Review: The DUALSHOCK 4

Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Roll: 1,5. Result: Review, Object

I was trying to find the proper capitalization for DUALSHOCK, and it turns out you capitalize the whole word. So there’s that. Also the word “dual” now looks very strange to me. Here we go!

The DUALSHOCK 4

by Sony

Now, it might be a little early to review this controller, since the system it was designed for hasn’t been released yet, but I’ll use what I know from charging it, holding it, and looking at it. It is also worth knowing that this is the first piece of PlayStation hardware I’ve ever owned, and I come from an Xbox & Nintendo background. That, and I highly favor using a controller to a mouse and keyboard.

My first impression, upon unboxing the DS4, was one of utter delight. I’d never received the controller for a console before that console came out, so a lot of new things were going on. First and foremost, the DS4 came off as its own entity, a prize worth attaining in its own right. I later learned that I could indeed use it with my computer, either by connecting it with a micro-USB to USB cable, or by syncing it via Bluetooth. So naturally, I could see the DS4 as a reasonable purchase for someone who never intended to buy a PS4. That said, the controller and a small instruction booklet were the only things in the box. They assume the purchase of a PS4 in order to supply the required cable for charging. Luckily, I have a bunch of said cables from the many Droid phone chargers I’ve acquired over the years. I did plug it in, and actually play a game with it, but I was unable to get the Bluetooth connection to hold, a problem I decided was caused by my having Windows 7 rather than Windows 8. So! Plugging it in got me even more excited.

The DS4 has a lightbar on the back, facing away from you when you hold it, just above the micro-USB port. When I pushed the “PlayStation” button on the front, between the thumbsticks, the lightbar turned white. Ordinarily I don’t get too excited about lights, but something about the soft glow of the bar, and the way it gently pulsated, really made me happy. What’s better, when I plugged it into the computer, it turned orange. Apparently, the light’s ability to change color is going to help differentiate players when multiple DS4’s are being used with the console, and while this is functional, I’m tempted to buy more controllers and make some friends just to see four colors in action at once.

The next brand-new controller element on this beast is the impossible-not-to-notice touchpad right in the middle. It’s about 2-inches wide by 1-inch tall, with a bit that wraps around onto the top of the controller, and it’s covered in little shiny black dots (whereas the rest of the pad, and the rest of the controller, for that matter, is matte black). The whole pad wiggles a bit when pushed side to side, possibly because it also serves as a button. I’m wondering whether the touchpad on its own will be able to serve the same purpose as a single button mouse, which I would love for the PS4’s internet browser and using the virtual keyboard, if they haven’t yet come up with a better way to do that. Hmm, there also appears to be a small speaker below the touchpad.

Now I’d like to talk about the shape of the controller. The first thing I noticed, and which I was worried about, was the lack of a good palm-feel when holding the controller as though I were playing an FPS. I’m not sure how to describe it, but I feel like I have to do more work when just holding the DS4 to keep all the buttons comfortably accessible. If I want to use the d-pad and shape buttons (?) exclusively, the controller feels excellent in my hand. Otherwise, it doesn’t hit the middle of my palm so much, and for whatever reason that feels less OK to me. I tried holding the 360 controller, which I am used to, and I saw that the wings had a little more girth, better filling the curve of my hand. And now that I’ve explicated this strange issue, I can say that 1) it’s really not that big of a deal, 2) I can definitely see myself getting used to the “palm-feel” of this thing very quickly, once I start actually using it, and 3) it’s the only problem I have with the DS4.

So here come the rest of the little things I like about this controller. The matte black design, plus the compactness (there is very little unused space, meaning that there are buttons in every spot you don’t need just to hold the controller), make this a mature-looking and stylish little device. I would feel less uncomfortable with a few of these littering the coffee table than either Xbox or Nintendo controllers. The back of the controller is a textured plastic, which feels good and grippy in the hand, and helps break up the monotony of the matte black body. The surface of the thumbsticks is also highly textured, but rubber, with a single high ridge along the edge of the pads. It is a thumbstick design I’ve never seen before, but it feels good and hopefully it can endure my many hours of FPS abuse.

I think that’s about it. Obviously I like the thing. It has lots of buttons, but it feels very simple in its design. It looks good, it feels good, and it has a good weight. Hopefully it has a decent battery life, and a decent overall lifespan. It seems tough as any controller, and I bet the rumble capabilities are just as good. Also, I read that you can route all of the PS4’s audio output through the headphone jack on the DS4, which is phenomenal. I’m very much looking forward to experiencing its full effect in a couple days.

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