Review: Logitech Wireless Xbox Controller

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by Jay Mitchosky, Dec 28, 2003.

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  1. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    After some time I finally ended up getting a Logitech wireless controller for my Xbox (actually it was from my wife as a Christmas present, the goal being that my daughter can't run around and yank a cable). Running a search here shows that nobody has yet written a review. Here are some of my thoughts as to its performance and build, with comparisons made specifically to Microsoft’s awesome Controller S which for many will be the reference standard. I have never tried the MadCatz wireless controller so cannot make any specific comparisons here.

    [​IMG]

    Setup

    There is so little involved setup barely deserves its own header. Pop off the back cover on the controller and install four (4) AA batteries. Plug the receiver into an open controller slot on your Xbox. Power up your console, hit the “Connect” button on the receiver, hit any button on the controller, and you’re done. The controller is specified for 50 hours of active use including rumble. I have only been playing a short time and cannot comment on real-world performance.


    Build Quality

    Physically the unit is very well built. It has a satisfying weight that feels comfortable in the hands. The triggers, thumbsticks, and D-pad all work smoothly. The A, B, X, and Y control buttons seem to have a more positive feel then the Controller S – there is more of a tactile click to them when depressed, whereas the Controller S feels softer in comparison (although not a knock against it). On my unit the A button sticks a bit sometimes so I may return it for a replacement (unless it loosens itself up after use). Conversely the Controller S has a better tactile click with the left and right thumbsticks. Likewise for the D-pad.


    Ergonomics & Control Layout

    The overall layout is very similar to the Controller S but still offers some key differences. Immediately noticeable is the extra width of the Logitech controller. I don’t feel it affects the ergonomics of the unit as the center portion of the controller is mostly empty space anyways; thumb access within the left and right control banks is close to the Controller S. But the overall extra width still takes a little getting used to. The Controller S is nice and compact and offers slightly better balance as a result. The depth is the same between the two controllers. What is also different between them is that the Logitech has more of an angled profile when viewed from the side. It’s a subtle difference but the result is a longer travel for your right thumb between the A and Y buttons. The A, B, X, and Y buttons are in the same diamond pattern but seem to be a little further up so your thumb is a more stretched in the neutral position relative to the Controller S. The black and white buttons are slightly recessed which seems to help against hitting them accidentally. The Start and Back buttons have been moved to the top of the controller which can actually be problematic if you need to quickly pause a game (for example, when a sneeze is pending while approaching a turn in Project Gotham Racing 2 [​IMG] ). I feel the Controller S layout is more comfortable than the Logitech, and I have fairly long fingers. Smaller hands may find this more of a challenge. But taken on its own the layout is still very comfortable.

    The analog thumbsticks offer a very different feel from the Controller S. First off they are not indented at the top, nor do they have the little raised bumps to keep your thumbs in place. While they are covered in a very “grippable” rubber they do not feel as comfortable (but still very good). The sticks are also a little looser than the Controller S – some more resistance would have been nice. This is also reflected when clicking either stick to access secondary functions as they tend to move around as opposed to depressing straight down. This can be problematic when trying to use the sticks and clickable functions at the same time (MechAssault immediately comes to mind when you try to aim and shoot while depressing a stick to activate jump jets). For me the Controller S wins in this area.

    The analog triggers are nice and squishy like the Controller S and have a similar range of movement. Brake and gas control while racing is just as natural. I would call this a draw between both controllers.

    The D-pads on various controllers typically come under a lot of scrutiny. For me this is not much of an issue as I don’t tend to use the pad in the games I play (aside from function selection). The Controller S pad seems to better differentiate between the different D-pad axes, like multiple buttons in one. Those who play a lot of fighting games, for example, will probably prefer the Controller S for this reason.

    Logitech has also included a rumble feature in this controller. It works well but not as robust as the Controller S, likely in consideration of battery performance. The rumble is nice and smooth with no rattling, but does not have the impact of a wired controller. I suspect until a reliable battery technology can be developed, or a more power-friendly rumble engine is created, this will be an ongoing limitation in wireless controllers. Controller S gets the nod here.


    Wireless Performance

    The only reason someone is considering this controller is to enjoy the freedom of wireless. When successfully implemented the benefits are many: no clutter of cables, nothing to trip over, nothing for kids to unplug, ability to place the console in another room (within reason). Logitech uses 2.4GHz wireless technology for this controller as well as a system that is constantly looking for new frequencies to mitigate the problem of interference. Ultimately their design is a winner as I have yet to notice any control lag (of paramount importance in a wireless controller) or interference from this unit. I play from a distance of about 10 feet to the console and also tried from the back of my rec room which would be about 25 feet and found no ill affects. As battery power wanes it would probably become more noticeable.

    The biggest drawback to this controller (and MadCatz wireless as well) is that there are no onboard memory/peripheral slots. Translation: if you are connected to Xbox Live you cannot use the Xbox Communicator and the Logitech together. The base station has two ports but all this satisfies is the need for a memory cartridge. I suspect one could find a third party wireless headphone system but this becomes a pain. So for the time being if you are going Live and want to chat you will have to go back to the Controller S. For me this will be a problem down the road as I will be locating my equipment in a separate room once my new home theater is complete. Hopefully by that time Microsoft, Logitech, or another manufacturer will create a new wireless controller with card slots intact. I presume there is a power issue to be considered, and probably space limitation in the controller, but with Xbox Live now a huge success this is a need that will have to be filled.


    Conclusions

    From purely a wireless standpoint the Logitech is a winner. While not cheap it offers lag free performance while letting you cut the cord. The biggest drawback is for Xbox Live and the inability to use the Xbox Communicator. For many this will be a dealbreaker. For myself I'll use my Controller S when I'm Live and I want to beg for mercy.

    Overall I prefer the ergonomics and feel of the Controller S but the Logitech is the second best controller I’ve tried (wireless or not). Others may in fact prefer the Logitech overall. Ideally I would love to see Microsoft release a Controller S as it looks and feels in its current form but with the addition of at least 2.4GHz wireless. But there seems to be nothing on the horizon so at this time Logitech is a very strong alternative. Others who have also had experience with the MadCatz controller should offer their comparative opinions.
     
  2. Bill_D

    Bill_D Supporting Actor

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    I absolutely will not Xbox without my Logitechs!

    One minor complaint though ....the rubber covers on the thumbsticks will tear with repeated use. This has been the case with both of my controllers.
     
  3. David Ely

    David Ely Supporting Actor

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    I've been using the Logitech controller for months now. I actually prefer it over the Controller S.
     
  4. Brian Johnson

    Brian Johnson Supporting Actor

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    Thanks for the review Jay.
    The "deal killer" for me is the lack of memory/peripheral slots.
    Since I don't have children to trip on the cord (although I have intentionally tripped "Kitty" with the cord as he was walking past:b) I will probably pass on this one.






    For all you PETA people. My cat was not harmed. The cable seperated like it was built to do. I treat my cat better than I do some people [​IMG]
     
  5. BenK

    BenK Stunt Coordinator

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    Excellent review, thanks. I've been wanting to try these out but was hesitant due to a lack of quality reviews. I have a Gamecube also and use Nintendos Wavebird wireless controllers which are excellent. I would prefer an original Microsoft version but these sound like they're worth a try. Unfortunately one Logitech controller costs the same as two of Nintendos Wavebirds.
     
  6. Jay Mitchosky

    Jay Mitchosky Producer

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    Precisely. Unless you have a real need for wireless I couldn't recommend this over the Controller S. It's more expensive, has an ongoing operating cost with batteries, and because it's more sophisticated there is more that can potentially go wrong. I also find the Controller S slightly more comfortable. But if you need wireless now it's a great peripheral.
     
  7. Joe Spratley

    Joe Spratley Stunt Coordinator

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    I have the PS2 and Xbox logitech's. The xbox version is better. The ps2 thumbsticks are spaced too far apart and don't have a rubber coating so its easy for your thumbs to slip off in intense action. The dpad isn't as accurate as the xbox version. Battery life seems to be ok on both. There's a new charging system on the market that I recommend for these. It is the Rayovac 15 minute system. It will fully charge AA and AAA batteries in 15 minutes or if you can't wait that long it will charge them to 50% in 5 minutes. Great when the batteries start going dead in the middle of a game. Just pause the game put the batteries in for a few minutes and your good to go. Overall I like the logitech's. The xbox live issue is frustrating though. I have tried several wireless headsets and none of them have worked very well. Ebgames has a wireless headset listed that is supposed to be coming out but every time I check on it the date keeps getting pushed back.
     
  8. AlexanderS

    AlexanderS Second Unit

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    For all you Costco members out there, they were selling a 2 pack of Pelican wireless controllers for both the Xbox and PS2 for only $50. The Pelicans have been favorably reviewed and, although not as nice as the Logitechs, could probably hold their own in a head to head. Don't know if stores have any left since they have been on sale since November but it might be worth a look. Just a heads up.
     
  9. Matthew Perry

    Matthew Perry Stunt Coordinator

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    Jay

    Excellent review! [​IMG]
     
  10. TimG

    TimG Second Unit

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    Good review. I have had a Pelican since they came out, and never had a problem with it. Although I will agree that the rumble just isn't as intense as a wired one. I would have gotten the logitech but the Pelican was only 30 bucks at the time.

    TimG
     

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