Sony has been refining its official PlayStation controllers for years, and PS4’s iteration - the DualShock 4 - is undoubtedly the best it’s ever been, with an ergonomic design and extra functionality like motion controls and a touchpad.
Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and there’s now a whole ecosystem of third-party PlayStation 4 controllers that offer something a little different. Whether you want a high-end pad for tournament play or something cheap and cheerful for smaller (or less careful) hands, there should be something for you.
Remember that you can use the official DualShock 4 on PC, and most third-party controllers will work on a computer too - the only exception in our round-up is Hori's budget Mini Wired Gamepad - although some perform better than others.
PlayStation DualShock 4
Let’s start with ol’ faithful: the DualShock 4. While Microsoft has unleashed untold variations on its base Xbox One controller, Sony has (mostly) resisted the urge with the DualShock 4, only releasing one update to the pad - clearly recognising that this is a great enough controller that it doesn’t need constant tweaks, refinements, or a fancy Elite version.
The aesthetic is classic PlayStation, and at first glance you might think the functionality is basically the same too, with the standard face buttons, D-pad, analogue sticks, and shoulder triggers. You’ll also find the Options and Share buttons. It works wirelessly, charges by microUSB, and has a perfectly respectable battery life.
There’s more under the hood than that though. There are motion controls (even if not that many games use them), a light bar that changes colour to match in-game events, and a touch pad that doubles as a button. More recent versions of the controller (since 2016) also make the light bar slightly visible through the touch pad, rather than limiting it to the back of the controller.
The updated DualShock 4 isn’t a big enough improvement to ever justify an upgrade, but if you need to replace a broken controller, or want to pick up a second for local multiplayer, there are a lot of reasons to just grab an official one. It’s cheaper than most of the competition, now comes in a decent range of colours, and you know it’s just going to work.
Scuf Impact PS4 Controller
The standard DualShock 4 is all well and good, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra you can get a lot more bang for your buck. And for our money, some of the absolute best PS4 controllers out there come from Scuf.
The company offers two basic models of PS4 controller: the Impact and the Infinity4PS Pro. We’ve tested out the Impact, which takes its design cues from the Xbox One pad, but check out the Infinity if you prefer a more traditional DualShock shape - at the cost of fewer rear paddles.
Either way, customisability is Scuf’s first, most obvious selling point. You can design your controller in just about any colour scheme you can imagine, including button and thumbstick colours, and even add a textured grip to the rear of the pad.
More advanced options including picking your thumbsticks (domed or concave, long or regular), choosing between a D-pad or a control disc, adding adjustable hair triggers, remapping the rear paddles on the fly, and even removing the rumble to make the controller lighter and more accurate.
The thumbsticks can be quickly swapped out at home, while the triggers offer even more flexibility - not only can you swap between regular and extended trigger covers, but if you opt for the trigger kit you can also set a trigger stop to reduce trigger movement and finely tune the hair triggers for the perfect response.
Each of these additions adds to the cost, so the fussier you are the more you’ll pay. It might be worth it though, because the quality is exceptional - Scuf’s pads feel well-built, they’re reliable, and they just play damn well. Whether you’re serious about competitive play or just want to treat yourself, right now Scuf is as good as it gets.
Nacon Revolution Unlimited Pro
The Revolution Unlimited Pro isn’t Nacon’s first attempt at a high-end controller for consoles and PC, but it is arguably the best. That’s mainly down to just how customisable the controller is, with many drawing comparisons between it and Microsoft’s high-end Xbox One Elite controller.
It’s not hard to see why – the officially licensed Nacon Revolution Unlimited Pro does sport the general form factor preferred by Microsoft’s console, though distinct PS4 features (including the touchpad and light bar) are present and accounted for. It sports a gorgeous matte finish on the front, with a grippy material on the rear to stop the controller slipping in your sweaty hands during intense online gaming moments. There’s even dedicated volume and mic controls on the rear, and that’s not something we’ve seen with many controllers.
It’s certainly not garish like other controllers in our chart, sporting an understated look with a single LED ring around the right analogue stick that gives the controller a bit of character.
Of course, looks are only second to functionality, and the Revolution Unlimited Pro doesn’t disappoint here either. As well as being able to customise the four additional buttons on the rear, you can swap out the analogue sticks and add additional weights to make the controller feel more substantial, but the real magic happens when you connect it to your Mac or PC.
Via Nacon’s Revolution Unlimited Pro app, you can take the customisation even further. You can adjust the vibration on a per-motor basis, adjust the sensitivity and dead-band of each trigger, remap any button on the controller and adjust the response curve of your analogue sticks – and that’s only scratching the surface of the suite of features the app offers.
It goes without saying that gamers need different controls and response times depending on the game, which is why Nacon allows you to switch between four customisable profiles with a simple button press.
You can also switch between wired and wireless mode (using the provided dongle), and switch between standard PS4, advanced PS4, and PC control modes. Yes, you read that right, the Nacon Revolution Unlimited Pro is compatible with PC alongside PS4, making it the perfect controller for cross-platform gamers. One controller to rule them all, and all that.
Razer Raiju Ultimate
Razer's original Raiju - which is no longer on sale - was a promising attempt at a premium PS4 controller marred only by a frustrating insistence on wired play, a bulky design, and a high price point.
With the Raiju Ultimate, Razer has added wireless play, (slightly) streamlined the design, and, uh, actually made the price even higher, but there you go.
There's good reason for that, to be fair. The Raiju Ultimate takes Microsoft's Xbox Elite controller as inspiration, and goes from there. Like that pad it comes with a heavy duty carry case, interchangeable thumbsticks and D-pad, and a choice between wired or Bluetooth play, with a switch on the back to quickly flick between modes (including a PC Bluetooth option if you want to use it away from your PS4).
The whole feel is just as premium as the Xbox Elite controller too. This is weighty and slick, with a smoother, rounder design than the last Raiju. It's also all-black, losing the blue accents, and has improved mechanical face buttons which feel satisfyingly clicky and tactile.
Like you'd expect, there are additional customisable buttons here - like the previous Raiju there are two additional shoulder buttons and two on the rear. Unlike most other controllers, you can't re-program those using the pad itself though - you need to use the Raiju smartphone app, which lets you create and save multiple profiles which you can then switch between on the fly from the controller.
That app is also used for the Ultimate's most unique feature: support for Razer's Chroma lighting effects, which run in a small strip around the touch pad. You can use the app to link certain colours and effects to specific profiles, with the usual suite of animations and colour cycling options from other Razer products.
There's a lot to recommend the Raiju Ultimate then, but a few big downsides too. First, at £200 it's about the same price as the console itself, and will be well out of most people's price range. It's also not even out in the US, so American gamers are out of luck.
Another irritation is that the audio functionality doesn't work when using the pad over Bluetooth - even if the headphones are wired. So your only headset option is a high-end set like Razer's own Thresher that connects straight to the console, not via the controller. The Raiju also suffered a few technical issues in its early days - lag and control stick drift primarily. Subsequent firmware updates have put those issues to bed in our review unit, but we'd understand anyone nervous about dropping £200 on the pad.
We also made a quick unboxing and first impressions video with the controller at Gamescom, so give it a watch for a better look at the controller.
Razer Raiju Tournament
If the Raiju Ultimate is a little steep for your taste, then consider the Tournament Edition, which packs a lot of the same features for £50 less - though understandably drops some along the way.
The two main features you miss out on are the Chroma lighting and the interchangeable D-pad and thumbsticks - everything in the Tournament edition is fixed in place. That basically means this model is much less customisable, but performance is otherwise similar. You also don't get the carry case - which perversely means this isn't very good for carrying round to tournaments, despite the name.
The other big difference you'll spot straight away is that the Tournament model uses an Xbox-style thumbstick layout, so regardless of the other features you may prefer this over the Ultimate if that's the style you're used to. You also get some other colour options: in addition to black there's Quartz Pink (pictured) and Mercury White, which goes some way to making up for the lack of RGB lighting.
Beyond that things are familiar: a premium-feel gamepad with mechanical switches, four extra remappable buttons, app support for customising settings, and both wired and Bluetooth functionality. As with the Ultimate, audio output doesn't work over wireless play though.
Evil Shift for PS4
We’ve got to admit, Evil Controllers’ Evil Shift for PS4 is a personal favourite of ours. The star of the show is undoubtedly the innovative paddle system the controller utilises, as it’s different from standard paddle systems found on other controllers.
Rather than using flappy paddles, the Shift features smaller, ergonomically shaped paddles that are mounted directly on top of activator buttons. This provides lightning-quick response time, even with the smallest amount of pressure. It doesn’t matter if you hit the paddle at an awkward angle either, as it picks up input from almost any angle.
It features one of the simplest remapping systems we’ve ever used too; rather than requiring an app or additional accessory to remap buttons, you need simply hold the Share button and the paddle you’d like to remap, then select the button you’d like to assign. It takes a couple of seconds, and apart from having a few more screenshots in our PS4 library than we’d like, it’s the ideal solution.
The Evil Shift also features hairpin triggers that feature a 50 percent reduction in trigger tension, increasing reaction time with only a fraction of the required pressure. It allows you to respond quickly, although we’ve found them to be a little too sensitive at times (we’ve rested our fingers on the triggers and accidentally activated them on more than one occasion).
You’ll also find impressive ‘quick-touch technology’ embedded beneath the buttons on the controller. The buttons require less pressure to activate than a standard PS4 controller, and reduces the distance of button travel. It’s impressive, offering increased reaction times and a rather satisfying mouse-click noise too.
You can also opt for interchangeable thumbsticks, with Evil Controllers offering up to three sets of sticks, each a slightly different length. This gives you a wider surface area and thus greater control over the analogue sticks, ideal for budding snipers and stealth fanatics alike. Oh, and there’s also a range of soft-touch colour finishes to choose from (at extra cost) which feel amazing in the hand.
Nacon Asymmetric Wireless
While the majority of PS4 controllers on the market sport the same basic design, Nacon's Asymmetric Wireless, as the name suggests, offers something a little different.
The Asymmetric Wireless is the perfect solution for those that prefer the general shape and design of the Xbox One controller, sporting an off-set analogue stick and wider grips while still featuring PS4-exclusive features including the Touch Bar and Light Bar - although it's more of a small indicator LED than a standard bar.
The wide-set design allows for a better overall grip of the controller, especially during long gaming sessions, and the concaved analogue sticks provide improved input accuracy.
The general build quality is decent, with Nacon detailing on the Touch Bar and analogue sticks that help it portray the premium look Nacon is after, although we were a little surprised at the lack of rubber grips on the rear - something very common amongst third-party controllers at most price points.
The Asymmetric Wireless is, as many would've guessed, wireless. You'll get around seven hours of use before needing a top-up, and takes around an hour and a half to charge up via microUSB.
There is a catch though; the controller connects via USB dongle and not standard Bluetooth like the DualShock 4. While it's not an issue most of the time, it does limit the controller's ability to remotely turn on the PS4 - and you'll have to sacrifice a USB port too. The good news is that the dongle and controller are also compatible with PC, allowing you to use a single controller across both platforms.
You'll also find a standard 3.5mm headphone port on the controller for both audio and chat purposes, just like the standard DualShock 4 controller.
But while it's packed full of features, there are some notable omissions, namely the lack of motion sensors and the built-in speaker, hindering use with games that require those functions.
Hori Mini Wired Gamepad for PS4
Here’s something a little different. Hori’s Mini Wired Gamepad has none of the bells and whistles of the high-end controllers - in fact it’s even missing a few features from the standard DualShock 4, including PC support.
What it does offer, though, is a simple wired gamepad that’s built for smaller (and clumsier) hands. The features are reduced, but so is the price, coming in at approximately half the price of a DS4.
Available in black, red, or blue, the mini gamepad seems to take its cues equally from retro controllers and the more recent Switch Joy-Con design, with a simple blocky shape that’s about half the size of a typical controller.
All the usual buttons are present and correct, but more advanced features are missing: there’s no light bar, headphone jack, speaker, motion controls, or rumble. The touch pad is also removed but its functionality is kept by letting you simulate certain functions using a combination of a new touch pad button and the thumbsticks.
Hori and Sony are pitching this for kids, and it’s easy to see why. The blocky, sturdy design should survive the worst of younger players’ abuses, and stripping out more complex features just means there are fewer moving parts to break. The 3m cable also makes it a bit harder for them to throw the pad across a room - or just run off with it.
However, the compact size also means the Hori pad could be a compelling proposition for any adult gamers who just happen to have smaller hands, or potentially for some with accessibility issues. It could also make a great back-up travel controller, as it’s more likely to survive getting knocked around in a suitcase.
The stripped back feature set means this doesn’t really make sense as a spare or replacement controller for the average player, but for anyone who’s not well served by the DualShock 4 or its high-end counterparts, Hori’s Mini Wired Gamepad could be a great buy.