(Pocket-lint) – The PlayStation 5 is a marvellous, powerful console, but the part that took most players and reviewers by surprise when it launched in late 2020 was just how impressive its controller is – the DualSense is a really special bit of kit.
That said, DualSense has also been basically the only option for playing PS5 games ever since the console came out, with third-party pads largely limited to PlayStation 4 titles through backward compatibility.
AimControllers offers up a custom pad that’s effectively a modded DualSense, though, and we’ve been putting it through its paces. Can it topple Sony’s own in-house pad?
Build your own
- Custom-built to your design
- Optional finishes and coatings
When you visit AimControllers’ site you’ll see just how many options there are when it comes to building a custom PS5 controller with the company – you really get to choose the design of pretty much every outward-facing element of the controller.
That means that while you can leave the controller looking like a default one, you can also choose from a range of colours and finishes to get the exact look you want, including coatings that help with grippiness and the option to overlay your gamertag of choice for a truly customised look.
The controller’s looks, then, are mostly down to how you outfit it. Selecting soft-touch matte black finishes worked well for us, with some white elements to contrast with them.
The attention to detail is superb – we were able to choose a slightly more elevated right analogue stick for finer control when aiming in FPS titles, for instance. That sort of thing normally requires you to pick up a thumbstick from the likes of KontrolFreek, but here we were able to bake it into our design. Similarly, the non-slip coating on the back of the pad is perfect for higher-octane moments.
Being able to fully customise every element is a really impressive offer from AimControllers, but it’s worth noting that each time you do so you’ll bump up the cost of your final controller, sometimes by margins that feel a little steep.
For our money, while having everything look right is nice, the real reason to opt for one of these controllers isn’t so much the colour scheme, but the extra control options you can build into your DualSense for a leg-up against the competition.
- Extra paddle buttons available – fully reprogrammable
- Quick-action triggers click instead of squeezing
We kitted out our controller with the programmable version of AimControllers’ spider-like paddles, which gives four extra inputs on the back of the controller so that you can access buttons without taking yourself off the thumbsticks.
These are where the pad really gets modded – looking closely you can see that the paddles basically tap through small holes in the back of the controller, presumably onto a board that Aim has added, which is smart.
This unlocks huge possibilities in games of all genres, but is massive in Call of Duty Warzone, for example, where jumping and reloading without stopping your aim from moving becomes trivial.
Changing which buttons are assigned to each paddle is easily accomplished with help from a tutorial on AimControllers’ website, too. However, if you opt for the non-programmable variant, which is cheaper, it’s worth making sure you know which buttons you want to be assigned, since this will be permanent.
We also opted for what Aim calls Smart Triggers and Smart Bumpers. This small change, again adding a fair whack to your final cost, means that the triggers and bumper buttons have basically zero travel and become clicks instead of the involved haptic process that the basic DualSense offers.
Obviously, this can impact immersion negatively, but we didn’t want a pro controller for single-player experiences, and shaving even milliseconds off your reaction time will be worth it for some players, so the options are again very welcome – and work perfectly.
It all adds up to a controller that feels fine-tuned for shooters and online play, and we’ve been using it as our default pad for weeks now with great results – whether it’s helped bump up our actual performance is up for debate, but we’re able to try more advanced movement techniques more reliably for sure.
The fact is, though, that we could just as easily build a controller with a different aim in mind, leaving the triggers as normal, for example, to get haptic feedback as the developers designed it in their games, which leaves the ball in your court.
Whichever way you go, the controller also comes with a nice hard-shell carrying case for storage and transport, which is a great bonus, along with a braided cable to keep it charged. It makes for a premium feel that befits what can become a seriously premium price tag.
We’ve found the battery life to be perhaps a little less than a standard DualSense, which could be to do with the extras we chose, but it’s not by a big margin at all.
It’s worth noting that there are some alternatives appearing, in particular in the form of SCUF’s new Reflex controller, which promises paddles of its own but is very thin on the ground from a stock perspective. It’s priced competitively compared to a decked-out AimControllers pad, although SCUF can’t match Aim’s interesting offer to mod the DualSense you already own – you can send it in and lower the price of the final package by providing the controller yourself if you have a spare lying around.
In the absence of a genuinely affordable way to get extra inputs on your PS5 games, given Sony’s pretty restrictive yet predictable approach to the DualSense controller, we’re really enamoured by the AimControllers custom pad we’ve been using.
It brings a truly customisable design to the table, to our exact specifications, and has finally let us play our games in the way we want, without always having to use a default pad when it’s a PS5 title.
The paddles here are a huge bonus for us, and while the cost of kitting an Aim controller out completely is undeniably steep, we’ve no doubt that those who are happy to spend their cash on one are likely to end up very satisfied indeed.
Writing by Max Freeman-Mills. Editing by Mike Lowe.