Which controller for PC gaming is best?
The traditional way of playing games on a computer is to use a keyboard and mouse combination. That might work for most games, but titles like fighting games or racing benefit more from having a controller.
Driving accuracy is greatly improved, and the button combinations are easier to press on a controller. The best device is an Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 if you have a Windows-based computer, as it easily connects to your PC.
What to know before you buy a controller for PC gaming
Compatibility with your PC
Several gaming controllers are available, but you must check that it is compatible with your setup as most will only work with Windows 10. If you have an older operating system or use Linux, you could struggle to get it connected. It will also be beneficial to make sure that you have, at the very least, a USB 2.0 port available.
Connection method used
The easiest connection method for a gaming device is to use a USB-powered controller. Then, you only have to plug the USB into your PC, and the controller will be registered. If you don’t want to deal with cables, you can opt for a wireless connection. But, unless your PC has a built-in Bluetooth receiver, you’ll need an adapter for the controller to work.
There are generally two standard button layouts in gaming: the Xbox and PlayStation controller configuration. Consider which format feels more comfortable to you, and look for a controller that uses that layout. For example, Xbox controllers have an off-set thumbstick, while a PlayStation controller has different icons for the face buttons.
What to look for in a quality controller for PC gaming
Customizable button configuration
Most controllers have a standard button configuration (a button is permanently assigned to a specific action), but some good-quality controllers will let you change that. In addition, you can change what certain buttons do if the computer game doesn’t allow for remapping through button mapping software.
Console gaming is known for shaking or vibrating the controller while playing. These vibrating effects are known as haptic feedback. You can get the same rumble effect when playing on a PC if you get a good-quality controller that supports haptic feedback. The PlayStation equivalent is called haptic rumble, which works on the same principle by spinning small motors inside the device.
Resistance in the triggers
The two triggers on either side of the controller are some of the most used buttons in any game. To provide you with a more immersive experience, a good-quality controller will slightly resist the triggers for more accurate control. This is great for driving games where controlled acceleration is necessary or shooting games where you want to squeeze the trigger gently.
How much you can expect to spend on a controller for PC gaming
The average price of a PC gaming controller will largely depend on the manufacturer and the device’s capabilities. A solid entry-level controller can retail for $40-$70, whereas a professional model can retail for $200-$500.
Controller for PC gaming FAQ
Are there accessories for PC gaming controllers?
A. Yes, many manufacturers allow third-party accessories to be used with their gaming controllers. This can range from grips on the thumbsticks to different color faceplates and covers. They allow you to customize your controller to fit your desired aesthetic.
How long do wireless controller batteries last?
A. How long they last will depend on the controller and the size of the battery, but a reasonable estimate would be between four to six hours on a single charge.
What’s the best controller for PC gaming to buy?
Top controller for PC gaming
What you need to know: Considered by many to be the gold standard, the Xbox controller is one of the most-used accessories for PC gaming.
What you’ll love: It connects to a PC through the included USB-C cable and features adjustable-tension thumbsticks, a wraparound rubberized grip and shorter hair-trigger locks. You can also change the button mapping. The trigger and directional pad are customizable, and the controller has a battery life of around 40 hours.
What you should consider: It’s a great controller for PC gaming, but some of the features are only available for Xbox consoles.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top controller for PC gaming for the money
What you need to know: The Recon is an excellent controller if you are looking for an affordable accessory with plenty of features.
What you’ll love: Using the Xbox controller’s button layout, the Recon additionally features microphone controls and game volume buttons. It has textured grips and triggers and two mappable quick-action options. The Recon has four Turtle Beach presets that fine-tune the controller’s responsiveness. In addition, the controller has vibration feedback.
What you should consider: The controller isn’t available in a wireless version.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: SCUF has made a name for itself as a good-quality accessories provider, and many gamers prefer it for customizable options.
What you’ll love: Available in five different colors, the Instinct features four rear paddles that can be remapped. The new adjustable triggers let you swap between instant and regular button registration, and the thumbsticks are interchangeable. The wireless controller connects to a PC through a USB cable and is compatible with Windows 10, Xbox One, and Android.
What you should consider: Some users have indicated that the controller can suffer from stick drift after some time. That is when a thumbstick doesn’t remain in the center, causing the camera or character to drift to one side slowly.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.