Gaming is a fun and relaxing pastime, or so it’s supposed to be. Since your choice of gaming console defines who you are in the gaming community, you better think long and hard before you get yourself one. Getting an Xbox One means you are a loud player who wants to dominate in all virtual and oral combats. A PlayStation 4 means that you are prone to nostalgic games, with titles that have spawned decades-long franchise careers as your go-to during lonely nights. Getting a PC means that, well, your hardware is above everyone else’s and you’d like to point that out.
But then, when they’re all having amazing gaming experiences with their controllers, wands and motion-detecting cameras, you’ll be sliding your mouse and tapping on your keyboard. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? If you agree, then maybe it’s time to get yourself a gaming controller.
Thankfully, you have several choices in this area. It’s because PC gaming always had a large and dedicated fan base, which continues to inspire controller manufacturers to emulate the console experience on PCs. Today, that market is bigger than ever. In this article, we take a look at the best controllers for gaming on a PC, and explore some of the features you should look for in a good PC gaming controller.
Best PC Gaming Controller Complete Guide
Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller
Logitech Gamepad F710
Microsoft Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows
Thrustmaster GPX Controller with Official License
NYKO TECHNOLOGIES 80650 Airflow Ex Pc Game Controller
Logitech F310 USB Wired PC Gamepad Controller
Why Go for a PC Controller?
Some games have long and complex storylines that will leave you stuck in your desk for a long time. The position of your hands and elbows on the desk may induce long-term effects on your posture. Also, you may experience wrist pain, which is common for desktop PC users.
You can switch methods from time to time if you’re bored of playing in the same position for hours. Also, controllers provide a unique experience for all game genres, especially driving games, giving you a feel that you can’t emulate using a mouse and a keyboard.
You won’t be left behind in terms of knowledge about other consoles because you will be playing as if you use one yourself. You can make a legitimate comparison of the input and control methods you have tried, and you can use these for future console-related debates.
Gaming controllers for PCs are specifically designed for prolonged use, whereas keyboards are designed for typing. The controller’s ergonomic design means that all the buttons that you need are reachable with comfortable spacing.
If you’re a serious gamer then you probably have your own gaming TV or projector setup, with everything configured to fit your style perfectly. That won’t be an issue at home, but what about in other situations? Even if allowed, it is still a huge hassle to move your entire PC setup. With a portable PC controller, you won’t have this problem.
More and more console games are being ported over to PCs, some in not so good a quality as others. If a game seriously lacks intuitive PC controls, then you have no choice but to get yourself a controller. Also, with the highly anticipated Steam Machines on the release horizon, now is the perfect time to familiarize yourself with its controller form.
How Do I Choose a Controller?
The hundreds of PC gaming controllers in the market today will most likely produce a lot of questions, but here are the most important ones:
Will I use it on other consoles? If you’re one of those who are lucky enough to have a PC and a game console, then it’s best for you to get a cross-platform controller — but expect a heavier price tag than PC-dedicated ones.
Is wireless better than wired? Wireless controllers connect to PCs via Bluetooth, which shouldn’t be a problem, but there are reports of lag especially on Windows 7. If you’ve invested in a top-notch gaming router to avoid lag, you’ll probably want to avoid a wireless controller. If convenience is all you want, however, then be aware that though there are several wireless controllers to choose from, most high quality models prefer to be.
Should I go traditional? This depends on personal preference. If you want the familiar feel, you can have a controller with a shape typical of PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controllers. However, if you want to maximize the experience, there are PC-only designs with more buttons and even partial keyboards.
Can I carry it for a long time? Daily gamers should get a controller that won’t tire their hands easily. Check the weight, ease of grip, buttons arrangements, and durability of a controller before buying one. If you’ll buy online, then make sure that the merchant has a good return policy, so you won’t have to keep on using something, which doesn’t feel right in your hands.
With the above questions in your mind, you should now be capable of making a well-informed decision on what to buy. For your consideration, check out these six controllers. They aren’t arranged in a meaningful way, so expect to find a gem in each one.
Best PC Gaming Controllers Reviews
1. Xbox One Elite Review
Released in 2015, this controller just hits all the right buttons. It’s a beautiful piece of equipment with a matte black soft touch finish and brushed metal accents, all screaming refinement. With it, you’ll get a feeling that you’re holding a premium device — and you are.
At 350 grams, the Xbox One Elite may seem heavy, but its weight feels reassuring in the hands. It comes with a clam-shell case where you can store its accessories – the analog stick choices, a cross-tee d-pad if you prefer this over the pre-installed disk, paddles you can attach to the rear, and a micro-USB cable if you want full reliability.
Aimed at competitive gamers, it has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack at its base and a familiar gamepad you can customize to fit your specific style. Besides mapping, you can customize the sensitivity of each button, and you can even set the click identification shallowness of the shoulder triggers, so you can reload faster in shooting games. You can do all these on a game-by-game basis, or via a dedicated app available on Windows 10 and Xbox one. If you’re a cross-platform player then this one’s the best for both your Xbox One and PC.
2. Logitech Gamepad F710 Review
As one of the products of a tried and tested brand that caters specifically to PC users, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that Logitech’s Gamepad F710 doesn’t support Macs. However, the exclusivity of this 2014 device doesn’t stop there. It’s PC-dedicated, meaning it doesn’t support consoles, either, but it works on all Windows versions and with most games, thanks to it using both XInput and DirectInput APIs.
It has the same form factor as a PlayStation 3 controller, and its rubber grips give it a solid and sturdy feel in the hand. Features include customizable buttons configuration, pressure-sensitive shoulder triggers, vibrate and dual-analog sticks.
That may not seem a lot, but another advantage of this controller is the extended life it can give its batteries, which is due to its low power consumption and simplicity. It’s wireless for mobility with no wiring option, not even to charge, but that isn’t a big deal when you can have 200 hours of gameplay before you need to replace the double A’s. Because of its long life, durability and customization options, this controller is great for gamers who are on the transition phase between a console past and a PC future.
3. Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows Review
Imagine a controller included in the package of an Xbox One, but this time, with a wire you can connect to your PC. This is exactly what you get with this aptly-named device released in 2014. Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows is almost a replica, but that’s a good thing if you specifically want the Xbox One’s controller but can’t buy one because of incompatibility.
Key differences with Xbox One’s controller are slightly better grips, an improved d-pad, more fluid analog sticks, and, including the shoulder triggers, a better gamepad. If you’re a cross-platform player then getting this will be advantageous because you can use it as a spare, or even as a replacement to your slightly-lesser console-included controller.
It is true plug-and-play, meaning you won’t need to download and install drivers before you can use it. All you need is the included micro-USB to standard-USB cable and you’re good to go. No such ease if you want to go wireless with a PC, though. There’s no adaptor, official or not, that you can use for such a purpose. However, it is possible to connect wirelessly out -of-the-box with the Xbox One console.
4. Thrustmaster GPX Review
If familiarity is your thing, even with other brands, then you should look into Thrustmaster GPX. It is a standard wired controller with the same bells and whistles as an Xbox controller. Indeed, it even has the same form factor and an Xbox-like X logo in its center. It is designed to be compatible with PCs. No need to download and install additional drivers; this controller works out of the box.
Its rubberless, all-plastic shell may make you lose your grip during intense games, but other than that, it’s hard to find a fault in this controller. If you ever break it, fortunately, you can use its 1-year manufacturer’s warranty to get another one.
Following standard controller designs, Thrustmaster GPX has 10 configurable buttons, dual-analog sticks, pressure-sensitive triggers, and vibrate. Because it is wired, design deviation from an Xbox controller is most obvious in the missing battery pack. It is smaller and has a more-pointed hand grip, too. If you’re looking for a cross-over wireless controller, but can’t afford an one of the higher-end products, then you can get a Thrustmaster GPX and have a comparable gaming experience.
5. Nyko Technologies 80650 Airflow Ex Review
Nyko has been with us ever since third party manufacturers were able to produce hardware that can pair with gaming consoles. They’re the friends of homebrew developers and enthusiasts. Their solutions had always been user-friendly and affordable. With their experience, it’s no wonder that their PC controller is good enough to stand amongst better-known brands.
The wired-only Nyko Technologies 80650 Airflow Ex has the standard buttons, d-pad, dual-analog toggles and bumpers you’ve come to expect from console controllers. Its shape is inspired by Xbox though the button arrangement is more like PlayStation’s design. It is a little more rounded at the edges and fits naturally in the hands. As for the body, its case is a silver, plastic shell with rubber grips that will carry you through intense games. It works with all versions of Windows, with a great plug-and-play response.
However, this controller sets itself apart with this little addition: ventilation for your hands. This is accomplished via fans inside the grips. You can control the 2-speed fan though the ‘low’ setting is good enough for most users. The sweaty-handed will definitely want to check this one out.
6. Logitech Gamepad F310 Review
Another great PC controller from one of the world’s best PC accessories brand, Logitech Gamepad F310 promises a long gaming life, a comfortable play and unmatched reliability. It is a low-cost, wired-only controller, which is perfect for those on the hunt for budget-friendly accessories. Inspired by vintage PlayStation controller design with bits of Xbox features, it has rounded edges and colorful buttons on a blue-grey plastic body with rubber grips.
The best thing about this controller, besides its reliability and amazing feel in the hands, is its intuitive button-profiling software available on Windows. This enables you to map the buttons without the need for risky homebrew software, so you can apply your specific gaming style conveniently.
Logitech Gamepad F310 uses both XInput and DirectInput APIs so you know it’s compatible with most games released officially for the PC, and it works on all versions of Windows. It’s not cross-platform, though, and its biggest disadvantage is that it lacks vibrate. If you have a tight budget, then those should be small things you can learn to live with. This controller is the best in the affordable, wired-only range– perfect for beginners and hard-core gamers who don’t mind the missing vibration capabilities.