Let’s not beat around the bush, the standard SONY PlayStation 3 controller is pretty bad, and I’m not talking just about the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons. I’m talking about the lack of build quality, the lack of sturdiness and the fact that it comes with a USB cord too short to use it in daily play from your couch when in needs to be charged.
I’ve gone through a number of official PS3 controllers with varying success. The last one that broke on me simply stopped recognizing R2 and Triangle buttons, and the plastic began to warp and come apart. I still don’t know where in my apartment the controller flew, because I got sick of it and flung it across the room. I still find bits and pieces of it. I assume it was partly atomised by the impact.
As such, I’ve been looking for some replacement controllers. Having good experience with HORI through the years since the original PlayStation third-party controllers. That’s brand loyalty to you. HORI overall is a company that does decent work with their products, going for lower price with good value. They’re not a premium brand by any means, but their products tend to be better than most other third-party products.
HORIPAD3 Mini is the current replacement for my main PS3 controller. While its outer appearance looks slightly gaudy with the transparent look and crystal pattern in the handles, it’s shaped nicely to fit your hands. This being a Mini controller, people with larger hands might fond this uncomfortable to hold.
D-Pad and Sticks
Some of the elements in Mini controller over the standard one. First, the D-Pad is better. It’s a concave in shape, and your thumb sits nicely in there. Originally I was hesitant if this was a good move from their part, but the simple fact that it’s a connected plus shape that rocks back and forth nicely gives it an accurate feeling all around. However, it shares the same hard plastic as the sticks, and while its texturing is different, it can be a bit harsh on your thumb. The sticks are firmer than on standard pad, and while trying them as-is feels weird, during gameplay the resistance they offer is surprisingly comfortable. Personally, I’ve found my movement becoming more accurate with these. However, the hard plastic is harsh on your thumb and it doesn’t help that the directional arrows moulded on the sticks’ surface will make you feel tender. On a plus side, they add a bit more control and the ever slight addition of physical indication to which direction you are pushing the stick to.
Due to the smaller size, the face buttons have been slimmed down in diameter and are sitting in a smaller cluster, but they are higher. There is more resistance in them, but only just enough. They feel sturdier than the standard controller’s and their surface is rounder. They lack the colour coding, but overall feel just as good.
The Start and Select buttons are the same shape, and due to any kind of colouring in the letters on the plastic, you’ll just have to remember which one is which. The extra round button is for Turbo, and works pretty much like any other Turbo function with two modes. One for turbo fire when the button is pressed down, and an autofire. You can determine the rate with the switch between Start and Select buttons. The Home button lacks the PlayStation logo, and like many others, HORI has chosen to add letters PS for it. It’s the weakest visual element and feels lazy.
The shoulder buttons are better. L2 and R2 are raised higher up and retain slight trigger shape, but don’t slip down. The only hard corners found in the controller are in the label indentation and that 90-degree part between shoulder buttons where the wire comes out. The screw distribution is nice and you don’t notice them without testing.
One of the main issues I can see people having with this controller is that the handles are sharper than the standard controller’s. This is where the main bulk from the standard controller comes from, and in Mini they are more curved, far more rounded down. It fits smaller hands better and overall is more ergonomic as opposed to more blockier design of the standard SONY controller.
The seam around the controller is smaller than with the standard one, meaning you’ll accumulate less dead skin in there. However, due to the hard plastic used in the controller’s buttons, you may find more dead skin on the stick’s arrows and in the label indentation in the back due to its hard corners.
The controller has no Bluetooth and lacks rumble, but this is a controller that costs a solid 20€. I won’t cry for either one. The removal of battery pack also means the controller weight considerably less than the standard one. Kudos to HORI for using traditional PCB in Mini, as the standard PS3 controllers use a Strip PCB, which is far more prone to break down. The plastic is sturdy, but doesn’t feel quite right for a controller. It’s not the same kind of plastic HORI has used previously with their translucent controllers. It would have been preferable to use similar black plastic they used in their Fighting Commander 3 PRO. The plastic becomes slightly sticky in feeling after your hands have started to sweat a bit, but on the plus side the plastic doesn’t have any surface paint or texturing to polish off, unlike with the standard controller.
Overall, the HORIPAD3 Mini is a competent replacement that also works on PC, at least on Windows 7. The lack of Bluetooth connection will be a breaking point to some, rumble less so. It has become my main controller simply because it does its job well enough. The sticks being hard plastic and not all that nice to your thumb is the worst design point in the controller, but even that can be lived with at this price point.
As a reference, the games played with this controller in order to test this were Dragon’s Crown (D-Pad was selected for movement), Drakengard 3, Gundam Vs. Extreme and Money Idol Exchanger.