Savvy console gamers realize that the purchase of a third-party controller can often be a dicey proposition. Although the devices are typically priced a few dollars cheaper than their first-party competitors, they often lack the quality, durability, and ergonomics of the controller which comes packed in with consoles. PlayStation 3 owners have it especially rough, as many non-Sony control pads requires the use of a dongle for wireless play, squandering away a USB port.
At first glance, Subsonic’s Neo Controller appears to have a number of inspired design decisions which improve upon the DualShock 3. Noticeably larger than Sony’s de facto device, The Neo is closer in size to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 controller, ideal for gamers (like me) with larger hands. With my index fingers placed upon the rear shoulder buttons, my hand naturally fit around Subsonic’s controller. After about three hours of playtime, I noticed the control pad failed to initiate the fatigue normally brought on by the diminutive DualShock. For Blu-ray watchers, having four isolated buttons across the top face to control play/pause, stop, and chapter access functionality is marginally convenient. Since these keys replicate the face buttons found on any PS3 control pad, their sole advantage is recreating the familiar layout of a remote control. The Neo’s remaining improvement is found in its direction pad- which is consider larger that its first-party counterpart.
Unfortunately, these enhancements are also accompanied by a number of setbacks. Syncing the NEO to two separate PS3 consoles proved erratic. Although Subsonic’s control pad follows the same two-step Bluetooth synchronization process (connect with a USB cable, then press the home button) as any first-party controller, the NEO repeatedly lost a wireless connection to the console once the cable was uncoupled. Inexplicably, after the four attempt, a link between console and peripheral was permanently made. After growing accustomed to the speedy response of the DualShock’s face buttons, the NEO lacks the springiness of Sony’s controller. Although I was able to become accustomed to the NEO’s feel, I preferred the button responsiveness of a first-party control pad.
Some of the most conspicuous changes were made to the NEO’s L2 and R2 buttons. Abandoning Sony’s convex design, the triggers are now concave, allowing fingers to comfortable rest on their recesses. Pull distance has been shortened, which allows for quicker firing in FPSs but slightly less analog control when playing racers. The rear triggers also feel a bit tighter- eliminating much of the limp feeling found with the Dualshock. While the Neo’s vibration capabilities are on par with the Sony’s control pad, the controller does omit Sixaxis functionality. Battery life proved to be about 15 hours, which is close to the performance of a first-party pad.
Aesthetically, the NEO’s front glossy piano-black finish is impressive, although prone to fingerprints. On the opposite side, the matte black finish feels sufficiently smooth. The back of the controller offers enough texture to avoid becoming slippery, yet avoid the grainy surfaces which invite dried hand oils. The control pad’s built quality is adequate, although it should be noted out first unit shipped with a defective “X” button. Fortunately, Subsonic’s customer service remedied the problem with haste and professionalism.
While performance-minded players should probably stick with the pricier DualShock 3, economy-minded gamers with larger hands might want to give Subsonic’s NEO a test drive. With a price about $15 cheaper than Sony’s pad, the NEO is a comfortable replacement held back by a few niggling snags. If Subsonic can correct these quandaries, their controller could be the first real threat to the DualShock dynasty.