Microsoft didn’t invent the pro-style controller, but the company did popularize it. The success of its Xbox Elite gamepad showed that demand was strong for a premium controller, one that had more customization options and features than a stock version.

Part of what’s driving that is the rise of esports and companies are capitalizing on that. Noting the situation, Sony is taking a different tack. Instead of creating their own pro-style devices, it is letting others peripheralmakers create their own pro-style devices.

One of those companies is Astro Gaming with its C40 TR controller. Mostly known for its headsets, Astro has an overlooked history tied to controllers. It had a hand in the creation of the Xbox 360 controller, a device that has become a standard in the industry. The company worked with Microsoft to perfect its excellent shape and trigger buttons.

With the C40, Astro refines ideas taken from the Xbox Elite and Scuf Gaming controllers and expands the customization options, solving durability problems that gamers face. It’s a well-designed device that’s worth its $199 price tag though it has room for improvement.

GRANITE-TYPE BUILD QUALITY

One of the first traits players should notice when taking the C40 out of the box is the heft. The controller has weight to it and feels solid. Some may feel it’s too bulky, but the dimensions of the analog sticks face buttons are the same as the DualShock 4. That means those who game on stock controllers should feel at home on the C40, and the muscle memory of the fingers should adjust seamlessly to the new device.

The triggers are wider than normal and feel something akin to the Shield or Ouya controller. Meanwhile, the face buttons can feel stiff initially but it has sturdiness that matches the controller. It feels as though the C40 can taking a beating and keep going.

SMART AND PROBLEMATIC DESIGN

Because the design is focused on a narrower band of games, Astro was able to tweak other aspects of the controller. For one, the massive LED that’s normally on the stock controller is gone. On the C40, it’s presented as a simple line on the slimmed down version of the touchpad. That central element is smaller and less likely to get in the way as players move their thumbs from the right analog stick to the face buttons.

Astro decided to put a plug on the top of the controller. That’s a must-have for those who demand the low latency of a wired connection, but the company smartly recessed the input so the controller is resistant to being accidentally pulled out. That’s important during fighting game tournaments when an inadvertent tug could lead to a disqualification.

For those who want a wireless connection, they’ll have to connect it to the PlayStation 4 via a dongle that can be found in the carrying case. The big caveat is that players have to switch the controller from wired to wireless mode to activate it. The big issue is that players have to switch the wireless off when they’re done otherwise it stays on and drains the battery. An automatic shutoff would have been nice.

I’ve already experienced a situation when I inadvertently left the C40 on wireless, went to sleep and discovered the controller was on the whole night. Players will know the wireless is active because the dongle connected to the PS4 USB port will glow blue.

NEXT-LEVEL FEATURES

Like the Xbox Elite and Scuf controllers, the C40 has back paddles dubbed the UR and UL buttons. These extra interfaces can be mapped to any button on the controller including the L3 and R3 buttons. That can be done via the Astro C40 app for the PC or it can be done on the fly by holding down a tiny button on the back of the controller. From there, players can choose one of the back paddles and then press the button that will be mapped. The C40 will vibrate to confirm the selection.

Those extra buttons are useful in shooters when players want to keep their thumb on the right stick. Mapping the jump and reload buttons ensures that they can jump, turn and fire or reload while looking and sprinting. In games where the L3 and R3 button are used, it can offer easy access to a melee or a sprint. These paddles give players a noticeable edge in some games, but players will have to get used to the C40 first.

In addition, the C40 has trigger locks that shorten the activation when pulling the trigger. It’s helpful in shooters, but it can a hindrance in other projects such as racing games that need to the full pull of the trigger for finer control.

BIG INNOVATION

Those features are in other pro-style controls, but what makes the C40 special is its modular design. Users can remove the screws with the accompanying hex screwdriver and move around the directional pad and two analog sticks. If they want to keep the traditional PlayStation layout, they can. If they want the offset Xbox One design, they can flip the D-pad and left analog stick.

What’s even better though is that if one of the analog sticks breaks down, players don’t have to buy a brand new controller. They can just pick up a replacement part for a more affordable price and swap it in. It’s a brilliant move that can save players money in the long run.

The only issue with it is lining up the prongs on the back of the units so that it fits perfectly with base controller. Users may find markings to help align the pieces but sometimes the fit isn’t exactly right and that can make the controller function erratically.

In addition to the switchable analog sticks, the C40 also comes with customizable thumb sticks with concave and convex designs. They also have longer and shorter ones available depending on how much control one wants over such functions such as aiming in a first-person shooter.

EASY-TO-USE SOFTWARE

The last piece of the C40 puzzle is the software that lets players further tweak the controller. By connecting to a Mac or PC, they can alter the sensitivity of the analog sticks or the triggers. They can dim or cut the LED while also adjusting the power of the force feedback on the left and right side to save on battery life.

Players can get into the nitty gritty and tweak the C40 to their liking. The controller even has a switch that holds two presets so players can switch back and forth on the fly. It would be helpful in cases where players need a less sensitive stick like when they use a sniper rifle. They can change the preset for that situation and go on a kill spree.

All of this adds up to a nearly perfect controller. The device is one that’s built to stand the test of time and handle anything that players throw at it.

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