Yesterday I wrote about my experience with the Gioteck JC-20 Joy-con alternative controllers for the Switch, but they weren’t the only third-party controller I’ve been using primarily for the last two to three weeks. Over on my PS4, I’ve swapped out my official DS4 and NACON controllers for yet another NACON accessory, the NACON Wired Compact Controller (Camouflage design). Despite being wired-only, I think you’d be surprised by what I thought about this budget alternative to the official DS4…
As I’ve previously reviewed both the Asymmetrical Wireless and Revolution Unlimited Pro controllers from NACON, I’ll be able to directly compare this new controller with each of those as well as the official DualShock 4 which I got with my PS4 Pro. If you wish to check out my detailed review for either of the above controllers or maybe the Gioteck VX4, please click on any of the names and they’ll open in a new window.
I’ve played every genre imaginable to test out the controller, putting in easily over a hundred hours each week, but was the NACON Wired Compact Controller any good?
First things first, yes, this is a wired controller and I know some people may be put off by that – don’t be. The cable (which is fixed at both ends with no ‘trip break’ or detachable option) is three meters long – that should easily be long enough for the average gamer unless you sit a ridiculous distance from the PS4. Plus, one of the major benefits with having a wired-only controller has to be the massive reduction in price in relation to the wireless versions.
Today, the NACON Wired Compact Controller can be picked up for £25, the NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller is around £55, and the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro is currently £110 (on sale). But, the difference isn’t only the connection, there are other differences too.
Let’s open with what I did for my NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller review, let’s look at the factual specifications before I get into my opinion and observations:
• Two very intense, but quiet, rumble motors
• An LED indicator on the face of the controller (no light bar)
• 3.5mm Headphone Jack
• A three-meter fixed USB cable
The first thing you’ll notice, by looking at the images, is that NACON has opted to issue the NACON Wired Compact Controller with in-line Thumbsticks, as per the design of the official DS4. The previous two controllers I reviewed from them had adopted the Xbox’s lob-sided asymmetrical approach instead. I know this put off a few people from picking them up so it’s nice to see that they’ve given gamers a familiar style this time around (although I wish they had a choice of stick layout in both the wired and wireless models). The actual size of the unit is also very similar to the NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller, slightly thicker than the DS4 but very comfy to hold.
The controller itself has a ‘rubbery’ feeling to it, both on the plain black backside and the camouflage design on the front. It also had a strange ‘funky’ smell when I first opened it up, but that went away after a week or so as it was just the smell of a new rubber-coated peripheral. It feels slightly better to hold than the NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller, due to the textured feeling all over being more ‘grippy’ than the previous one, I also never noticed when my hands became a little clammy due to the material used almost ‘absorbing’ the perspiration (not literally, but it was much easier to continue playing than the original shiny DS4 controller).
One of the other benefits with having a wired-only controller is that there aren’t as many components within the unit, resulting in it being a bit lighter than the Wireless controller (nevermind the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro as that has extra weights to make it heavier). I don’t have any scales but the NACON Wired Compact Controller feels a little bit lighter than the official DS4, but not by much.
Overall, the controller feels very premium despite its low price, it’s very sturdy and well-built, perfect for people who may be a little heavy-handed and have broken their previous controllers whilst having a rage fit – we’ve all done it.
The NACON Wired Compact Controller takes a few features from both the Asymmetrical Wireless and the Revolution Unlimited Pro controllers, combining them with some updates into a very good replacement controller. First of all, NACON has slightly re-designed the L2 and R2 triggers in order to make them more comfortable. Both of the previous units had triggers which were rather ‘pointy’, which I found hurt my fingers if playing a racing game for long periods (as you’re constantly holding them down). However, this controller has more rounded edges and there’s slightly less resistance on the triggers themselves, making prolonged gaming sessions more acceptable.
A returning feature from both units is the big face buttons. Unlike the Gioteck JC-20, which slightly reduced the size of the face buttons, NACON’s buttons are slightly bigger and flatter than the official DS4, making it easier to press multiple down at a time in games like Mortal Kombat. We also see the return of the spongy D-Pad. Don’t get me wrong, it works just fine but it’s not the greatest I’ve ever used as it’s too loose and easy to push the wrong direction. But, it worked great in the fighting games I played.
One thing I’m not a fan of is the Thumb Sticks. They work perfectly, and have slightly more resistance than the DS4, allowing you to perform precise movements easier, but I’m not a fan of concave tips. The right tip is the NACON symbol and the left is a bumpy grip, but I found my fingers slipping often and I couldn’t use them for prolonged sessions without my thumb feeling a little sore – this is a ‘me’ issue. My solution, just like with the Gioteck JC-20s, was to put my Batman rubber thumb grip on the top of both Thumb Sticks. However, the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro, due to being highly customisable, comes with replaceable tips – including some convex ones (domed), which I always use. I wish budget controllers would either come with the rubber tip covers I use or maybe changeable tip heads.
On a side note, if you read my previous reviews, there was one difference which annoyed me. The expensive NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller had a small LED which changed to the colour the lightbar would change to as you play the game. The NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller had the LED but it shone a bright white light at all times, so bright you could pretty much use it as a torch. The NACON Wired Compact Controller has the former, a small LED on the front of the controller which adapts and changes based on what player you are or what the developers have programmed it to change to (although it’s still quite bright). This is what the Asymmetrical Controller should have had, not the holy light from God as he watches you playing your video games!
So, what doesn’t the controller do and what don’t I like about it?
I don’t like the L1 and R1 buttons, they’re not responsive enough. The other controllers had very clicky shoulder buttons, almost like the microswitches on a mechanical keyboard. They had a definitive sound and feeling as you pushed them down with little force. The NACON Wired Compact Controller‘s triggers do ‘click’ but it’s not the same, it’s more muffled in sound. If that was the only issue, I’d be fine with it, but I found that it sometimes didn’t register me pressing them when I heard the ‘muffick’ (muffled click), requiring you to apply a little more force in some instances. It’s not a deal-breaker, and you do get used to it, but it’s something I noticed.
Also, just like the other controllers, there’s a list of things you can’t do with this controller:
• There are no motion controls
• No lightbar, so VR wouldn’t work with it
• Can’t turn on the PS4 (you need to turn it on via the button on the console or an official controller – I use my Move controller)
• Can’t be used with Remote Play on PC (as it doesn’t detect it as a DS4)
• No controller Speaker
The big one there, which I’ve not yet talked about, is the lack of PS4 Remote Play support. The box and manual state “For exclusive use with the PS4”, although that’s a little white lie. What they mean is, ‘We only officially support it as a PS4 controller, nothing else’. This issue here is, once you plug the controller into a Windows 10 PC, it’s detected as a ‘generic’ PC controller – so no touchpad support (for buttons or gestures), and games will work as if you’ve connected an Xbox controller (although Steam detects it as a PS3 pad in my case).
This isn’t a bad thing as the vast majority of PC games are made for Xbox controllers – but it does mean Remote Play won’t pick up on the controller and let you use it as if you’ve plugged in your DS4, unlike the Gioteck VX4. Well, it doesn’t out-of-the-box without the use of third-party software…
Just like the previous two NACON controllers, you can’t go wrong with this brand – I’ve not had anything from them so far which has disappointed me or felt like it wasn’t worth the asking price. In the case of the NACON Wired Compact Controller, it seems almost too-cheap at £25 as it’s a brilliant controller if you don’t mind using the wire and occasionally pushing on the L1 and R1 triggers with a little force. Sure, you lose some great features such as the motion controls and controller speaker (making some games unplayable, such as Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part 2, as you have to shake the controller in both of them), but for the vast majority of titles, you won’t even notice they’re gone.
As I’m on my PS4 pretty much all day, I usually have whatever controller I’m using plugged into the wall socket to charge whilst playing a game (unless I’m in VR), so having the wired controller didn’t affect my enjoyment. The length of the cable is more than enough for the majority of setups as well. However, it’ll all come down to personal preference and how much you’re willing to pay for a new controller. I still firmly believe that the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller is the best one I own, due to how customisable it is, but that’s also around five times the price of this wired controller (when not on sale).
I’ve personally jumped back to the advanced controller above as my main for the PS4, as I like the weight and the rear triggers, but this controller will certainly be used if I can’t be bothered to get up and charge my other controller or if I have some friends around once the pandemic has eased.
NACON has done it again, they’ve released another brilliant alternative to the DS4 in the form of the NACON Wired Compact Controller. Although there are the usual missing features (such as motion controls, light bar, and internal speaker), you still get value for money as the build quality and overall feel of the controller screams “premium” despite its low price. As a basic replacement, you can’t really get much better in my opinion. Although, please be aware that some games won’t function correctly if they require the use of any of the omitted features, and VR is certainly a no-no due to the lack of the light bar and the fact it’s always wired (you may trip on it).
If you have the money, and you like bigger controllers, I highly recommend the NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro controller, simply due to the enhanced programmable functions, hardware y-axis invert, rear buttons, and larger design. But, if you’re looking for a second controller, or maybe a more durable one for yourself or younger kids, then either the NACON Wired Compact Controller or the NACON Asymmetrical Wireless Controller will fit the job perfectly – it’s all down to whether you want wired or not and in-line Thumbsticks or lob-sided ones.
NACON Wired Compact Controller£24.99
- - Very high quality build for such a cheap price
- - Has a nice rubbery texture to it which makes it easier to grip
- - Can be used both on the PS4 and PC (albeit as a standard controller)
- - The LED lights up the colours the lightbar would
- - Very long cable
- - Missing features such as the actual lightbar, motion controls and the speaker, meaning some games won't work as intended
- - Can't be used with Remote Play without the use of third-party software
- - The L1 and R1 triggers sometimes require a harder push to register