When you buy a PS4 Pro, there's typically a controller included in the box, but sometimes it's just not extreme enough. If this is a situation you find yourself in, you might want to check out the Astro C40 controller.
This controller is big, heavy and filled with a bunch of extra buttons and switches. It's not the most elegant gamepad you'll ever see, and it definitely won't be comfortable for folks with smaller hands - but if you're looking for a more hardcore controller experience, you won't find one that's, well, more hardcore.
At $199 (about £160, AU$290), the pricing is just as extreme as the rest of the controller. Since you can pick up the Dualshock 4 for $59 (£43, AU$99), the Astro C40 definitely has a lot to prove if it's going to convince people to spend nearly four times as much.
It's an aspiration that the controller definitely doesn't live up to, but the added programmable buttons, customizable layout and rigid build quality may be enough to convince enthusiasts to make the jump.
Over the last few years, gaming peripherals have been growing sleeker, thinner, lighter and more attractive. The Astro C40 ignores all of that. This is a big, bulky monster of a controller, and if you have smaller hands, you might want to look elsewhere.
This gamepad has angular lines all over it, and the face of the controller looks like it's an extra in a Metal Gear Solid game. Because this is a PS4 controller, it has the square, circle, triangle and cross buttons on the face of the game pad. This absolutely makes sense, but you can't switch them out if you bought the controller for PC, so if you're accustomed to Xbox buttons, it may take some adjustment, especially if you don't have the muscle memory.
Pulling the Astro C40 out of the box, the thumbsticks are in a configuration similar to the Dualshock 4 by default, which might upset those who are used to the Xbox 360 controller. But, luckily, users are able to customize this controller to the thumbstick configuration they prefer. Using a tool included in the box, you can remove the faceplate of the controller and shift the thumbsticks and d-pad around. You can even get both thumbsticks on the same side of the controller if that's what you're into - no judgement here.
On the underside of the controller, you'll find paddles, like those typically found on the Xbox One Elite Controller, and other similar gamepads. On PC, you can bind these keys however you want, though we leave them alone. Our hands are already having trouble dealing with how large this controller is without introducing foreign buttons.
There are also two red switches on the back of the controller. When you're playing on PS4, these switches will essentially shorten the activation distance for the triggers, which should help if you're playing competitive shooters, where leaving the switches down will be better suited for racing games.
But, on PC, flicking these up will essentially lock the L2 and R2 buttons. At first, we thought it, like on PS4, the would simply change the depth that you needed to push the triggers to have them activate, but when these switches were flicked upwards we can't actually do anything with the triggers.
Then, at the top of the controller, between the aforementioned triggers, there are two more red switches. One will switch the controller between USB mode and wireless mode, while the other will let you switch between two profiles.
One thing we can't get out of our minds is that Astro could have trimmed this controller down in size shrinking that PS4 TouchPad. You could shave off half an inch, and not only would it be more comfortable to hold, but it might stop us from hitting the pad on accident when we're going for the options button.
The size of the Astro C40 is going to make it hard to recommend for a lot of people. We tried to use it to play Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and after 20 minutes our hands started to hurt. For a device marketed to an audience that likely games for hours on end – who else is going to drop 200 bucks (or 150 quid) on a PS4 controller – you'd think Astro would make it a more comfortable experience.
Once you get past the discomfort of holding this controller for a long period of time, the controller actually works well. Plugging the little USB dongle into our PS4 Pro, the Astro C40 picked up the signal instantly and was ready to go.
The buttons on the controller feel pretty great, too: just the right amount of give, without feeling too squishy – until you got to the triggers, at least. Now, we get that this controller is for people who play shooters competitively – a scene that needs reactive triggers – but they feel a little too easy to press. However, that could just be down to the fact that we're using this controller while playing an intensely stressful, precision-requiring game like Sekiro.
The underside paddles also feel extremely responsive. But, because we're not used to there being buttons back there, we frequently find ourselves hitting them on accident. That's something you'll likely grow used to as you use the controller every day, though.
As a bonus, users can modify what all the buttons on the Astro C40 do, but there's a catch. Through the Astro C40 TR Configuration Software, users can change button assignments and even the sensitivity for the sticks and triggers. We would have liked to see a PlayStation 4 app that lets users do the same on the console, but you will need access to a PC to customize your controller.
Astro claims that the C40 boasts up to 12 hours of battery life, but we didn't get a chance to sit down for an all-day gaming session to put that claim to the test. We can attest that we didn't really have to worry about having to stop playing games to put it on a charger. It's good that we didn't have to worry about the controller running out of battery, because when you're on PS4, you can't actually see the battery status.
Essentially, the Astro C40 gets the job done, which is all we can really ask for in a controller. We have to admit that we're not pro gamers, so we don't really know if it will help you stay on top of those leaderboards.
A $199 (about £160, AU$290) controller is obviously going to be a niche product. There are only a certain amount of people that will fork over that kind of cash, and when the Astro C40 is as big and bulky as it is, the audience will shrink even more. If you're an aspiring pro gamer that has huge hands, the Astro C40 will probably get the job done.
For most people, this large controller may be a bit too unwieldy and uncomfortable for the long gaming sessions you'll have to endure to justify the large purchase. It is nice that you're able to customize the layout of the controller, but is that one convenience worth a controller that costs four times as much as a regular controller?