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DualSense Wireless Controller review

The DualSense PS5 controller is Sony's best gamepad yet

DualSense Wireless Controller
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Aside from it's middling battery life, the DualSense is an absolute joy to use - and we can’t wait to see how haptic feedback and adaptive triggers impact future PlayStation 5 games to come.

For

  • Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are a revelation
  • Sturdy and comfortable to grip
  • Built-in mic is a clever addition
  • Eye-catching design

Against

  • Battery life could be better
  • Mic quality is passable, but no headset replacement

One-minute review 

The DualSense is not only the best controller Sony has ever put its name to, but that rare gaming input device that manages to feel genuinely innovative. A pleasingly sturdier beast than its predecessor, the DualSense outshines the PS4’s DualShock 4 in every conceivable way, finally giving PlayStation owners a controller that rivals Xbox’s offerings. 

It would, of course, be remiss to talk about the PS5 controller without mentioning its killer app – the haptic feedback. Created by the company behind Nintendo’s Joycon HD Rumble, DualSense’s haptic feedback utilizes incredibly precise vibrations to help simulate on-screen happenings by sending intricate reverberations jolting across your hands. From the trickle of water droplets gently pitter-pattering across your palms to the new adaptive triggers’ tangible resistance as you pull back a bowstring, the aptly named DualSense enhances immersion in a pleasingly tactile way.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Sony’s new immersive tech, really, and while the packed in Astro’s Playroom software goes some way to demonstrating its potential, we have no doubt that PS5’s launch games only scratch the surface of what haptic feedback will bring to the table. In an age where most controllers offer iteration rather than innovation, Sony’s DualSense is the rarest of input devices - one that feels genuinely exciting.

DualSense Wireless Controller price and availability

  • DualSense Wireless Controller price: $69.99/£59.99/ AU$109.95
  • Currently only available in white

The PS5 DualSense controller is $69.99/£59.99/ AU$109.95, but as you’d expect, every PS5 comes with a controller in the box. If, however, you want to indulge in some local co-op (or need to buy a replacement) you can always nab yourself an extra DualSense.

While the PS5 is currently completely out of stock worldwide, thankfully the DualSense seems to be largely available in both the US, UK and Australia.

Design

DualSense Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)
  • Comfiest PlayStation controller yet
  • Textured handles make for sturdy grip
  • Satisfying heft makes it feel premium

At first glance, PS5 controller looks like little more than a slightly futuristic redesign of the DualShock 4. Abandoning the PS4’s all-black grungey aesthetic in favor of a slick white body accented by matte black analog sticks, the DualSense is a surprisingly attractive controller in the flesh. While it has a new PlayStation-symbol-embossed home button and the aforementioned built-in mic (along with a handy mute button), aside from the swapped share and start buttons, you’d be mistaken for thinking this was just a bigger version of what came before. Yet look a little closer and every aspect of the DualShock 4’s chassis has been elongated.

This time around Sony has put most of the controller’s length into its grips, resulting in thicker and longer handles – and the result is the comfiest PS controller yet. Speaking of the grip, these elongated handles are now textured, too, feeling pleasingly tactile as they rest against your fingers. This newly textured grip also means that your controller will stay firm - even if you happen to get into a particularly sweat-inducing multiplayer session. In a fan-pleasing touch, if you look closely at these little textured symbols that make up the DualSense’s grip, you’ll discover that each side is made up of a tiny collection of the PS face button symbols.

What’s a controller without its buttons? While the DualShock’s buttons were serviceable, the buttons on the DualSense have been vastly improved from Sony’s last-gen offering. Sporting a sleek glass-esque aesthetic, these clear plastic face buttons feel far firmer to the press than the DualShock 4. It may sound like a fairly minor improvement, but it all adds up to an impressive whole - a controller that feels sturdy and durable.

This feels even more important considering that the biggest gripe players had with the DualShock 4 was with its flimsy analog sticks. The first iteration of these controllers quickly saw the felt nubs wear away, leaving many gamers with peeling, worn down analog sticks only months after they’d started using their £54 controller. While it’s too early to tell whether the DualSense will befall the same fate, sensibly Sony has opted to go with a concave design for its sticks, aping the far improved analog sticks included with the PS4 Pro controller. So far, they feel far sturdier than the disintegrating PS4 analog sticks, but we will update our review if these start to fall victim to excessive wear and tear.

While the DualShock 4 launched in black, magma red and wave blue variants, at launch, the DualSense is only available in white. Yet with the DualSense looking pretty sleek in its current two-tone configuration, it seems to be a pretty minor complaint. From its textured handles to its satisfying heft, the DualSense feels like a controller designed to make long gaming sessions as comfortable and immersive as possible.

Performance

DualSense Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)
  • Haptic feedback and adaptive triggers are immersive innovations
  • Battery life is a bit disappointing
  • Built-in microphone

As we mentioned above, the haptic feedback is the real star of the show here. What’s impressive about the tech is that somehow, haptic feedback reverberates throughout the entire controller, and the adaptive triggers are already being used in some pleasingly different ways. From colorful adventure Bugsnax transforming the right trigger into an authentically rigid camera-shutter to the quiet thud of sand reverberating convincingly around the controller during Astro Playroom’s ‘Bot Beach’ level, this impressive tech genuinely feels exciting.

Immersive innovations aside, the DualSense feels like a controller built for convenience. Not only is it far more comfortable than the DualShock 4, Sony’s PS5 offering even has a built-in microphone, a pleasingly solid D-pad and no longer ruins your game with a glare-emitting light. While the touchpad and headphone jack return almost untouched from last-gen, the Micro USB charging cable has unsurprisingly been swapped out for a more modern USB C port.

The only downside with PlayStation’s next-gen offering is how long you’ll be able to use the DualSense. While not abysmal, the battery life is slightly disappointing, with Sony’s PS5 controller only providing around nine to 10 hours of play before you’ll need to pop in the charging cable. When compared to the staggering 30 hours you get from Nintendo’s brilliant Switch Pro Controller, 10 hours doesn’t feel like a great achievement.

Should you buy the DualSense Wireless Controller?

Buy it if...

DualSense Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)

You want a sturdy, feature-complete and comfortable controller that offers something genuinely innovative
The DualSense is a revelation and believe us when we say it needs to be experienced to be believed.

You need a second controller for any local co-op compatible PS5 games
This is a given, but if you're looking for an extra PS5 controller then the DualSense is the most affordable, reliable option - making it a no brainer.

You want a rechargeable controller
The PS5 controller is fortunately rechargeable, just don't expect the battery life to last more than around 10 hours.

DualSense Wireless Controller

(Image credit: Future)

Don't buy it if...

You want a controller that works flawlessly across multiple devices
The DualSense works brilliantly on PS5, PC and natively on PS3 (weirdly), but not PS4 - and currently does not work on Mac.