5 Best High-Quality Budget Controllers for Xbox and PC to Buy
September 17, 2022
If you need a gamepad with a detachable USB-C cable, two rear buttons, in a standard Xbox form factor, and only want to spend around $40, you should consider the Turtle Beach React- R.
The React-R is a bit hollow and lightweight, which makes it feel like the most “budget” of the “budget” devices here. It also means that this controller is rather noisy. Button presses and controller movements reverberate at a very audible level. The USB-C plug can also pose a problem for larger cables as they may not fit into the case. Use the supplied cable (not shown) or use thin USB-C cables. But don’t dismiss this one just yet.
The buttons and triggers are all responsive enough, if not as quick and snappy as more expensive controllers (or even some on this list, in fact). They have about the same feel and sound similar to each other when squeezed. Vibration can be hit or miss on PC though, as it wouldn’t always work with some games. When he does though, this thing definitely rumbles.
The two rear assignable buttons are sort of shaped like wide upside-down Ls, meaning you can press them by squeezing the grip of your middle finger towards your palms, or you can push your fingers up into the controller to activate them.
The d-pad “satellite dish” that’s standard on modern Xbox controllers is a bit squishy, but it doesn’t float in its slot or anything. The gamepad also has a lot of textured surfaces that seem a bit sharp at first, but these will likely wear down over time. Given its extra features, especially the back buttons, it’s good value for money if you just want that simple backup controller, something you pull out of a drawer several times a month. It also uses a USB-C cable, so you won’t need to follow a different or proprietary cable if most of your peripherals have moved to the new standard.
But really the best part about this controller is the low cost of entry to start getting used to pro setups with assignable rear buttons. Back buttons aren’t for everyone, and arguably benefit mostly competitive games (especially shooters). But consider the Turtle Beach React-R (and even some of the other controllers on this list) as an affordable way to try out this feature if you haven’t already. Think of it as a “trainer” and develop some muscle memory for the back buttons before switching to an Xbox Elite or Scuf controller two or three times. You might find that you don’t use them, then you can either stick with that controller or upgrade to something like a normal Xbox Core gamepad, and save some money on getting a tricked out pro controller when you may not. You do not need or use these features.
Luckily, mapping this controller’s back buttons is a snap. Double tap the center button, then tap the back button you want to assign, followed by the button you want to assign to it and that’s it. Fast enough to even reset it during a respawn timer if you want to try different setups.
Figuring out how to take advantage of the back buttons may involve some trial and error if you’re new. That’s why it’s sometimes better to time those training hours on something more affordable, than to put mileage on a more expensive device when you’re learning the ropes. Basically, when you’re ready to switch from that controller because it’s running its course or you’re interested in a more premium device, the React-R is going to tell you if you want to prioritize the assignable buttons on the back or nope. For that, I think it’s a safe bet.
The React-R also has a unique feature called “Superhuman Hearing”. You press a button in the central area and, if you have headphones connected to the courage 3.5mm jack at the bottom, game audio will be handled differently. I’m hesitant to call it a gimmick, but honestly I can’t think of a scenario where it would really be useful to me, even in a game where more perceptual hearing is needed like, say, Headquarters (and I wouldn’t be caught dead playing this game on a controller anyway). So yeah, I think it’s kind of a gimmick.
But what does it even do? Well, I did a quick EQ test on the audio output when this mode is on, and figured out that it needs to pass the game audio through some sort of pass filter -soft low and/or it probably boosts some mids and highs on the EQ spectrum. In layman’s terms, this essentially means the controller cranks up game volume and higher frequencies, so clicking, slamming, and crisp sounds like reloading and footsteps are theoretically louder. It’s about remixing game audio to accentuate the areas where those sounds are most clearly defined. It kind of makes sense, but I don’t see it catching the way the assignable rear buttons have.
Listening to this mode at full volume for a significant period of time is likely to become exhausting and even potentially damaging to your hearing. Turtle Beach wants this to be a quick thing that you activate in the moment to gain a sonic advantage over sneaky opposition, but either I’m not playing the right games or I’m not convinced. It’s a nice feature, but I’ve never used it outside of running audio tests to figure out what it does.
The Turtle Beach React-R also has a slightly more expensive sibling that will sometimes show up in search results when you search for this one: The Recon. Although it often goes on sale below its $60 price tag, its list price puts it in competition with the Xbox Core controller more than anything else on this list. For that reason the Recon will be a topic for another day… but if you can pick one up on sale for around the same price as the React-R, it’s a higher end device and has the same functionality , including silly audition mode. .