Anyone who plays games a lot – and I mean a lot, upwards of 20 hours a week – knows that while controllers are pretty robust, they don’t last forever. Most people will, at some point or another, need to either replace a controller or buy a second or third one. Trouble is, they’re not cheap. You’re also contending with a very busy market; there are tons of different brands, models and makes, and picking the right one can be tricky. But you can’t go far wrong with PowerA and their range of Spectra Enhanced Wired Controllers.
I’ve had the pleasure of trying out a couple of these controllers: the Spectra for Nintendo Switch and the Spectra Infinity for Xbox, and I’m pretty impressed with both. In fact, I’d probably go so far as to say they’re among the best third-party controllers I’ve reviewed recently. While they are for different consoles, the design is so similar that what applies to one applies to the other. The only real difference is on the console side, because plugging a USB into the Switch is decidedly more awkward than on the Xbox.
Actually that’s a good place to start, because the only real caveat here is that these controllers are wired. I know a lot of people prefer wireless, but there’s not much of a downside to using a wire if you have the space for it and don’t mind them dragging. On the positive side, you won’t have to charge them or swap the batteries in the middle of a boss fight.
The Spectra is a good looking controller, too. It has a matte black finish, and the Infinity in particular could be easily mistaken for a branded controller. They feel great in your hands, too, weighty and solid, which for me is very important in a controller. I like the feedback of feeling something sturdy in hand when I’m gaming. Button layout is identical to an Xbox or Switch Pro Controller, although there’s a couple of mappable turbo switches on the back side of the pad for extra personalisation. Both also have capture and share buttons in the same place you’d find them on first-party pads.
One thing that stood out immediately was how much I didn’t notice I was using a third-party pad. That might not make much sense, but usually something feels just slightly off about using a non-branded controller. The buttons are either too deep or too shallow, or there’s an issue with the triggers clicking or the sticks having too much dead-zone. The Spectra feels almost identical to an Xbox pad, and that makes a major difference. The Infinity also allows you to lock your trigger-depth, which is a feature you don’t know you need until you try it. The split-second difference it makes can tip the scales in twitch-based games like shooters or fighters.
I’m also a sucker for RGB lighting, and the 8-colour LEDs in the PowerA Spectra allow for customisable light displays that highlight the edges of the pad, sticks, buttons and d-pad. It may not be all that important for you, but it’s a nice touch and the colours are impressive against the black finish. Being able to programme three separate zones on the controller adds a further element of razzle-dazzle that I wasn’t expecting.
Overall, for less than £40 the only thing you’re losing out on is time wasted changing batteries. The PowerA Spectra Enhanced Wired Controller is a fantastic alternative to branded controllers for either Xbox or Nintendo Switch. Ergonomic, comfortable and good-looking, these feature-rich gamepads are well worth a look if you’re after a replacement controller or a second pad for gaming with friends.