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8 best PS4 controllers for enhancing your gaming experience

From wireless to Bluetooth or wired, play with more technicality with these models

Jennifer Allen
Monday 14 June 2021 14:22
<p>We tested these for weeks on all of our favourite PS4 games </p>

We tested these for weeks on all of our favourite PS4 games

Your PlayStation 4 might already come with one controller in the box, but there are plenty of other different controllers to choose from if you wish to buy additional devices. Depending on your budget, you can buy a simple wired gamepad that’s best used by children or those with small hands, or you can pick up a more premium-range option in the form of controllers aimed at professional gamers, offering extensive customisation features.

They all perform the same tasks – allowing you to play your PS4 games collection without any bother – but some can feel more comfortable in your hands, and make you feel a little more in control of the action than before thanks to programmable buttons and ergonomic designs. A quick look online or in store demonstrates that there are no shortage of options out there – so how do you know what’s best, and what should you even be looking for?

There are a few considerations to make. Your budget is an important one. It’s possible to spend £20 to £30 on a controller but you can also spend £150 or more on one, too. The pricier options tend to come with programmable buttons or replaceable sticks to make the experience feel far more comfortable for you. Potentially, such expensive purchases could make you play better, but whether this is worth the investment is down to how often you play games.

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It’s also worth thinking about whether you need a wired or wireless controller. Wireless controllers are the dominant option here but it is possible to buy a wired PlayStation 4 controller, and they often cost less than their wireless counterparts. You won’t need to worry about recharging it, but you may find yourself frustrated by cables getting in the way.

Whichever features you end up focusing on, these are the best PlayStation 4 controllers you can buy right now. We tested them over three to four weeks on a variety of different games including Overwatch, Fortnite, God of War, and The Last of Us 2, to check how they performed with different genres – here’s what we found.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

The best PS4 controllers for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Sony dualshock 4 wireless controller: £49.99,
  • Best third-party controller – Nacon revolution unlimited pro controller: £129.99,
  • Best modded controller – Thrustmaster eSwap pro controller: £97.99,
  • Best wired controller – Razer raiju ultimate: £176.49,
  • Best for COD – Astro gaming C40 TR: £189.99,
  • Best Xbox-style PS4 controller – Nacon asymmetric wireless: £49.99,
  • Best for kids – Juego game controller: £30.99,
  • Best for small hands – Hori wired mini gamepad: £23.99,

Sony dualshock 4 wireless controller

Best: Overall

Sony bundles in one official Sony dualshock 4 wireless controller when you buy a PlayStation 4, and it’s a great example of how a controller should be. Moulded in a way that fits into your hands perfectly, no matter what size they are, this controller has been refined over the years through Sony’s previous console iterations. It’s a wireless controller with a USB cable to plug into the console to recharge but, luckily, you won’t have to do this too often unless you’ve been enjoying many marathon gaming sessions.

While the Sony dualshock 4 wireless controller lacks any additional features, it also doesn’t really need them. It has the core complement of buttons along with a button for sharing content online via Twitch, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, plus there’s an ever attractive light bar that you can set to your favourite colour if you wish. A built-in speaker and stereo headset jack means you can easily talk with friends while playing online.

Nacon revolution unlimited pro controller

Best: Third-party controller

Developed with eSports in mind, the Nacon revolution unlimited pro is very reminiscent of the Xbox Elite Controller, and looks like a cross between that and a regular PlayStation 4 controller. It comes with a number of parts so you can customise the size and shape of the controller’s joysticks, and it includes weights so you can enjoy a heftier controller in your hands if that’s what feels right to you.

Other neat touches include programmable buttons along the back of the controller so you can map certain inputs to these, feeling a bit more in control than if you were left with the standard options. It feels good too, with the buttons well placed so you soon get used to the extra abilities without feeling like your fingers are squashed. We found it particularly effective when playing FPS games where every reaction counts.

Other neat details include a stylish case for keeping your premium controller safe, and a choice to play wired or wireless. The Nacon Revolution Unlimited Pro is an expensive option for casual gamers but a worthy investment for dedicated souls.

Thrustmaster eSwap pro controller

Best: Modded controller

The Thrustmaster eSwap pro controller is an almost intimidating controller thanks to its unique use of T-Mod and hot swap technology, which means you can swap out certain modules of the controller in exchange for others. It even has a swappable USB cable if you feel like personalising things further. It’s an interesting way of doing things, although it does increase the price as you’ll need to buy additional modules if you want to pursue this route.

Still, the Thrustmaster eSwap pro is speedy and precise every step of the way. It’s ideal for games that require fast reactions such as FPS games or hack and slashers. It’s also possible to adjust the sensitivity of the triggers, as well as set up separate hardware profiles for different games so you can easily swap around. Those that love to tinker will appreciate everything the Thrustmaster eSwap pro controller has to offer. Just bear in mind that larger hands benefit most from its design.

Razer raiju ultimate

Best: Wired controller

Ideally suited for players with larger hands, the Razer raiju ultimate feels gorgeously premium to hold, which is exactly what you should expect at £200. It’s a chunky build but it packs a lot in, including interchangeable thumbstick heights and shapes, along with the choice of a tilting or individual D-Pad layout. Such customisation means you can get it feeling just how your hands need most, making your gaming sessions much comfier than before.

Arguably best of all is the Raiju ultimate’s use of Mecha-Tactile action buttons. It’s an over-the-top name, but essentially means you get to enjoy a soft cushioned finish and tactile feedback whichever button you hit. There’s a choice of either Bluetooth or wired connections with a braided cable ensuring you won’t have to worry about any damage further down the line. There have been reports of some lag issues but we never noticed any during our testing. This is a high-end controller with a high-end price, but if you’re passionate about tournament play, it’ll scratch the itch.

Astro gaming C40 TR

Best: For COD

Another controller with swappable modules, the Astro gaming C40 is aimed at tournament players and those looking to get more involved in eSports. It has integrated remappable buttons on the back so you can set up key functions in a way that means you don’t have to move your fingers around too extensively – something that’s ideal when playing something where every second counts. Trigger stops further enhance this so that players don’t have to hold down the trigger buttons as tightly as with other controllers.

Everything about the Astro gaming C40 TR has been designed with FPS games in mind, and it shows with general performance in-game feeling a little better here thanks to those extra tweaks and additions. A travel case and choice of wireless or wired modes complement the premium feel of the controller.

Nacon asymmetric wireless

Best: Xbox-style PS4 controller

Feeling more akin to an Xbox controller than a PlayStation 4 controller, the Nacon asymmetric wireless is ideal if you’ve never quite got on with the conventional dualshock design. It treads the line between Xbox and PlayStation 4 well, feeling suitably comfy and placing all the controls in just the right place for your fingers.

With a choice of wired or wireless connections, you have a decent amount of flexibility available to you too. Wired generally being better for those games that require minimal input lag like Fortnite or Overwatch, but generally, the wireless connection still feels highly responsive anyhow. This controller might not be remarkable for offering extensive unique features but it’s solidly reliable each step of the way.

Juego game controller

Best: For kids

Available in a range of different colours, the Juego game controller for PS4 is a straightforward device that’s ideal if you’re on a budget or looking to kit the kids out with some more inexpensive controller options. Despite the lower price, it still feels fairly comfortable in your hands, and it looks a lot like a regular official controller too.

The controller also manages to pack in a lot of the key features of the official dualshock 4 controller including an integrated light bar, built-in speaker, and the all-important share button. As an alternative from the official option, it’s a dependable device, even if the colours might not suit more mature gamers.

Hori wired mini gamepad

Best: For small hands

The Hori wired mini gamepad certainly isn’t aimed at adult gamers but it’s ideal for much smaller hands, i.e. children. Designed in a more traditional gamepad way, almost like the NES and SNES controllers of days gone by, it’s easy to hold onto while still offering all the key buttons.

The gamepad offers a rather long three-metre cable and it can easily survive a few knocks, presumably, because of its tightly enclosed design. All these features mean that it’s perfect if you need to have a controller or two spare for your young children or relatives and you don’t want to risk passing over a more expensive and delicate controller.

PS4 controller FAQs

Should I buy a wired or wireless controller?

Whether you want to use a wired or wireless controller depends on how much you care about latency and battery life.

Sony’s official pads connect wirelessly using low-power Bluetooth, so button inputs take a fraction of a millisecond longer to reach the console. Wired pads are faster, though for anyone besides competitive e-sports players the difference is imperceptible.

It’s more important to consider the convenience of wireless controllers versus their wired counterparts. Wireless pads are naturally less restrictive, but need charging and can run out of juice in the middle of a game.

What are “chipped” or “modded” PS4 controllers?

You can buy modified, or “modded”, PS4 controllers containing chips that alter the way the controller performs. They allow you to perform certain button presses that would be physically difficult or impossible to achieve on a regular pad, such as auto-pressing a button hundreds of times per second, or mapping a complex series of inputs to a single button press.

This gives you an unfair advantage over other players in multiplayer games and is considered cheating. Some online games can detect the use of modded controllers and will issue bans to players found to be using them.

Why are PS4 controllers so expensive?

The PS4 controller is a sophisticated piece of electronics, the components of which are in short supply due to the ongoing global shortage of semiconductors. While consoles are often sold at a loss in order to drive game sales, the same isn’t true for additional controllers, which are sold in much smaller numbers and with a profit margin.

Are DualShock 4 controllers discontinued?

No. Though the PS5 launched last year with the DualSense controller, the DualShock 4 controller continues to be produced and sold by Sony and other retailers. This is likely to remain the case for a few years, especially as supply issues have constrained the sale of new PS5 consoles.

The verdict: PS4 controllers

The official Sony dualshock 4 wireless controller is the best of the bunch – it’s reasonably well priced while offering comfortable ergonomics and full compatibility with every PlayStation 4 feature. However, if your budget can stretch further and you want something more high end, we’re also big fans of the Nacon Revolution unlimited pro controller with its wealth of customisation features that ensure you get the ideal experience for you, albeit for a price.

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