Review of the Month; Dual Shock 4

These reviews are rarely well thought out. Well, this time I had a complete idea what to review, but the mail never delivered the item in time, so I’ll have to move the planned review to a later date and think up whatever I have at hand. The thing is, the poll I had on Twitter some time ago resulted in most people wanting me to review something video game related, and I’ll be sticking to that result to a larger extent. No more knife or sharpener reviews, unless something tight comes by. However, I’d still like steer away from the usual review-a-game model. Peculiarities are where it’s at, at least for me. Controllers, system designs, cartridge reviews and so on probably will be the more mainstay element. You’ll see more or less normal game reviews anyway by the end of the year with Top 5 entries.

All that said, I did mention I’d review PlayStation 4’s Dual Shock 4 some months ago. Think this as future proofing to have a point of comparison for the upcoming third-party controller review. I’m always looking for alternative controllers that are as good as the first-party controllers in their own way. Horipad 3 Mini is a good example what tickles my fancy when it comes to more budget price controllers. However, what personally bothered me was the question whether or not the review does justice to the controller if the reader has no idea what’s the take on the base controller. Controllers also have the problem of preference. The original Xbox controller may be huge, bulky piece designed for American hands. That’s not a jab at it, it’s just stating the fact. The Japanese tend to have smaller hands, Europeans tend to sit somewhere in the middle. While the second iteration of Xbox’s controller was met with applauds, there were those who preferred the original one. If we had something called Objectively best controller, we’d have no use for anything else. However, controllers are just like pasta sauce; there’s at least one flavour that’ll be to your liking.

The version I’ll be using for this review is the DS4 model New Model. Outside two points, it’s design is the exact same as Old Model.

I wiped the controller with anti-bacterial wipe just before taking the photos, and lo and behold it already had dust on it
I wiped the controller with anti-bacterial wipe just before taking the photos, and lo and behold it already had dust on it

Let’s cut the chase; the DS4 is the best PlayStation controller SONY has produced to date. It’s not perfect, but this controller shows that breaking your mould you’ve had for a decade usually works for the better. The thing with design is that it evolves along accumulated data and production technology. The DS4 is a proof of this in itself.

So let’s give the usual bits and spots what’s on the face of the controller. You’ve got the usual action buttons, them being more or less SONY standard in a positive sense, a pretty good D-Pad on the left, two concave sticks that are a step-up from the previous controllers (thou seemingly extremely prone to quick wear and tear), Share taking Select’s place and Options being’s stuck in Start’s place. This big slate in the middle of the controller, just above the PS button and speakers, works as a touchpad and a large button that rocks back and forth.

The D-Pad is SONY’s best to date. While it is their usual schtick, it is extremely responsive and hits all the extremes just fine. The concave section in the middle let’s your thumb know where to sit just about right. There’s very little resistance when rocking the D-Pad around, but there is just enough to give that good kind of tactile feedback from the rubber domes. However, this being usual SONY, the D-pad will hurt your thumb on the long run. It’s just hard enough with ever so slightly too sharp corners. However, this is partially a necessity in order to make the D-Pad flat while keeping the SONY look and not resorting on anything that could remind either Nintendo’s or SEGA’s pads.

Share and Option buttons are clicky, but they are unsatisfactory in use. For whatever reason, you have to put blind faith and visual input whether or not you’ve pushed the button down enough. The travel is not far, but the fact that the buttons are shallow and somewhat awkwardly placed. This placing is of course due to the plate, that functions both as a touchpad or general go-to button, opening menus and such. In New Model, there is a slit on top of the plate that allows light to come through that doesn’t exist in the Old Model.

Seriously, where do all this dust come from? Oh yeah, the amount of electronic and books I have...
The slit visible above, as is all the dust around the action buttons. Seriously, where do all this dust come from? Oh yeah, the amount of electronic and books I have…
And here's the top of the controller
And here’s the top of the controller

The plate wraps to the top of the controller. The shoulder buttons are always a mixed bag when it comes to controllers, and it seems they always change the most in trying to find something new or hitting the sweet spot of current trends. SONY dropped the angular design on them, and rounded the L1 and R1 buttons with ever so slight convex middle to set your fingers in the middle of them. The slight texture is similar to the previous controllers, but not as pronounced. A good feeling overall. L2 and R2 are triggers similar to DS3, except this time they don’t suck. Their elongated form with a curve doesn’t make your finger slip off so easily this time around, and the spring gives them a rather comfortable resistance on its long travel distance. The light bar is actually pretty bad and far too large, and in dimmer rooms it will colour surfaces and even reflect from the playscreen. It would have been better to do away with it completely, but SONY’s using it for some camera stuff based on Move Controllers’ tech. I would’ve preferred a larger USB slot here, it feels that I see more broken micro-USB leads and sockets than it should be normal.

[Insert a rant about dust here]

The angular design of the back of the controller doesn’t interfere with the player’s hands and fits hands rather comfortably. The handles are well-shaped to be grasped and held, so there’s nothing special to mention about them. However, the curve under the L2 and R2 buttons has a harsh angle to meet up with the buttons when they’re pressed down, and these can chafe against your fingers depending how you hold the controller. It would seem you’re supposed to have fingers on all shoulder buttons at all times to prevent the chafing. The area reserved in the back for fingers just isn’t large enough, or the harsh corner should have been changed to something else. The trigger’s underside also will collect some dead skin and other oddities to them due to the open edge.

Might as well talk about the controller’s two halves as well. The top is sleek, semi-matte plastic that will polish fast as you continue using the controller. It’s not the best choice, and makes the controller feel just a bit too cheap for its price point. However, the second half, that wraps to the front at the ends of the handles, has this every so slight texturing to it. The feeling of this texture does not intrude and is even pleasant to the touch. The texture is actually slightly raised flat circles.

Overall, as I’ve mentioned few times around, the DS4 is the best controller SONY has put out in their mainline consoles. It’s not without its own flaws, but this has been a definitive improvement. Whatever they decide to do in the future, I hope they continue to improve on DS4’s design, thou the next step might be for the worse without changing controller paradigm. I doubt SONY will do anything like that, they’ve always been following trends rather than making them. The New Model also works on PCs via a cable, something the first one didn’t do.

What else could I say? The DS4 is a fine base controller that serves its intended use.