We’d normally be the first to warn against any third-party controller in comparison to the official variety, but there’s something that’s never quite sat right about the Playstation 3 controller in our hands. Whether it’s the original lightweight version or the DualShock 3, Sony’s pad is good enough to get by with, but never quite sits right; and certainly not to the level of comfort that its predecessors managed.
Step forward the Thrustmaster T-Wireless Pad, which aims to bring a little more sturdiness and a compact design into the equation, and includes a wireless dongle for you to also hook it up to a PC if the need arises. It’ll run you around £20 from most online outlets in the UK.
- 2.4 GHz wireless gamepad: Uses only 3 AAA batteries*
- Optimized battery life: More than 50 hours of battery life
- 360° grips and mini-sticks with genuine rubber: 2 handles with non-slip textured rubber grips for optimal handling and comfort
- Fully programmable: All buttons can be swapped, thanks to the exclusive “Mapping” function
- “Home” button lets you access PlayStation®3* menus
- Multi-player function: Automatic synchronization of the gamepad and its transmitter
- Compatible with PlayStation®3 and PC (Windows XP, Vista, 7 & 8 )
Out of the box (or blister packaging, unfortunately), you might be wondering exactly what you’ve gotten yourself into here. The T-Wireless is incredibly light and sturdy, but that does come at the cost of it feeling a little cheap. Once you’ve loaded it up with three AAA batteries that sensation is lessened somewhat, whilst the the plastic doesn’t feel tacky and the rubber grips are solid. It nestles comfortably within the hand, but it is also incredibly small; I wouldn’t expect those of you with giant mitts to get a lot of joy here.
Continuing with the rest of the design, the T-Wireless features four face buttons, two shoulder bumpers and two ‘triggers’, although somewhat disappointingly (racing fans beware) they aren’t analogue. On top of those, there’s the usual start, select and home buttons, and then a ‘map’ button that allows you to hotswap any of the buttons out for another, mid-gameplay session. The controller itself is switched on with a little slider on the left grip, and should manage up to 50 hours of play on a single set of batteries.
Setting up the controller couldn’t be easier. Slap in the batteries, plug in the wireless dongle and turn it on. Both PS3 and PC recognised everything they needed to within seconds, and it simply functioned from there on out. There were no problems with the 2.4GHz signal during our entire play session, despite being located in a room with two wireless routers and all sorts of electronic equipment chewing up the available bandwidth.
In practice, once you’ve gotten used to the small form factor of the T-Wireless, it performs admirably well. As I was mid-way through a Shadow of the Colossus HD session, I decided to use the T-Wireless for the rest of the campaign. The shorter travel distance on the analogue sticks made for better responsiveness and a less ‘floaty’ feeling in the tricky platforming sections, whilst the pad itself never felt anything less than accurate. Indeed I forgot I was even using it after a while, which is testament to both the hardware and Fumito Ueda’s masterpiece.
Moving on, FIFA, Microsoft Flight and Uncharted both felt equally at home with the T-Wireless, whilst the tricky platforming sections of Super Meat Boy on the PC controlled excellently. Indeed the only real disappointment in our playtest came with racing games, in which the lack of rumble and analogue triggers really let the pad down. Indeed I’d go as far as saying that if you intend on playing any racing games at all, you’d be better off looking elsewhere. Digital triggers simply don’t cut it even for arcade-style racers, and although you can usually map acceleration and braking to the right analogue stick, it’s just not the same experience.
At £20 then, the T-Wireless is a nice little replacement for the PS3 controller and holds up as a more than functional experience on the PC. It’s solidly made, doesn’t feel entirely cheap once you’ve loaded it down with batteries, has responsive components and that all-important good “feel” in the hands. The lack of rumble, lack of analogue triggers and small form factor will inevitably hold it back for certain genres and larger individuals, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, it’s certainly one of the better third-party controllers for the money.