Gioteck SC-1 Wireless Sports Controller Review
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Gioteck's third-party swan song is a delight to hold until you realize that L1 and R1 are a literal stretch to reach.
- Stylish design
- Comfortable to hold
- High-quality triggers and buttons
- Poor ergonomics
- Slippery thumbsticks
- 360 D-pad
I moonlight as a PlayStation apologist from time to time, but I won't pretend that the DualShock 3 is the perfect controller. Within minutes of holding one for the first time in 2006, my fingers had slipped off the convex triggers. The left and right analog sticks are prone to being bent permanently off-center. The controller itself is a good size for my hands, but the handles could be just a little bit bigger. So, it was with a good deal of curiosity that I sat down to review Gioteck's SC-1 Wireless Sports Controller, likely to be one of the last major third-party controller releases of this generation. Like many of its forebears, the SC-1 is highlighted by a flipped analog stick layout reminiscent of the Xbox 360 gamepad. Unlike many of its forebears, the SC-1 is built to impress, with an ultra-comfortable rubber finish and a stylish red/black color scheme.
Look, if you're a regular PlayStation Universe reader, chances are you have absolutely no problem with the DualShock 3. You know--and love--the mirrored analog sticks. You've learned to deal with convex triggers. And you like the D-pad right where it is, thank you very much. So let's look at the SC-1 not as an Xbox 360 imitator, but as a piece of hardware with something different to offer: another option in the PlayStation gamer's arsenal, with both forward- and backward-thinking design sensibilities.
Let's start with the forward-thinking stuff. The sensitivities of both analog sticks are adjustable on the fly, so if you need maximum character movement with ever-so-slight adjustments of the left stick, it's all yours. Unfortunately, neither stick's sensitivity can be reduced, but those options are always available in-game. After all, the whole point of sensitivity adjustments is to seize a competitive advantage by going beyond intended speeds, even if your only gain is not having to push the stick to its edge.
Speaking of edges, I was very impressed by the smooth feel of each thumbstick's movement and rotation, especially against the shiny metal trim that's as smooth as glass. These aren't as abrasive as the plastic edges on the DualShock 3, meaning the shafts themselves are far less likely to wear away over time. The difference was immediately noticeable when I picked up my most recent DualShock--just over a year old--and felt rough vibrations while rotating the thumbsticks in full circles. At E3, I didn't pay close attention to whether DualShock 4's analog housing had improved over DualShock 3, but I hope Sony and other console manufacturers take a peek at Gioteck's design book for future products.
While they're at it, they could take a page from Gioteck's coloring book, which appeals to both sensible color skeptics and those looking for visual splash. The SC-1's palette mixes black and red on approximately opposite-facing sides of the controller. You won't see too much of the other color when you're looking at one side, and that's important, because Gioteck smartly avoids an all-too-common problem for third-party controllers: they're visually noisy, and ugly to boot. The SC-1 is the polar opposite: visually striking, tasteful, and a pleasure to behold. It's also a pleasure to hold--the controller's matte-rubber surface is best-in-class comfort without slippage, abrasion, or worries.
The same can't be said for the surface texture of the SC-1's analog sticks, which are abnormally slippery given their design namesake. The Xbox 360 controller's analog sticks are famously easy to keep your thumbs on, thanks to small protruding dots along the concave surface's rim. The SC-1 has these as well, but they're far less protruding and nigh useless when combined with a surface material that's more slippery (slippery-er?) than any controller I've held. To be clear, this is just the thumbsticks we're talking about--the controller feels like a dream (with one exception; I'll get to that in a bit), but the analog sticks require constant back-of-mind attention to ensure your thumbs don't slip off in the middle of intense gaming.
I could forgive this oversight in the controller's favor if not for one serious flaw, a caveat so negligible on paper yet so meaningful in its consequence.
It's impossible to comfortably reach L1 and R1.
It sounds so silly, so foreign in its matter-of-factness and how any controller manufacturer could mess this up. It doesn't help that the reason is difficult to describe without a degree in Ergonomics. Fact is, the SC-1's handles and general form factor are angled in such a way that your forefingers rest very comfortably on the L2 and R2 triggers, but moving to L1 and R1 requires stretching--actually stretching--just enough to be uncomfortable for any kind of play. You CAN correct the problem by changing the way you hold the controller, but what have you really accomplished? The opposite becomes true with L2 and R2 being ever-so-slightly out of reach, and now your hand is cramped. Controllers tend to get trashed between a rock and a hard place.
It's also too small. But only a tiny bit too small, and that's subjective anyway.
In fact, it's important to consider that every review of an accessory--especially a controller--will be fraught with subjectivity. That's the point of reviews--application of an individual perspective to an object of desire--but it's also something of a curse. I can't tell you for sure if your hand size will reproduce the L1/R1 problem I've described. It sure seems like it would, but I can't guarantee that. (For reference, I'm a six-foot male with very average hand size, and I like to think my fingers are slightly longer than most.)
What I can guarantee is that Gioteck's SC-1 controller is bar none the best third-party PS3 controller I've held, but also the one I've least wanted to use.