[Hardware Review] Power A Pro Elite Wireless Controller

Infatuated with the Xbox 360's controller layout? Power A has you covered... with a few caveats.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: October 13, 2010
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I've long maintained that third-party controllers are useless. What they may offer in being a cheaper alternative or offering the odd gimmick simply can't hold up to the build quality and actual usability of Sony's first-party efforts. The DualShock may not be the universal standard it was last year, and the changes to the SixAxis and DualShock 3 have been met with more than a bit of criticism, but I still maintain it is the only way to comfortably game on the PlayStation 3 for any considerable length of time.


That belief has been seriously shaken with Power A's attempt at offering something that addresses those contentious changes to the classic PlayStation controller with Sony's third console, and while I can't completely rescind my feeling that nothing beats a DualShock, the Pro Elite makes a far stronger case for replacement of the official controller than any previous option ventured thus far and, yes, that includes the venerable PS2 offering Logitech put out last gen.

[Overall]

We've had good things to say for Power A's previous PS3 products. The [feature=9012]PowerStand Charger[/feature] has enjoyed a surprising amount of use here in the TPS offices, becoming our charging solution of choice despite DualShock 3s being chargeable from damn near any USB port around (though, hilariously, not the PS3 itself when it's off). The [feature=9088]Media Expansion Bar[/feature] for slim PS3s wasn't as universally loved, but it cemented Power A as a manufacturer of solid peripherals in an environment where we're typically extremely leery of third-party offerings.

There's no getting around the why of Power A's decision to make a controller like this: the emergence of the Xbox 360 controller as a viable alternative to the very same kinds of games the PS3 enjoys is undeniable. Microsoft didn't make many changes to Sony's DualShock standard, but they were significant, to say the least. The asymmetrical layout of the analog sticks and defined triggers are considered by many hardcore players as the standard for (HD) gaming now.

Personally, I'm quite happy with the DualShock layout hell, I don't even mind the supposedly slippery convex shape to the triggers that are apparently so slip-prone. The sales of things like clip-on convex trigger extenders that emerged in the early days of the PS3 launch prove there's clearly a market for people who want something different. On the matter of asymmetrical analog sticks, I simply can't understand why it's more comfortable to have a different placement when so many games equally use the face buttons (or d-pad) and analog stick on the right hand, but then there's a reason why games have migrated to using the analog stick for navigation on multi-platform titles (here's a hint: the 360 d-pad is terrible).

Luckily, my personal puzzlement with the state of things doesn't matter. There is an alternative now, and it's a significant one though not perfect, as we'll get to in a bit.

[Build Quality]

Like all of Power A's products we've reviewed thus far, the build quality is remarkably solid. The entire controller outside of the grips is made of soft-touch plastic (think of the stuff iPhone headphone cables are finished with, for instance), and the whole controller resists tweaking and flexing with zero cracking sounds.

Interestingly, the Pro Elite uses a USB pass-through system for charging meaning you can use the same port for the infrared dongle (sorry, no Bluetooth here, which is a bummer but also understandable, considering Sony tends to restrict that to their own peripherals) to hook up a standard USB-mini cable to charge the thing (or any other USB-mini-ported accessory, thanks to the mini-to-mini cable). This is a double-edged sword, though; the dongle effectively stays "on" all the time, taking up a controller slot on the PS3 unless removed, even if the controller is off.

The dongle, like the controller, is made of a soft-touch plastic and works well enough, but it's a bit gaudy if you have concerns about the overall look of the system's lines in mind. Given that all manner of obvious dangling rock instruments are far more visually obtrusive, though, this is likely a non-issue.

The buttons (which light up with a broken-line shape so as not to anger the Sony gods, apparently?) are easily the first area where third-party controllers tend to break down. Sony's own controller makes everything but the select and start buttons analog, which gives them not only a bit of physical travel, but an absolutely crucial feel to the press. Most controller makers try to match this with a spongy, mushy feel, and it ends up failing horribly. The Pro Elite, on the other hand, has a springy, instant-contact feel to things that's really quite solid.
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