From professional-class pads to an affordable DualShock 4 alternative, these are the best PS4 controllers
If you’ve worn down your PlayStation 4 controller with all that button bashing and desperately need a new one, try to resist the urge to splurge £50 on an official gaming pad. There’s a host of awesome (and sometimes cheaper) alternatives to choose from. While your wallet will almost certainly thank you for spending less on a cheap, basic pad for multiplayer fun, more demanding gamers should look beyond the humble DualShock 4 – the increasing selection of professional-class PlayStation 4 controllers are a much better bet.
Whichever end of the market you’re looking at, there are several viable alternatives to PlayStation’s DualShock 4 and, while some cost much more than the official pad, there are a few worthy options that undercut it. Read on and we’ll discuss the best PS4 controllers you can buy from £30 to £150– and explain the key features that differentiate a professional pad from a standard one.
How to choose the best PS4 controller for you
Are PS4 controllers still being made?
The DualShock 4 controller has been discontinued in Japan since January 2021. For the rest of the world, however, both the PS4 and its various accessories are still available to purchase – and that’s unlikely to change until Sony can ship satisfactory numbers of PlayStation 5 consoles. The only slight roadblock to picking up a DualShock 4 is that some high street retailers may not order the controller in large quantities (or indeed at all). We’ll be sure to point you in the direction of a retailer with DualShock 4 controllers in stock if we can.
Should I buy a wired or wireless controller?
You have two options when picking an alternative PS4 controller: wired or wireless. Sony’s official DualShock 4 pad uses a low-power Bluetooth solution to connect to the PS4, with newer official pads also allowing for a wired USB connection. The main difference between wired and wireless, and why so many pro-level pads use wired connections, is latency – the speed that your button presses and movements reach the PS4. Wired offers a faster, more reliable connection – albeit only a fraction of a second, which can still be enough to give noticeable gains in multiplayer contests. Wireless may be slightly slower, but it offers the benefit of not being tethered to your PS4.
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What makes a pro controller worth paying a premium for?
Pro pads offer various benefits over Sony’s standard DualShock 4 pad and the cheaper alternatives on the market. Not only do they tend to be built from more durable materials, but they also offer up more customisation options and button configurations beyond the PS4’s inbuilt button-remapping accessibility setting.
If you feel the DualShock 4 isn’t responsive enough for you, or – like Nathan – your poor Apex Legends win rate is because of the pad you’re using, a pro pad could help you up your game. Certain pads also allow you to replace thumbsticks for finer control, but this can also help prolong the life of a pad by switching out any sticks that may be wearing thin – a common problem on earlier DualShock 4 pads.
Does it matter if the controller isn’t officially licensed by Sony?
There are four officially licensed PlayStation 4 pads in our roundup: Sony’s DualShock 4, Razer’s Raiju and Nacon’s Revolution Pro and Wired Compact pads. Officially licensed pads have the security of never being made obsolete by a PS4 firmware update, as some unlicensed pads tend to be.
An unlicensed pro pad, such as SCUF’s Infinity 4PS, is likely to always be up to date and work fine with any new firmware updates, but a cheaper pad is unlikely to have support from its manufacturers to see it beyond an update. It’s worth noting that all pads, aside from Sony’s official DualShock 4, won’t turn the PS4 on via the Home button – this is a feature that Sony doesn’t give out to third-party manufacturers.
What sort of price should I expect to pay?
Sony’s DualShock 4 sets the bar at around £40 for a standard black pad and around £45 for the various colours or limited-edition finishes. Prices for pro-grade pads start at around £85 but can reach more than £200. Cheaper pads can go as low as £20, saving you a few quid compared to Sony’s official controller.
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Why is it worth spending more?
Cheap pads may seem like an attractive option, but many of them are incredibly basic and use low-quality parts, meaning that they’re not as responsive as Sony’s official wireless pad – even when wired. You’re also likely to find large dead zones on thumbsticks and components that break easily. If those aren’t much of a concern, there’s always the worry that a PS4 firmware update could knock your pad out of action as manufacturers have no way to update your pad to work with the PS4. Nobody wants to save a few quid just to purchase a controller that will become obsolete within a month.
What are “chipped” or “modded” PS4 controllers?
In your search for pads, you may have read about chipped or modded controllers. These controllers are, technically, banned devices for PS4. In “pro” play situations it’s an automatic disqualification, and when playing online in shooters like Call of Duty, they carry an automatic ban if you’re caught using them.
Their major advantage over regular pads is the use of a “rapid-fire” chip that lets you map a button for the controller to automatically spam as you’re playing – meaning you can artificially boost your reaction times when playing against others. If you think the reward outweighs the risk, go for it – but our advice is to steer clear.
Are third-party controllers compatible with all games?
Not always. It’s definitely worth taking a moment to check its compatibility before making a purchase of a third-party controller, particularly specialised units such as a racing wheel. These products are only compatible with specific games, so try searching online for all games that can be played with a specific controller before buying.
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How we test PS4 controllers
We test every single controller that we receive for review. It’s not a complicated process: we simply connect the controller to a PS4 console (via USB or wirelessly over Bluetooth/2.4GHz) and spend at least a week using it while we game to assess the quality of both the overall build and the various buttons. We’ll test the battery of wireless controllers by using them on a single charge until the battery is depleted.
The best PS4 controllers you can buy in 2023
1. Nacon Asymmetric wireless controller: Best-value PS4 controller
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at Amazon
This Nacon controller bucks the trend by being only marginally more expensive than Sony’s official DualShock 4 offering. It’s surprisingly hefty and doesn’t feel cheap, although the sparse design lacks the bright lights and mappable inputs of its pricey siblings.
The asymmetrical layout and large buttons are incredibly useful, and feel just as satisfying to use as the rest of Nacon’s terrific lineup – the rear triggers feel particularly meaty when squeezed. The USB Bluetooth receiver can be plugged into your PS4 or gaming PC and paired instantaneously with the controller for up to seven hours of gameplay. It might not be a perfect controller – the joysticks are perhaps a little high, and the options/share buttons are quite small – but for a mere £50, that stonking battery life and sturdy design are well worth your time.
2. Sony DualShock 4: Best official PS4 controller
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at Game
Sometimes there’s nothing better than the real thing and, for most PS4 owners, that’s Sony’s DualShock 4 controller. As the official controller, there really isn’t anything better than it out there for those looking for a general PlayStation 4 pad to use. It’s comfortable to use, responsive and charges via a micro-USB connection. New versions of DualShock 4 allow for data transfer via USB, meaning those wanting lower latency can plug it in and play wired instead. It also features a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and can be used as a Bluetooth controller for your Android tablet or PC – not bad for under £40.
3. Nacon Wired Compact: Best cheap wired PS4 controller
Price when reviewed: £35 | Check price at Amazon
The Nacon Wired Compact is an impressive budget controller that cuts a few features from the DualShock 4 to significantly undercut it in price. For starters, it’s not wireless, so you’ll need to be sitting close enough to your console to plug in the 3m USB-A cable. This may seem rather limiting but does mean you won’t find yourself caught short on battery at a crucial moment. Also missing are the built-in speaker, light bar and SIXAXIS motion sensor but with very few games making good use of those features, their absence isn’t an issue.
The controller takes a bit of getting used to due to its stocky design. The handles are shorter and chunkier than Sony’s official pad and there’s more plastic under the R2 and L2 triggers. But once you’re accustomed to the feel, its enlarged shoulder, trigger and symbol buttons make it extremely easy to execute commands. The analogue sticks are precisely calibrated, too, and the touchpad worked perfectly well while strumming chords in The Last of Us 2’s guitar mini-games.
If you can cope without wireless functionality, the Nacon Wired Compact is a reliable and affordable controller available in a range of colours, including an eye-catching camo.
4. Nacon Revolution Unlimited Pro: Best PS4 controller (if money is no object)
Price when reviewed: £120 | Check price at Amazon
If total control over controller weight, stick length, custom gaming profiles, trigger sensitivities and more are what’s important to you in a pad, then you can’t do much better than Nacon’s Revolution Unlimited Pro. It might look like an Xbox controller – the layout can be a turn off for some – but the Revolution Unlimited Pro includes a wide variety of different weights, which are easily inserted into the controller grips. You can also customise the width of the analogue stick heads, for differing stick controls when playing a variety of games.
Perhaps most interesting is that you can tweak all sorts of settings and assign them to up to four different gaming profiles, which can be switched on the fly on the back of the controller. From here, you can adjust the responsiveness of the sticks, reverse them, adjust the sensitivity of the triggers, tweak the vibration intensity and even change the colour of the circular LED which surrounds the right analogue stick. To top it all off, the Revolution Unlimited Pro’s grippy coating ensures that, even after hours of play with sweaty hands, this controller won’t slip from your palms. The buttons are as responsive, tactile and clicky as you can hope for, and you can even connect the Revolution Unlimited Pro to your gaming PC.
5. Gioteck VX-4 Wireless: Best cheap wireless PS4 controller
Price when reviewed: £30 | Check price at Argos
The Gioteck VX-4 comes in both wired and wireless variants, with the latter costing you around £10 less than the former. We recommend the wireless version, simply for the freedom; both controllers are otherwise identical.
If you’re after a cheap, reliable alternative to PlayStation’s DualShock 4 controller, the VX-4 is a great choice. Sure, it’s easy to spot the hallmarks of a cheap controller – the plastic construction is a little creaky, and a tiny LED is the only evidence that the controller is powered on – but the VX-4 actually manages to make none of the usual sacrifices.
That means it still has a built-in touchpad, motion sensor and speaker, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack alongside the other bare necessities, arranged as they would be on a DualShock controller. It’s surprisingly comfortable to hold, and you won’t find any of the various buttons too unfamiliar – in fact, the rear L2 and R2 triggers are easier to press thanks to their elongated shape. If you absolutely must spend the bare minimum on a wireless controller, this is the one to choose.
6. Razer Raiju: Best PS4 controller for aspiring pros
Price when reviewed: £150 | Check price at Amazon
If you want to be a pro, Razer’s Raiju Tournament Edition pad could give you the marginal gains you’re looking for. It feels a bit more substantial than the standard DualShock 4, aping the feel of an Xbox One controller and using Microsoft button and stick layout. All of its face buttons have a wonderfully pleasing tactile click to them, and the directional pad is made up of individual buttons, instead of a floating pad under the surface as found on the DualShock 4.
Its thumbsticks are incredibly responsive, the sprung touchpad is a pleasure to use and the hair triggers provide the perfect amount of sensitivity. Razer has also added a hair trigger mode which, when activated, reduces travel distance to the two main triggers, for quick-fire trigger pulls. Four mappable buttons – two on the underside and two next to the shoulder buttons – mean players never have to move their thumbs from the sticks to hit the pad’s face buttons. It’s pricey, but for those wanting to get the most from their PS4 gaming without all the bells and whistles of a fully customisable controller, Razer’s Raiju Tournament Edition is nigh-on perfect.
7. Scuf Impact: Best PS4 controller for customisability
Price: From £175 | Check price at Scuf Gaming
Scuf’s stuff often manages to make our list of the best PS4 controllers, and the newly launched Impact controller is certainly no different. With multiple features designed to improve your gameplay experiences – such as adjustable hair triggers, quick shift trigger stops and textured anti-slip grips – the Scuf Impact controller is its most customisable yet.
The controller also includes extra interchangeable thumbsticks, which vary in height and style, with the ability to choose between domed and concave surfaces. Scuf’s impact ring lock system also makes switching these out as painless as possible.
You can also assign the front-facing square, circle, cross and triangle buttons to the controller’s four backpedals. The face buttons are satisfyingly clicky, too, and the digital elongated triggers provide an instantaneous click when pressed. The controller can be personalised in its entirety before purchasing, with dozens of styles and colours to choose from. Comfortable over long play sessions and intuitively designed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more customisable and satisfying controller for your late-night gaming binges.