After decades of making award winning gaming headsets, Turtle Beach has finally decided that it was time for them to start making gaming controllers, with the company’s first product — the Recon Controller — becoming available in just a few weeks. Designed for Xbox, we take a look at Turtle’s Beach’s first venture into controllers, and see how it stacks up against the stiff competition.
Built Like It’s Official
One thing about a lot of third-party controllers is that they feel gimmicky to the touch. This means that when you hold a controller that isn’t official you can instantly tell that something is off. Maybe it’s the overall weight, the positioning of the sticks, the triggers, or just the type of material that was used. Whatever it is, it just “feels” wrong and cheap. This is why I’m so cautious about buying a third-party controller, because often that feeling leads to defective parts, which means a broken controller. No one likes that, especially if the controller was purchased for over $100 and falls apart in less than a year. You may as well have thrown it at the wall yourself if it was going to break that fast.
So of course there’s a bit of cautiousness when trying out the Turtle Beach Recon Controller, but honestly, I have to hand it to Turtle Beach, because the build quality feels indistinguishable from an official Xbox controller.
They share the exact same shape, and button layout, and in terms of weight, they’re nearly identical. Both thumbsticks have a bit of texturization around the ring, though the general texturing is different on the Recon Controller. Example: the underside of the controller opts for rubber cool gripping rather than using the textured plastic found on the official controller. Moving to the triggers above, I actually prefer them more with what’s featured on the Recon Controller.
They’re more elongated in both width and length, giving you a bigger button to press, but not one that feels out of place. With the Xbox controller your fingertips sit on top of the trigger with below portions snuggled against the side of it. It’s not a bad feeling by any means, but I like how with the Recon Controller your fingers curve more naturally rather than have a slight bend.
The textured plastic is a lot more prominent in the Recon versus the Xbox controller, with the upper bumper triggers having it all over rather than just near the bottom. This also extends to the underside trigger buttons, which we’ll talk more about later.
It’s definitely a very grippy controller, but more importantly, an extremely durable one that feels built to last.
Even the buttons don’t show any noticeable sticking or jamming when we were using it. I will say that the only thing I’m not a big fan of is the directional pad (dpad). I think it’s too bulky and doesn’t have that same click you would get from the official Xbox controller. Otherwise, for the most part, this feels like a controller that Microsoft would have built themselves rather than one you would expect from a third-party manufacturer.
That’s pretty big, all considering that the Xbox Controller has been considered to be one of the best when it comes to build and comfortability. Third-party controllers, as I’ve mentioned, have a knack for just feeling cheap compared to the original.
Now, the deal-breaker in terms of design for some is probably going to be the fact that this is a wired controller rather than wireless. I personally don’t have a problem with this because everything is set-up at my PC station, so I am close to any needed plugs. Still, the wire that comes with the Recon is about 10ft long. For most this should reach your sitting area just fine, but others may need to adjust to that.
So looking at the Recon Controller, you’re probably wondering what makes this so different from the many lines of third-party controllers available. I’ve already touched upon the build quality, so there’s that, but what about game changing features that other controllers boast? Well, the Recon has quite a bit of them.
First, this is Turtle Beach’s first console controller that they have ever built , and as such, it has some of their signature features. Found right on the top of the controller you’ll notice a dashboard with all kinds of symbols and buttons. This is where you’ll find the advanced audio options along with button mapping.
With a 3.5mm headphone plugged into the controller, you’ll be able to control both game and chat volume. Think about that, if you have a standard headset that doesn’t boast any features other than a volume control, this controller will enable additional features through it’s built-in mixer.
Some available modes include Turtle’s Beach staple Superhuman Hearing, bass booster, bass and treble booster, and vocal boost. Now, depending on the headset you own, these sounds will differ in their effectiveness. Meaning you’re not going to get the same amount of boost if you use say some standard headphones that cost you sub $20 versus something in the $80+ range. Still, you should notice a bit of a difference in the audio on any of the modes.
Superhuman Heaing in particular will enhance footsteps and small indicator sounds that you would normally use to pinpoint players during a multiplayer match. I’ll say it definitely enhanced the sounds to the point where I could make them out better, but again that’s all dependent on the headset you use. We tried something cheap, and we tried something expensive, both offered improved sounds, with the cheaper one being less effective than the expensive one.
There’s also a mic monitoring function, which I was more impressed with as it altered the volume of my microphone with four different presets. Now it won’t make a crappy microphone sound amazing (nor should you expect that,) but the fact that I was able to alter my voice volume in-game was pretty freaking awesome. That’s usually done via software or within a game setting, so having it at a click of a button felt like such a huge quality of life improvement.
That was all for audio, now comes my favorite part of the controller. The back buttons. Anyone who’s owned a SCUF, or an Elite Xbox controller will tell you how much of a game changer these back buttons are, as they make the ease of access to an action so much easier. And unlike SCUF and an Elite Controller, the Recon isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg to experience that premium feature.
Using the central dashboard on the controller, you can easily map any of the buttons (outside of L2 and R2) to the back buttons. It takes a few clicks, but it’s very easy to do. Furthermore, the Recon will save up to four different kinds of set-ups so that you can easily change on the fly without having to reprogram. This makes switching from one game to another a breeze once it’s all set-up.
Again, for people who haven’t ever used back buttons before, they are an absolute game-changer. Playing a shooter, I’m sure you all know that when it comes to either melee or throwing a grenade, you often find yourself taking your fingers off the thumbstick just to perform that action. Because of where the back buttons are positioned, your fingers are naturally over them, meaning you no longer need to take your thumb off the aim or movement sticks. You could map the jump button for easy jump shots or bunny hopping all while being able to aim at the same time.
Really think about that and think how you play right now. Chances are you’re always moving your thumb to jump, switch weapons, throw a grenade, or any other action. Back buttons eliminate that action and keep it all where you just need a slight press. And for those worried that they may push the back buttons by accident, don’t be because they’re positioned so your fingers are always resting on them with a tiny bit of force actually needed to push them.
For Turtle Beach’s first venture into gaming controllers, the Recon Controller is well designed, comfortable, and durable. It clocks in at just $60 dollars, and with all the features you’re getting packed into it, especially the back buttons, you really can’t beat that. Yes, there are other makers who have back buttons, but you are either looking at some cheap quality parts, or spending upwards in the $200-$300 range.
And if you’re not a fan of the wired setup fret not, this is Turtle Beach, meaning they’ll come back with a better and improved version of the Recon Controller down the road, most likely a wireless one. The Recon Controller is an excellent wired controller, though it’s only one of the many stepping stones to come.
- Build quality that is strong and durable like an original Xbox controller. It feels official.
- Audio control center that amplifies your 3.5mm gaming headset.
- Back buttons that have been positioned in a great spot and easy to program.
- Price point isn’t aggressive, making it easy for anyone to experience some premium features.
- It’s wired so that may be a deal breaker to some.
The Recon controller for Xbox was provided by manufacturer. Controller now available for pre-order for $59.99 and can be ordered via the official Turtle Beach website. It will launch on August 1, 2021.