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DualShock 4 and Xbox One pad – first impressions

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 20:52 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Patrick Garratt got some time with both the PS4 and Xbox One controllers at E3 today. Head in for impressions, comparisons and photos.

Both the DualShock 4 and Xbox One pad are generally excellent, barring a few quibbles. There’s nothing wrong enough with either of them to worry about. So don’t.

Console “power” is important, but controllers are key. The pad is your direct interface with the games you play, and bad concept can ruin the entire experience. You’ll be glad to know that both DualShock 4 and the Xbox One pad are superb pieces of design. I took a look at both in LA today.

The PS4 pad feels heavier than the current DualShock, and it’s certainly smaller. There wasn’t an untetherd unit to compare to a DS3 so I couldn’t tell for sure, but it seems as though your thumbs are closer on DS4. The angle of the sticks is steeper on the new pad, as you can see from the photos. It’s as though the whole concept’s been compacted, so your thumbs, when they’re resting on the sticks, are more vertical. I assume this is to make sure the touchpad’s in easy reach (which it is: you don’t have to stretch for it).

The handles are more defined over DualShock 3, meaning you’re holding two specific tubes (matron). It’s comfortable.

The shoulder buttons have been reshaped, and they’re made from hard plastic. The triggers are significantly better than DS3’s. My biggest gripe with the current pad is the lack of lip on the triggers: my fingers always feel as though they’re about to slip off, especially in driving games where you’re constantly using the “gas,” as they say in America. This has been changed with DS4, so the trigger feels like a trigger. It has a hooked lip. It’s much better.

I can’t think of anything useful to say about the facing shape buttons. They’re there and they’re fine. I couldn’t see any real difference compared to DualShock 3.

I’m not convinced by the rims on the analog sticks. The current versions are rounded with a bubbled grip, but the new sticks have a ringed indentation which I found irritating after only a few games of Driveclub. It just felt “there”. You’ll get used to it over time, I guess.

Generally, DS4 feels very well made. I was chatting with Wes from Eurogamer in the E3 press room about it, and he said he equates the extra weight with increased quality, and I agree with that. First impression are that DS4 is a great design and a good evolution of the current pad, but I have a feeling some may find it a little too small. We’ll see.

Combat evolved

The Xbox One pad is a grower. When I first used it I was quite shocked at how different it is. I actually didn’t like it initially, mainly because the profile of the buttons and the d-pad have been reduced. For the buttons, especially, this gives the pad a less immediate feel: they’re flatter and closer together than on the current design. It made more sense when I went back to it, but the chunkiness of the current pad buttons (which I like) has been removed. It’s just personal preference, I think, and on my second try-out I quickly forgot they’d changed at all.

The d-pad looks a lot better. The 360 version is reknowned for being less than stellar, and it’s clear a lot of thought’s gone into the new design. It feels tight and low with definite inputs. I’m assuming Microsoft’s challenge with the d-pad was to make something genuinely usable for fighting games. There’s no way to gauge whether or not it is, but it certainly does seem solid.

The sticks have been significantly changed. They feel markedly higher (this is from memory: Microsoft’s booth was absolutely slammed, and I couldn’t compare with the 360 pad), more stalk-like. They’re indented in the same way as the DS4 sticks, but the rim of the circle feels less intrusive. Job well done.

The 360 pad is probably my favourite ever game controller, mainly because it just feels so ergonomic, and the One pad definitely lives up to the legacy. It feels great. It isn’t heavy, as is the PS4 pad, and the stick placement feels as natural as it ever did. The controller pack bulge on the back of the 360 pad has been removed. The entire design is sleeker compared to the 360 pad.

The triggers and bumpers are made from hard black plastic, and are quite a departure from the current set up. I may be wrong about this, but it doesn’t feel as though there’s as much travel in the triggers, so they’re quite sensitive. The shape and placement is as good as you’d expect.

The bumpers, though, aren’t that great. They’re lower profile, again, and my quick impression is that they’re indistinct compared to their 360 counterparts. You want buttons to be buttons, you know? I want to feel them. I want them to protrude more.

All-round, though, the One pad looks successful. It’s always going to be tough to come out with something meaningful in response to something as good as the 360 controller (d-pad aside), but Microsoft appears to have done a decent job. It feels very comfortable in the hand, and the rumbling triggers are a lovely touch.

Both the DualShock 4 and Xbox One pad are generally excellent, barring a few quibbles. There’s nothing wrong enough with either of them to worry about. So don’t.

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62 Comments

  1. OnionPowder

    That Xbox One controller is begging to be used on my PC. :D

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Gnosis

    Hm, DS4 is heavy… meh. I don’t mind it being small, but I don’t like heavy.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Hcw87

    The Xbox controller has allways been far superior to the PS controllers, there’s no way around it. I really wish i could use my Xbox controller on the PS4 for example.

    The original Xbox controller was the best one, even though it was ugly to look at.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. KineticCalvaria

    Still wish I could use the X1 pad on PS4. I know a lot of other people are thinking the same as well.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. reask

    Nice read Pat.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. OlderGamer

    Well done Pat.

    I also agree that XB pads > PS pads. But I can adjust. Not to mention that I can prolly buy a XB style pad for my PS4, just like I do now on PS3.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. reask

    Funny OG I never really noticed any difference with either.
    Maybe I am just a crap gamer. :D

    #7 2 years ago
  8. OlderGamer

    You are miles ahead of me reask! My skills left the building when Elvis did!

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Ireland Michael

    That PS4 pad looks tiny…

    I have really long fingers. That’s going to be awkward. Anyone whose ever gotten cramps in their fingers using the 3D3 or Vita knows what I mean.

    #9 2 years ago
  10. reask

    LOL. :D

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Sylrissa

    @9 I hope it’s nice and small personally, as the xbox controllers are always far too big for my hands, it’s uncomfortable.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. manamana

    Great article, Pat! It boils down (as always) to personal preferences but I hope I get around the new Dualshock. I love the 360 controller. It just feels right in my hands. But hey, there will be third parties to cover that, if in need …

    #12 2 years ago
  13. GK

    agree with 11.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. manamana

    @9 try the 3DSXL instead – it’s so much better than the 3DS ;-)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Ireland Michael

    @14 I *do* use the 3DS XL. Hahaha.

    Five minutes of a thumb stick intensive game like Super-Mario 3D Land does murder to my fingers. I feel like I have to bend my thumb back in a really awkward fashion to reach it.

    Seriously, that thing looks tiny!

    #15 2 years ago
  16. polygem

    thanks a lot for this hands on impression. the controllers are ultraimportant, i always prefered the 360 pad but the ds4 looks very solid to me. can´t wait to check both of them out.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Christopher Jack

    So if you had to give it a micro review on each of their points, who do you think comes off on top in each category? I know it’d be unfair due to your limited time but I’m curious of what others seem better based on their early impressions.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. SlayerGT

    “few games of Driveclub”??

    You got to play it!? How was it!? And have said whether its open world or not?

    #18 2 years ago
  19. manamana

    @15 hahaha, that’s tough! I remember playing Monster Hunter for weeks on the PSP. I can still feel the pain from ‘the claw’ :-D

    #19 2 years ago
  20. Rafa_L

    As i said in another post, I play with the PS pad since PS1 and it feels very natural to me. The Xbox controller is gorgeous, but whenever I play the xbox at friends I never feel comfortable with the pad, especially the stick placement.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Patrick Garratt

    @18 – Going to see a presentation of it now! Will write it all up in a bit. In the demo I played it was just driving round a track racing network players. Hopefully there’s a lot more to it than that.

    #21 2 years ago
  22. OlderGamer

    Looking forward to it Pat!

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Dralen

    My only gripes with the current gen controllers was the battery life of the 360′s battery packs, they died really fast especially when you use them alot.

    My main problem with the dualshock 3 was the triggers. The size of the controllers was never an issue with either controllers for me, so I’m pretty happy with the redesigns.

    #23 2 years ago
  24. jevonski

    does everyone have enormous hands? I find xbox 360 controls too big but then again I’m not that big, it’s good to hear the ps4 controller has those rings the current dualshock get’s a bit slippy after a while and the triggers needed the rework, might get an XBone controller for the pc shouldn’t fault the design just because of the company having absurd policies.

    #24 2 years ago
  25. Ireland Michael

    @19 Ugh, the PSP was almost as bad, despite being probably my favourite system of the last 25 years.

    The 3DS though, is just insane torture on my poor old hydra hands. =(

    #25 2 years ago
  26. SlayerGT

    @21 Awesome sauce Pat! Awesome. I hope its open world. I was honestly assuming. I need my “Horizon” to my Gran Turismo :) and see how “arcadey” it feels. I’m praying PGR at least. More Sim than that would be fucking sweeet!

    #26 2 years ago
  27. manamana

    @23 try rechargeable, high-performance batteries. Coupled with a fast charger and you will see what was missing for years in your household ;-)

    #27 2 years ago
  28. GwynbleiddiuM

    @1 Yeah, can imagine myself using it as well (for football and fucked up ports like Dark Souls) if of course it doesn’t require some sort of online authentication.

    @25 There were quite a few occasions that I did want to smash the digits out of my PSP because of that horrible control layout.

    #28 2 years ago
  29. TheBlackHole

    The PS4 pad feels heavier than the current DualShock

    “it’s certainly smaller”
    “it seems as though your thumbs are closer”
    “The angle of the sticks is steeper”

    Eh!? So they’ve literally taken everything bad about the current DS, and actually made it worse?

    It was already tiny, and the current controller’s BIGGEST problem is how low and angled the sticks are. Now they’re even STEEPER because of the as-yet-not-proven-necessary touchpad?

    How have they not learned from the 360 pad and changed their design? Making it heavier is fine, and it actually looks ‘chunkier’ in screenshots, which is good, but that write up – despite your positivity – realised all of my fears about converting to a DS.

    I’m really tempted by the PS4, but I cannot stand the dual shock controller. The design is fundamentally over a decade old.

    Sony need to get some balls and make something innovative. No boomerangs though, pls.

    #29 2 years ago
  30. Sylrissa

    I understand where you are coming from, but what about people who find the 360 pad’s design uncomfortable and worse then the DS?, in the end it all comes down to personal preference.

    #30 2 years ago
  31. TheBlackHole

    Sure – of course it’s each to their own, but ergonomics are ergonomics. The 360 pad is simply better designed for comfort and practicality.

    #31 2 years ago
  32. Ireland Michael

    Know what kicks the shit out of both of these controllers?

    The Dreamcast joypad!

    #32 2 years ago
  33. polygem

    so is it really smaller than the ds3? i am sure i´ve seen a ds3/ds4 comparisson somewhere and the grips definitley looked more extended on the ds4 making the thing look bigger. to me it looks like it has more grip to it. i like that it has more weight. well, i can only judge it when i tried it. i totally hated the ds right from the start but now, as we´re finally getting a redesign, i am beginning to like it. for dark souls i thought it was a great controller. i bought a lot of xboxlike pads for the ps3 but then always returned to the ds3. it´s not that bad really, for some games it can even be better. a redesign was desperately needed though.

    #33 2 years ago
  34. Ireland Michael

    @33 I think it is. It looks tiny in people’s hands in every picture I’ve seen, and its pretty clear that they’ve shaved a lot of space off where the buttons are.

    I’ll obviously have to hold it in my hands before I can make a final judgement on the thing, but I’m definitely not feeling it so far.

    #34 2 years ago
  35. CyberMarco

    Seriously…

    http://i.imgur.com/5h2zjjf.jpg

    #35 2 years ago
  36. manamana

    @32 Nah, Gamecube was better. But considering the size of your fingers … ;-)

    #36 2 years ago
  37. Ireland Michael

    @36 GameCube was a nightmare for me. Nice design, but way too bloody small.

    #37 2 years ago
  38. polygem

    sorry, not what i was trying to find…but still. to me it looks much much better than the ds3

    http://www.ps4site.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/dualshock-4-vs-dualshock-3-2.jpg

    #38 2 years ago
  39. manamana

    @CyberMarco superb!
    @Michael did you ever considered playing basketball? ;-)

    #39 2 years ago
  40. Ireland Michael

    @39 Ell ooh ell. If I wasn’t only 5’8″ and half blind, maybe. =P

    #40 2 years ago
  41. polygem

    http://www.dealspwn.com/writer/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/ps4-pad.jpg

    well i like it

    #41 2 years ago
  42. BraveArse

    Oh my god. Dreamcast triggers are like razor blades. I remember Jet Set Radio being utter agony on it. I still loved my DC though. :-)

    #42 2 years ago
  43. CyberMarco

    @41 +1 :D

    Also Kingdom Hearts 3!!!!

    #43 2 years ago
  44. themadjock

    @3 & 4. Have you heard of the chronus device. It always you to use any controller on any system. I use mine for DS3 on PC because that’s my preference

    #44 2 years ago
  45. Ireland Michael

    @44 Thats an actual thing? GIMME GIMME GIMME!

    #45 2 years ago
  46. themadjock

    @45 glad to help even though we’ve not seen eye to eye in the past, viva the next generation

    #46 2 years ago
  47. manamana

    @44 thats awesome! But the touchfield is missing on the XB1 controller … Nonetheless, will certainly get it for my PS3.

    Edit: holy pig! Its 85€ on amazon O.O

    #47 2 years ago
  48. OwningXylophone

    @35

    The only reason I can give you is that you use the right thumbstick a lot less in general (unless your a lefty), you do most of contstant movements on the left stick which is in a more ergonomic position on the XB pad.

    In response to the article:

    I don’t like the fact the DS4 is smaller, the DS3 was small enough, especially as I have bassists fingers! I do like the longer grips though as I struggle with the current design due to having had the palm of my left hand rebuilt and the current grips rub nastily on my scarring. I look forward to giving it a try.

    #48 2 years ago
  49. Cort

    Those hand grips need to be much more bulky, and L2/R2 need a deeper curve. Otherwise I like it. But the One controller is still a better form factor.

    #49 2 years ago
  50. Gheritt White

    The was THE NUMER ONE most important factor for me… until I saw InFamous 2nd Son. Now I’m PS4 all the way.

    Just goes to show, it’s all about the games.

    #50 2 years ago
  51. machy

    i really feel sorry for u all that u didn’t grow up with DS .. it just feel natural for me and im happy they kept it that way all this years

    #51 2 years ago
  52. Ireland Michael

    @51 I grew up with the DS, and I still find most controllers on most other consoles vastly superior.

    #52 2 years ago
  53. mojo

    im just thankfull they kept the symmetrical design.
    i dont understand the way the xbox tackles this.
    Their argument is that u have a more naturaly resting position for your thumbs with this design. I guess thats a good intension, but then they would need to swap the right stick with the face buttons.
    I use dual sticks in ALL racing, first person and third person games which alone should be 90% of sold games..

    #53 2 years ago
  54. noamlol2

    i hate the twin analog stick design

    why it can’t be like xbox??…

    #54 2 years ago
  55. Superfrog

    @Pat: Do you remember if there are screw holes on the back of the PS4 controller? They have been eliminated on the XBO controller’s back, which I think is great.

    EDIT: Nevermind, I just finally found an image of the back view. There are screw holes, but they don’t seem to be at annoying positions (like on the DS3) anymore:

    http://media.bestofmicro.com/Q/0/388440/original/9012524510_efd65d1501_z.jpg

    #55 2 years ago
  56. TrickyAudio

    Never felt a difference between the two myself in the past, always liked both controllers. Dualshock was what I grew up with though, proper second nature. The R2/L2 buttons on the DS2 were abit shit though.

    Interesting to see what the touchpad and lightbar will be like on the DS4, loved this video I saw yesterday – http://www.viddler.com/v/944416f2

    #56 2 years ago
  57. bamn66

    I thought about buying a ps4 then i would have to find a xbox style controller witch would offset the 100 dollar difference anyway . Cant do it ill stick with xbox .

    #57 2 years ago
  58. Clupula

    Honestly, I have always hated the 360 controller. I have my thumbs in the same place on each hand, so I want my analog sticks in the same place. Plus, I have small hands, so I love that the Dual Shock never feels like I’m holding a system in my hands.

    I was very worried that Sony were going to change the controller too much. Thankfully, they didn’t.

    #58 2 years ago
  59. ps3fanboy

    don’t help to have a good controller when the xbone is a mega suckage, just saying… but i guess someone will find use for it on the pc.

    #59 2 years ago
  60. Gheritt White

    People with small hands are freaks. FREAKS I TELL YOU.

    @53: It’s because the most frequently used input from your left hand is movement, i.e. a stick; however the most frequently used input from your right hand is a command, i.e. a button.

    That’s why it’s asymmetrical.

    Quod. Erat. Demonstrandum.

    Now, please do try and engage your critical faculties before forcing me to comment again, sheesh.

    #60 2 years ago
  61. Sadismek

    @56 Hah, looked fun! Thanks for sharing the video.

    #61 2 years ago
  62. ashishkashyap25

    http://www.bubblews.com/news/724534-microsoftgame-over

    #62 2 years ago

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