You won’t find many sub-$40 controllers with build quality and inputs like this
Get the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller on Amazon
Today we’re checking out the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller. Officially licensed by Xbox, the PowerA is compatible with the Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, and Windows. It serves as a budget-friendly alternative to the original Xbox controllers and typically sells for $38 on Amazon, although I snagged this one for $28 on special. You’ll pay more than double that for the Xbox and PlayStation controllers, so a very handy price. There are plenty of designs and colourways on Amazon, enabling gamers to choose something that will fit their existing set up.
As I mentioned in the Razer Wolverine v2 review, my Xbox Wireless controller has two issues: the A button will occasionally double input, and the Y button will only actuate when pressed hard in the middle. While I like everything else about the controller, I’ve been looking for a replacement, especially for Rocket League where the double inputs can be frustrating. So far I’ve tried the Razer Wolverine v2 and Sparkfox Atlas, but I still prefer my (glitchy) Xbox Wireless.
The first thing to look at with a budget controller is build quality, as this is an area where manufacturers will cut corners. Holding the PowerA in my hands for the first time, it’s notably lighter than the Xbox Wireless, although I wouldn’t say it feels cheaply made. The build quality is very decent, and the controller doesn’t bend easily with no creaking or loose parts inside. I was pleasantly surprised with the overall quality, and it should be durable as long as you don’t treat your controller like a tennis ball.
I was also impressed by the quality of the inputs, specifically the analog sticks. Although they don’t sound as nice as the Xbox Wireless, they’re every bit as good in terms of usability. I didn’t pick up any stick drift out of the box, but we’ll have to see how it holds up over time.
There are however a few areas where the PowerA is inferior to the Xbox Wireless. The action buttons feel slightly heavier, making it harder to perform rapid button presses. For example Rocket League requires you two press A two times in quick succession, and sometimes I only hit it once. I found the D-Pad quite mushy in comparison to the original Xbox controller, so something to keep in mind if you make extensive use of the D-Pad. The triggers felt good, although they were a bit scratchy when snapping back into position. Take note that these are all just nitpicks, as I’m comparing the PowerA to a controller that’s double its price. For under $40, you’re getting really good build quality and inputs.
The PowerA includes two back buttons called Advanced Gaming Buttons. It’s similar to the back paddles on the Xbox Elite Series 2, but the fact that it’s buttons makes it easier to spam. They are well-positioned, and my index fingers were naturally resting on them. The buttons have quite a bit of side-play and consequently feel loose, but it doesn’t have an impact on usability. These buttons can be programmed on the fly, and there is an additional button on the back to initiate the remapping process.
From my perspective, I have no use for the back buttons in Rocket League and FIFA, which are the only games I play with controller. They made my grip feel awkward and quite often I pressed them by accident. It’s almost like an ambidextrous mouse where the left or right side buttons feel in the way and redundant.
As one would expect from an Xbox inspired controller, the ergonomics are on point and the PowerA felt very comfortable for longer gaming sessions. Barring the back buttons, it feels very similar to the Xbox One controller. The handles come with a textured surface, however it doesn’t feel as grippy as the Xbox Wireless controller.
For single player gamers, the PowerA does come with dual rumble motors for a more immersive gaming experience. There is also a standard 3.5mm headset jack, and the controller usefully features some media controls, which consist of volume adjustment and a one-touch microphone mute button.
The PowerA comes with a lengthy 3m Micro USB cable that is detachable. No wireless connectivity, which is to be expected at this price point. I’m not a big fan of the shaped cavity for the cable, as it forces you to use the stock cable. I tried two other USB cables which didn’t fit.
While the PowerA cannot match the build quality and feel of the Xbox Wireless, it does come with extra audio controls and back buttons, which will definitely be attractive to some users. But for me the most important thing is how the controller feels in the hand and how the inputs feel, and in that regard the Xbox Wireless is the clear winner. Nonetheless, the PowerA is a very good controller for the price, and it’s one of the best you can buy at under $40.