- Functionality is off the charts. Key binds are completely customizable to a degree not found with any other controller. You can even share and use other peoples' setups for various games
- Usefulness is also top tier. I can't emphasize enough how much I love being able to use a controller for traditionally "mouse and keyboard only" games
- Price/value is tough to rate now. The original retail price of $50 was good, but now that it's discontinued, it's hard to find for less than $100. For me though, the convenience it offers makes the controller's value much higher. If I suddenly didn't have access to a Steam Controller, I would buy one even at this inflated price
- Durability is good. I've been using Steam Controllers since 2015 and have been through two of them. That's pretty good considering how much use I get out of them.
- It's not a huge deal, but I do hope if there's a future new edition, they make the face buttons (X, Y, B, A) a bit larger. I never have issues finding them, but they are smaller than the buttons on Xbox controllers
- After extensive wear, some of my first controller's face buttons started to stick when pressed. This can happen to many controllers after long term use though
- Biggest con is simply that it's not being made anymore! Please Valve, give us a new Steam Controller
Right off the top: This is probably going to be a frustrating review to read. The reason is that I’m going to review the somewhat recently discontinued Steam Controller by Valve. So, yeah…reviewing something that is hard to buy now is one thing. But the other frustrating thing is that the Steam Controller is amazing. In fact, for me, it’s actually so good that it’s an indispensable part of my gaming set up. There are some games that I simply won’t play without it.
Like so many people, I spend a ton of time on computers. I largely spend my work day using a mouse and keyboard. I also run two websites, which of course means more mouse and keyboard time. To me, using a mouse and keyboard feels like work, not relaxation. I also just happen to love video games, and unfortunately some of the games I enjoy don’t offer standard Xbox/PS controller support. Enter the Steam Controller. The track pad on the right side, in conjunction with the trigger buttons, perfectly emulates using a mouse. And keyboard keys can be bound to the face buttons (X, Y, A, B), including combinations like holding a trigger, double taps, or long presses. With these modifiers, you can get a surprising number of key binds set up.
This controller has been a complete game-changer (Dad joke mode activated) for me. I never would have even tried some of my favorite games of all time, like Kenshi and Pillars of Eternity, without the Steam Controller. Even MMOs like World of Warcraft are more comfortably played (although probably just at a casual level). When Valve discontinued it in December 2019, I bought a few new units to keep as backups. My current controller works fine, but I knew how important it was to my gaming situation.
There have been rumors, filed patents, and other news about possible future controllers from Valve. Hopefully, in the future, there will be a refreshed version of the Steam Controller. It’s still available from some third-party sellers on Amazon, but not for anything near its original retail price of $49.99.
I’ve linked a few different controller types above. Xbox controllers are fantastic for games that actually have controller support. In fact, I typically use an Xbox controller instead of the Steam Controller for games that it works for (like Skyrim, Dark Souls, Dragon Age Inquisition, etc.). But for games like Kenshi, Pillars of Eternity, Age of Empires, and so on, the Steam Controller becomes my required tool.
As I mentioned, I haven’t been able to find the Steam Controller available anywhere for less than $100. But at least some vendors are still selling it for now.
ABOUT THIS HARDWARE
Experience a new level of precise control for your favorite games. The Steam Controller lets you play your entire collection of Steam games on your TV—even the ones designed without controller support in mind. The Steam Controller features dual trackpads, HD haptic feedback, dual-stage triggers, back grip buttons, and fully-customizable control schemes. Find your favorite mappings in the Steam Community, or create and share your own.
A different kind of gamepad
We’ve improved upon the resolution and fidelity of input that’s possible with traditional gamepads. Built with high-precision input technologies and focused on low-latency, wireless performance, the Steam controller enables you to experience your games in powerful new ways.
The Steam Controller‘s dual trackpads enable the high-fidelity input required for precise PC gaming in the living room. Allowing for 1:1 absolute position input via virtual controls like a trackball, adaptive centering joystick, or steering wheel, these surfaces can be programmed to serve up whatever a game needs.
Haptic force actuators on both sides of the controller deliver precise, high fidelity vibrations measured in microseconds. Feel the spin of a virtual trackball, the click of a scroll wheel, or the shot of a rifle. Every input, from the triggers to the trackpads, can offer haptic feedback to your fingertips, delivering vital, high-bandwidth, tactile feedback about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, or actions.
With a satisfying digital click at the end of the trigger pull, dual-stage triggers can be used as analog, digital, or both types of input at the same time. Put your iron-sights on the sweep-in, and then fire with the reliable feel of a tactile switch, all on the same trigger.
Each of the Steam Controller’s input zones and buttons has been positioned based on frequency of use, required precision, and ergonomic comfort.
- Dual trackpads
- HD haptics
- Analog stick
- Dual-stage triggers, each with 10° of travel, a magnetic flux sensor, and a tactile switch
- Gyroscope and accelerometer sensors enabling tilt-to-steer racing wheel functionality and other motion-controlled input
- Configurable controls
- Local multiplayer capability, as supported by games
- Wired or wireless (dual mode)
- USB 2.0 via Micro USB port (cable included)
- Estimated 5 meters of wireless communications range. Actual results may vary.
- Provides up to 80 hours of standard game play using the included AA batteries during preliminary testing. Battery life will vary based on usage and other factors, such as type of batteries used.
- Steam Controller
- 2 AA batteries
- USB wireless pairing dongle
- Dongle extension dock included
- A Steam Machine or other computer capable of running Steam Big Picture Mode, in order to view, edit, save, and share Steam Controller mappings.
- Mac users must be running OS X 10.8 or newer to use the Steam Controller
5 Thoughts to “Steam Controller”
Even though I gave the Steam Controller a very high score, I almost feel like I underrated in some ways. What I mean is, I tend to take for granted how important this device is for my gaming. It’s something I don’t think much about, sort of like having a great keyboard or mouse for a long time. I use it constantly, especially for keyboard and mouse games that don’t have controller support (like the masterpiece Kenshi).
I sure hope Steam eventually releases a v2.0. I read they might be developing a Nintendo Switch style handheld…perhaps that will feature some aspects of this Steam Controller as well?
Well well, it looks like the next version is coming soon! It’s called the Steam Deck, and as the rumors suggested, it’s basically A Nintendo Switch but also a customizable PC. Reservations are apparently quite popular, but here’s the link: https://store.steampowered.com/steamdeck
As much as I still use my Steam Controller, this was pretty much an instant purchase (or reservation anyway). My confirmation email said Q3 2022…hopefully it doesn’t actually take that long! But I’m excited about this.
Well, confirmation apparently moved up to Q2 2022 already. Hopefully it keeps shifting up! It would be nice to get my hands on one of these for a review somewhat close to the release date. I think this one would be worthy of a video review!
Haha well…the Steam Deck is officially out. But unfortunately, my estimated place in line is pushed to Q3 2022. That could be as soon as July 1st (feels not too far out) to September 30th (agonizing wait). Fingers crossed Valve is able to ramp up production!
The Steam Deck is here! https://armdogreviews.com/steam-deck/