, and extras.

The Microsoft Xbox One Elite is also steeply priced at $199. It, too, includes a case and extra components like joysticks and a different D-pad. Unlike the Wolverine Ultimate, it's at least wireless.

Yet the Scuf Infinity 4PS starts at $171 and the Scuf Infinity 1 starts at $158. If you're just looking at the basic price tag, the Scuf Infinity 1 is the clear winner.

But there is a caveat. Scuf controllers don't include all the cool extra D-pads and joysticks. There's no fancy carrying case or USB cable. Each extra little bit will cost you anything from $5 to $40. That sucks if you want the most tricked out controller, but if you just want to dip your toe into customisable controllers, then it's kind of perfect. You can spend $120 on a basic Scuf Infinity 1 and upgrade over time, spreading the cost out over months and years instead of dropping all your cash once.

Winner: Scuf Infinity 1

The Champion

When it comes down to it, price and the ability to customise are just a little more important than the feel of the controller. The Razer Wolverine Ultimate might be the best feeling controller when you're playing, but it's also the most expensive, and the only one that isn't wireless.

The Microsoft Xbox One Elite, meanwhile, is neither the most customisable, the best feeling, or the cheapest. It might have been one of the earliest examples of a premium controller, but it's definitely not one of the best.

Which narrows it down to the Scuf Infinity 4PS and the Scuf Infinity 1. The Infinity 1, based on the Xbox One design, works with any Xbox One or PC and is just $120. The 4PS starts at $171 and requires a little finessing to get it working on the PC. So while it's definitely worth the extra money and hassle, if you're playing PS4 more than PC, for most PC gamers its a no-brainer.

The Scuf Infinity 1 is the best controller available.

Winner: Scuf Infinity 1



Comments

    So the article author who already owns the 'winner' evaluates the competition and picks the one they already own?

    but the weight is too much for extended gaming sessions.

    Hahahaha. No. Not even slightly.

    It’s elite by a country mile. You can’t be a weekend warrior, and be saying things like you accidentally press triggers on the elite.

    A weekend warrior wouldn’t have an elite controller

      Why, do you need to show some kind of pro gamer ID and use a secret handshake before you can buy one.

        You don’t. I’m just saying that a non pro games complaining about accidentally pressing the extra buttons on a pro controller is a bit of a silly example.

          You seem to be assuming that pro gamers are the only ones who would buy any of these controllers, which seems a bit silly in my opinion. I know that I've considered buying an elite controller and I'm far from being anywhere interested in pro gaming.
          I'm sure there are many elite controller owners that fall into the weekend warrior camp and these are legitimate concerns.

    What tripe. I've tried 7 different Xbox controllers and the Elite is the most comfortable by a mile. As for magnets vs locks, I can only see that as an issue if you throw your controller around in 12-year old rage which I guess would explain why you'd find the Elite too heavy!

    The biggest failing of the Elite is reliability, I've not had one last more than 6-9 months before a stick gets loose or a trigger fails. If they could resolve that it'd be near perfect but in the meantime just make sure you keep your receipt.

    This doesn't seem like an unbiased comparison. There isn't even a review of the d-pad.

    'This Is The Best Gaming Controller You Can Buy' According to a man child whos arms tire holding a 340g controller. There is 100g weight difference between the scuff and elite. I suggest a few simple forearm muscle building exercises. This might help with the squishy mushy feeling you get pushing buttons too......

    Headline states 'This Is The Best Gaming Controller You Can Buy', reviews 4 controllers.

      Not only that but he excludes a lot of controllers based on some arbitrary and kind of meaningless criteria. How many gamers actually care about how customisable their controllers are? Please call me out of I'm wrong about this, but I'd say that would be a small minority.

        I love my Elite for the Xbox, weight is perfect, grips are good interchangeable thumb sticks (I run with two different heights) dpad etc...

        I also think the Pro Controller is amazing for the Switch.

        One is completely customisable and one is not. Almost every I chat to online plays with the standard controller for their system of choice.

        It's ridiculous to publish and article with a click bait heading suggesting a broad controller comparison and end up with the rubbish that's actually in the article.

    Wow, this comment section is full of people who sound so butthurt I'd assume the author sent personal messages to each and every person explaining in great detail why their kid/dog is the ugliest, dumbest sack to ever walk the earth.

    It's a controller, people. The fact that the author preferred a different one is perfectly fine. No need to get so bent out of shape about it.

    Focus your anger on EA and lootboxes instead.

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