The 5 best high-quality budget controllers for Xbox and PC to buy

The Turtle Beach React-R controller stands on a rubber mat.

Picture: my box

If you need a gamepad with a detachable USB-C cable, two back buttons, in standard Xbox format, and only want to spend around $ 40, you should consider the Turtle Beach React-R.

React-R is a bit empty and light, which makes it feel like the most “budget” device here. It also means that this controller is quite loud. Button presses and stick movements are very audible. The USB-C socket can also pose problems with larger cables as they may not fit into the case. Use the provided cable (not shown) or stick to thin USB-C cables. But don’t dismiss it just yet.

All the buttons and triggers are responsive enough, if not as fast and neat as the more expensive controllers (and in fact even the ones on this list). When pressed, they have more or less the same impression and sound similar. Vibrations can be hit or miss on PC as they don’t always work in some games. When it did, this thing definitely rumbles.

The two assignable back buttons are shaped like wide, inverted L letters, which means you can press them down by squeezing your middle finger towards your hand, or you can push your fingers into the controller to activate them.

The “satellite dish” D-pad that comes standard on modern Xbox controllers is a bit spongy but doesn’t float in the socket or anything like that. The gamepad also has a lot of textured surfaces that feel a bit prickly at first but will wear out over time. Considering the extra features, in particular the rear buttons, it’s a good value if you just need that simple backup controller, something you fish out of your drawer a few times a month. It also uses a USB-C cable, so you don’t need to follow a different or proprietary cable if most of your peripherals have upgraded to a newer standard.

But the really best part about this controller is the low cost of input to start getting used to professional setups with assignable back buttons. The back buttons aren’t for everyone, and they probably mostly use competing games (shooters in particular). But consider Turtle Beach React-R (and even some of the other controllers on this list) as an inexpensive way to try out the feature if you haven’t already. Think of it as a “trainer” and develop some muscle memory for the back buttons before spending two or three times on an Xbox Elite or Scuf controller. You might find that you don’t use them, and then you can either hang that controller or switch to something like a regular Xbox Core gamepad and save money buying a professional overclocked controller when you might not do. You don’t need or use these features.

Fortunately, mapping the rear buttons of this controller is a breeze. Double tap the center button, then tap the back button you want to assign, then the button you want to assign to it, and you’re done. Fast enough to reset it during the respawn timer if you want to try different settings.

Figuring out how to use the back buttons can be with trial and error if you’re new. That’s why it’s sometimes better to measure those hours of training on something cheaper than to count kilometers on a more expensive device as soon as you learn the basics. Basically, when you’re ready to go from that controller because it’s working, or you’re interested in a more premium device, React-R will tell you if you want to prioritize the back-assignable buttons or not. Plus, I think it’s a solid value.

React-R also has a unique feature called “Superhuman Hearing.” You press the button in the center area, and if you have headphones plugged into the 3.5mm courage jack on the bottom, your game audio will be processed differently. I hesitate to call it a trick, but to be honest I can’t come up with a scenario where it would be really useful, even in a game where more insightful hearing is needed like, say, Siege (and I wouldn’t get caught dead while playing this game on a controller anyway). So yeah, I think it’s kind of a trick.

But what does it even do? Well, I ran a quick EQ test on the audio output while this mode is on, and deduced that the game sound must be triggered by some slight low-pass filter and / or possibly amplifying some of the mids and highs in the EQ spectrum. In simple terms, this means the controller increases the game volume and higher frequencies, so clicking, tapping, harsh sounds like reloading and footsteps are theoretically louder. Remixes game audio to accentuate areas where those sounds are best defined. It makes sense, but I don’t see this hook the way back buttons can be assigned.

Listening at full volume for extended periods of time can be fatiguing, if not potentially harmful to your hearing. Turtle Beach wants it to be a quick thing you turn on right now to get an sonic advantage over a sneaky opponent, but either I’m not playing the right games or I’m not convinced of it. It’s a cool feature, but I’ve never used it other than running a few audio tests to find out what it does.

Turtle Beach React-R also has slightly more expensive siblings that sometimes show up in search results when you search for this: Recon. While it’s often sold for less than $ 60, its list price puts it in competition with the Xbox Core controller more than anything else on this list. Because of this, the Recon will be a topic for another day… but if you can get it on sale for about the same price as the React-R, it’s a more premium device and has the same features – including a silly hearing mode.

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