DualSense Controller Review (For Disabled Use)
The DualSense controller designed for the PlayStation 5 is my controller of choice for games like Rocket League on my PC. I love how this thing looks, and its features are pretty solid. However, PC support for those features is very limited, and there are many things I don’t like about this controller. For instance, the device’s abysmal battery life and the controller’s general feel in my hands.
Additionally, Sony has designed this controller to make disassembly extremely difficult for people. This means replacing a potentially bum battery is a task better left to professionals, as there are no external screws on the clamshell casing. As a result, I had to buy an aftermarket external battery pack just to keep the thing powered for the length of my average gaming session.
Table of Contents
Disclaimer – I’m a Disabled Individual
With this DualSense Controller Review, I aim to answer the question, “Is the DualSense Controller good for people with disabilities?”
I can do this review since I am a stroke victim who has partial paralysis in my left hand and arm. As such, this review will contain information about my experience using this controller that most reviewers simply can’t offer to the community of Disabled Gamers. I also am not a competitive gamer – I don’t care about the latency of my controller nearly as much as the usability and general feel of the controller.
It is a review for disabled people or casual gamers who play for fun, not the ultra-elite gamers who aim to be in the top 0.00001%. I hope this information helps you to make a more informed decision so that you can have the most fun playing games on the PC using a controller.
My Experience using the DualSense Controller on PC as a Disabled Individual
Starting off, I want to let you guys know about my experience using the DualSense Controller on PC. As you may know, if you’ve read my about me page, I suffered a stroke as a child. This fact has dramatically altered the way that I interact with the world, which forces me to adapt to a standard that doesn’t consider my condition in its design philosophy. This makes sense, as the vast majority of the population fully uses both hands. Catering to the majority is just common business practice.
However, as a result of this fact, I use my controller differently than what is intended by the manufacturer. This review is, as such, undoubtedly biased from my point of view. However, it is worth writing simply because almost no one with a condition like mine has a review to reference from the lens of a disabled individual.
I feel it is my obligation to review this controller so that those individuals have something to work with. Who knows, maybe engineers can get some ideas to work with to make their designs more accessible in ways that benefit even the majority, resulting in a net positive win for everyone.
What Attracted Me to the DualSense Controller
The first thing about this controller that got me to switch from the tried and true DualShock 4 Controller was the color scheme. I love that Stormtrooper look, and when they revealed the DualSense base controller being that same black/white, I immediately fell in love with the design and had to have it!
In fact, I have always been a fan of the two-tone black and white combination look since I first saw a Stormtrooper in Star Wars EP IV. Just to prove a point, when I saw the NZXT Phantom case released back in 2010, I immediately jumped on that. Following that trend, I then bought my first Logitech G600 in the black/white color scheme.
I grew up in the 90s, and I’ve seen the design evolution from the dawn of the computer age to today. We are truly living in a golden age of creative design.
I was practically foaming at the mouth, ready to throw my hard-earned money to get my hands on the original back / white model. I had exclusively used the Dualshock 4 design for years, which was slowly coming apart at the seams from regular abuse, so it seemed like a good time to invest in a new controller.
This led me to leap on the purchase as soon as it was available, despite the price being $10 higher than the Dualshock 4 when it was new. I opened up the packaging, pressed the PS button and the… triple line button thing on the left, next to the d-pad, simultaneously to sync it up to my PC, and began my gaming session!
Initial Impressions of the Controller
Initial impressions were…
Well, they weren’t good. Most of the controller was great, but there is one thing that kills a controller more than anything else, its feel. And it bombed that test hard. I actually regret buying the thing, but I can’t bring myself to abandon it for the tried and true DualShock 4 Controller – I had to justify dumping nearly $80 on the thing.
The Tech in this thing is amazing, but I hate the shape of the grippy nubs. If they were to ever come up with a DualShock 4 revision with DualSense Tech in it, I’d be first in line to buy it.
I know there is a star breakdown at the start, but I wanted to reiterate those points here, as I’m going to address them directly in the following sections:
|Feel in my Hands||1/5|
Buttons Breakdown – Solid, one of the Best Feeling Buttons
Starting off with the good, we have the button pad: Square, Circle, Triangle, and X. Each and every button on the controller had very similar actuation requirements to register, and all of them shared the following:
- Very tactile
- Felt comfortable to touch
- Not too difficult to press
- Doesn’t cause pain or significant finger fatigue after hours of playing
Not much else you can ask from a button.
Addressing the D-Pad – Mushy and sometimes painful to press
The D-Pad on this controller is one of its biggest weaknesses for me. I don’t know how it would be if I used the controller as the designers intended, but for my adapted playstyle (Claw grip, one hand doing everything), this meant my thumb was getting abused by the corners of the D-Pad.
Don’t get me wrong, they are rounded, so it isn’t like they are sharply pressing into my fingers and causing them to bleed or something. However, it isn’t very comfortable to use compared to my older DualShock 4 controllers.
Still, I would have liked a more tactile D-Pad – if you press the D-Pad Right on my controller, it has a satisfying click to it. The other three directions lack this effect, and as such, the whole thing feels off.
Analog Sticks – As expected from Sony
The Analog Sticks on the DualSense Controller remain firmly seated as some of the best analog sticks I’ve used. They are well balanced, have just enough resistance to provide ample positioning feedback to my fingers, and they don’t rip my fingers apart like my old Gamecube controller. (That said, I loved that controller!)
Of course, they feel just like the DualShock 4 analog sticks, and I loved the feeling of those. As expected from Sony, who first added analog sticks on the PS1 controller way back in 1997 (The first version was released in 1994)
Trigger Design – Easily the Best Feeling Trigger I have Ever Used
The Dual Sense Triggers are easily the best feeling triggers out of any controller I have used. Even despite the fact that using it on the PC doesn’t let you utilize any of the special haptic feedback features that they have in games for the PS5. Even in spite of that, the triggers are one of DualSense’s best features and feel great using Claw Style.
Bumpers – Just as Good as the Buttons
The bumpers are easy to actuate, give a satisfying click on the press, and feel great to use. My only complaint is that they are a little wobbly when resting my finger on them, making them feel cheaper than the rest of the controller design.
The Problems with the DualSense Controller
It seems like I have nothing but good to say about the controller. I love the buttons, I love the analog stick, I thought the D-Pad was acceptable, and the Triggers defined a new standard for controllers going forward.
So what was the problem?
The Feel – An Oversized Grippy Nub
Ultimately, the straw that broke the camel’s back for this controller for me was its shape. At first, I had no idea that they made the little grippy nubs wider than the Dualshock 4 design. This made holding the controller in a stable position far more difficult for my left hand. Not quite to the same degree as the old DualShock 3, but still noticeably uncomfortable. After all, I have to anchor my hand to the grippy nub and claw-style the rest of the controller with my right hand. This led to a very uncomfortable experience that required occasional adjustment throughout a gaming session.
Additionally, due to the wider shape of the grippy nubs, I had to use more pressure to keep the controller in place. The wider touchpad in the center was also a problem, requiring my hand to adopt a more central position. This further added to the fatigue of using the controller.
This is coming from the DualShock 4, which has the best grippy nub shapes out of every controller I have used for me. Easy to grip and a more comfortable experience overall.
Now, if I attempt to hold the controller as intended by the manufacturer, the discomfort lessens a fair amount. This means that, depending on your circumstances, this controller will be either okay or abysmal in your hands.
Abysmal Battery life
As for the worst part of this controller, the battery lasted maybe 3 hours on a full charge. This is by far my biggest complaint, given reviews claimed battery life was actually a bit better than the Dualshock 4, of which mine lasted 6-7 hours on a full charge after disabling the RGB Motion light on the PC.
Since the DualSense controller isn’t designed to be user-serviceable and lacks external screws, it is extremely difficult for the average joe to take apart the controller and replace a bum internal battery.
My solution to this problem instead was to purchase an external battery pack to make the controller usable for the length of one of my gaming sessions. This, of course, led to an even worse experience using the controller, as the battery pack added to the weight and cramped my left hand’s fingers when gripping the controller, but at least it was functional for longer than three hours. No true tests on battery life, but it lasted more than 12 hours of Binge playing Rocket League out of the box. It definitely fixed my problem, AND it has a built-in battery indicator!
No Visual Charge Indicator on the Controller for PC
This brings up my next gripe, no visual charge indicator is present on these controllers out of the box. That means that you just kind of have to guess at the controller battery level and hope for the best that it doesn’t die mid-game if you’re using it on PC. Before you say, “Plug it in then,” let me say that I do – the only problem is that when it gets plugged in, it hijacks my sound and sometimes randomly disconnects.
This isn’t a problem on the PS5, as you can see the battery percentage on the console. Why PCs don’t have that same ability, I don’t understand.
Sound Device Hijacking on PC
Let me say that again – Plugging in my controller automatically changes the default sound device to itself. This is incredibly frustrating because changing the PC back to my intended sound device is two extra clicks of the mouse to switch it back. This wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t randomly disconnect and cause it to take over…
Since it just intermittently forgets it’s plugged in, likely due to a fault in my USB-C charging cable, it is very frustrating to deal with throughout a long gaming session when it needs to charge. The connection issue isn’t the controller’s fault, but since you can’t just turn that “feature” off, it becomes a problem that requires new third-party hardware to fix.
I shouldn’t need to buy a new cable meant to just keep the battery charged up; I should be able to disable the feature with controller software on the PC. After all, if all it is meant to do is charge the controller, it doesn’t need to maintain a constant data connection.
Yes, there are workarounds, but they aren’t convenient to use. The alternative to this is to have the USB cable plugged into a charging brick or Power-only USB Ports. I don’t have a power strip with enough space on it for a power brick or built-in USB ports for charging purposes. I have a lot of free USB ports on my PC, though.
I get that the feature is meant to allow wired gameplay when the controller battery is very low. However, this feature is causing problems for me due to the imperfect connection. This is ultimately a Wireless / Bluetooth controller, guys, and the latency difference between the modes is so low that it almost doesn’t even matter anymore. Especially since most latency is added by the game engine rather than the connection type.
There is more I could say about this problem, but this issue really deserves its own post.
DualSense Controller Review Overall – Pretty Good, but Some Problems
Despite its flaws, I still prefer using the DualSense controller over my DualShock 4. Mostly because I want to justify the price I paid for it and the black and white color scheme. However, I recommend the DualShock 4 Controller over the DualSense Controller for PC Use if you are disabled like me for the following reasons:
- No issues with sound device hijacking
- Good battery life without an external battery addon
- An amazing grippy nub design
- And a general overall better experience