Savvy gamers know there’s typically a tradeoff with economically priced third-party controllers: performance often doesn’t match the quality of a first-party device. This compromise is especially noticeable for the PlayStation 3; beyond the frequent requirement for a USB dongle, many aftermarket controllers lack features such as vibration or motion-sensing capability. Even input devices which match the abilities of a DualShock 3 typically suffer from an inferior build quality and lack the durability of Sony’s design. Remarkably, Snakebyte’s Premium Bluetooth Controller, lives up to its immodest title. Flaunting an affordable price, full functionality, as well as a few shrewd supplementals, the peripheral offers an intriguing alternative to first party-game pads.
Once players extract the controller from its plastic clamshell, they’ll notice a few nifty trimmings which reveal Snakebyte’s aspirations of winning over players. One persistent complaint about the Sixaxis and DualShock controllers is the length of the bundled USB cord, requiring players with a depleted controller battery to sit uncomfortably close to their televisions. Smartly, the Premium Controller ships with a ten foot cable, allowing players to use the unit immediately. Also in the package are two clip-on extenders for a player’s existing controller, which transforms the DualShock’s L2 and R2 buttons into elongated triggers that emulate the throw distance and flat resting angle of the triggers of the Xbox 360 controller.
Once players wrap their hands around the Premium Bluetooth Controller, they’ll notice a few fundamental differences. Foremost, the game pad’s lower grips have been extended, making the peripheral vaguely resemble Sony’s early ‘boomerang’ prototype. Although this might make the controller seem like an ergonomic flop, when held the handles provide complete support for a player’s thenar (the fleshy part of the palm at the base of the thumb). Snakebyte’s buttons closely emulate the spacing and responsiveness of a DualShock 3, although the weight of each button feels a bit lighter. Cleverly, the Premium controller permits players to assign a rapid-fire rate to any key by holding Turbo, then selecting a button; while a press of the Clear key reverts to basic functions. While shmup fans may bemoan that the pad doesn’t allow for different rates of fire, the turbo function proved to be useful during the God of War: Origin Collection’s button door and chest opening events. One last improvement is that the top shoulder buttons have been angled outward, which is a bit more amiable for resting index fingers. For better or worse, the controller’s triggers are concaved, mirroring the weight, form, and responsiveness of the Microsoft’s standard 360 controller.
In execution, the Premium Bluetooth Controller had both a comparable charge time and battery life as Sony’s DualShock, and offered a similar Bluetooth range. Although the two analog sticks are a hair larger than their Sony counterparts, the amount of springiness and throw angles are nearly identical. One component that was noticeably changed is the Snakebyte’s directional pad, which provides no buffer across the four cardinal directions. However, when playing fighters such as Super Street Fighter IV and Blaz Blue: Continuum Shift, quarter and half circles proved just as easy to execute. Likewise, Mortal Kombat’s tap-in fatalities were just as painless to input. The sole blemish on the Premium Bluetooth Controller appeared extremely sporadically- exhibiting ghostly movement in the left analog stick, even when the pad wasn’t being touched. Fortunately, its occurrence was rare, with the same frequency that Sixaxis controllers used to temporarily disconnect during play. Unlike the Subsonic NEO pad, the Premium Bluetooth Controller never experiencing any problems with establishing a connection with a system.
Save for the rare instance of errant analog stick movement, Snakebyte’s Premium Bluetooth Controller effectively replicated the performance of a first-party game pad. Coupled with a design aesthetic which draws inspiration from Microsoft’s input device, the controller’s bulkier form makes the peripheral ideal for gamers with larger hands. Those seeking a well-built, reasonably priced, second controller could do far worse.