Hands on: DualShock 4 controller

Smooth and slight, this is a nice accessory

What is a hands on review?
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  • Feels great
  • Buttons are buttery smooth
  • Nice design


  • Share and option buttons too far away
  • At times felt a little too light
  • Track pad had deficiencies

Sony's PS4 is inching ever closer to release, as the company finally showed the console's hardware during its E3 2013 press conference.

Up until June 10, the only part we really laid eyes on was the DualShock 4, but even then it was in the hands of others, or encased behind glass.

But leave it to E3 to give us our first chance to grip the controls for the next-gen console ourselves. After the long wait, which started with the PS4's February reveal, we were very pleased with what we held.

The DualShock 4 is appealing not just to the eye but, more importantly, to the hands. We caught ourselves grinning from the mere feel of the thing, which, at once is slight yet fills out the hands with its nubbed ends.

DualShock 4

Slight of hand

This is the final version of the DualShock 4, and though we played DC Universe Online on a dev version of the console, it operated just we'd want a premiere controller to as we knuckled up to the evil doers.

Response time was excellent, and the buttons had a buttery quality - no need to mash down to get your character (in our case, Bizarro) to smash and bash. We liked the textured, roughed-up feel of the trigger buttons, all the while finding a seamless qulaity in the controller's design.

DualShock 4

Go to the light

Track pad

The most noticeable addition to this DualShock edition is the track pad. It lacked functionality on the first game we tooled around with, DC Universe Online, but we did discover that it acts like a button itself. It reminded us a little of a diving board in that regard, as there's a space between the end of the button and the body of the controller.

PS4 trackpad

The track pad stands out

However, we later played around on a different game that did have functionality set up, and found the track pad had difficulty differentiating between directions. Various moves were defined by various directional swipes, and it proved too much for the DualShock 4's pad. Perhaps time will lend itself to further refinement (the console isn't out until the holidays, anyway) but for now, it wasn't up to par.


The seedy (and partially glossy) underbelly

As for the rest of the controller, the share button is also a too far away from the central commands, and a stretch of the thumb is needed to reach it. Same goes for the option buttons. Our hands were so spread out on the sides of the controller, it's hard to naturally jump either up or down. Those with larger paws may not have the same issue, but it felt like our mitts had to overcome a small chasm.

By comparison, the PS3's DualShock 3 share and option buttons are right there, ready at your beck and call. Speaking of the older controller, the DualShock 4 is definitely an upgrade in style.

PS3 controller

A simpler, less track pad-y time

The tether on the controller we played won't be there during final launch (it served a security function, we were informed).

The analog sticks are responsive and smooth, so much so that we stopped thinking about using them as we flew around an underground lab as Superman's doppelgänger. The tops are notched down so your fingers sit in them as opposed to on top of them like the DualShock 3.

DualShock 4 side view

Simple ports located on the bottom

Early verdict

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed holding and playing with the DualShock 4. It felt lovely, had a nice balance and worked like a charm.

There were a few times we caught ourselves thinking it was a little too light, but it was an afterthought once we were kicking bad guys' butts.

There was a fair amount of clicky-clack to the buttons, which may or may not bother you.

DualShock 4 controller

Black has a whole lot of dimensions

You'll notice the DualShock 4 is a mix of matte and gloss, emulating the design of the main console itself. It has a modern look that will make it an attractive paperweight when not being played.

As mentioned, the track pad had issues as we tried to use it in our game play, but that may be solved by release. Share and option peggers were too far as well, but it looks like there's no turning back on that now.

With a controller like this and $399 (£349, €399) price tag, the PS4 is going to be mighty attractive to legions of gamers. We can't wait to give it a go again.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.