Out now – RRP £29.99/$39.99

Buying controllers for consoles has become an incredibly expensive endeavour. I don’t recall it being so bad in previous generations, but the tech loaded in to controllers these days, including stuff like cameras in Joy-Cons or the touchpad on a PS4 controller means that the cost seems to have skyrocketed in comparison to previous generations.

Though the Xbox One controller is a hefty, solid and dependable peripheral, there’s not as much in terms of visible innovation in the first party controller. That’s not a bad thing – after all, the Xbox 360 controller was, until the Xbox One version, my favourite controller for playing not just on my console but on my PC too.

Because of this lack of – what could be perceived as – gimmicks, I think the third party Xbox One controllers tend to be a safer bet, certainly features-wise, than those for other current gen consoles. Also because of this, it does perhaps take a little more for a controller to stand out and catch the eye.

Enter PowerA’s Spectra Illuminated Controller. It’s a wired device, which has positives – no batteries, for one thing – and negatives (being tethered is a pain in this day and age!), but does have an absolutely wonderful visual design when in use.

Let’s start with that visual style, shall we? The Spectra comes with two separate light areas on the console, one around the larger Xbox menu button and the other area where the controller is held. Each can be set to cycle either abruptly or more gently between colours (independently too, so you can have the colours cycling differently in each area at the same time) or set to a specific colour (again, using whichever colour you choose in each area). It’s a really striking effect no matter which mode you choose and definitely makes the controller very attractive from a visual standpoint. The lights are controlled by three buttons on the underside of the controller, with a button controlling each lit area and a third that controls the brightness, with four levels available.

None of this would matter if the controller itself was awful to use of course, but thankfully that’s not the case. Though, not unsurprisingly, nowhere near as solid as a standard, first party controller, it doesn’t feel flimsy or plasticky where it counts – though the metallic area in the centre of the controller does look somewhat cheap when not illuminated, it doesn’t take away from the general feel of the controller when in play.

The triggers and buttons are responsive and again, though not as premium in feel as the first party example, certainly don’t feel like low end, budget components.

The analogue sticks are nicely textured and work well in practice too. No complaints at all from that point of view.

Though it is a wired controller, the cable is an excellent length – close to 10ft/3m – and feels robust. Given the choice, I’d tend to usually opt for a wireless controller as it gives you a lot more freedom in terms of how comfortably you can play, but this controllers cable is a decent enough length that it doesn’t matter too much, to be honest.

As is generally the case with Xbox One controllers, this one will also work on your PC without any fuss, being recognised as an Xbox controller with corresponding button prompts for many games.

Though I’ve mentioned several times that this controller doesn’t match the first party version in size, weight and the general feeling of reliability, it’s not trying to directly compete; rather, it’s a nicely designed and surprisingly attractive alternative at close to half the price of a standard first party controller. The light effects are striking and nicely pleasing, with 225 colour combinations available; this does give it an appeal, especially in the price range it falls into.

With a 3.5mm headphone jack also being included, it’s a nicely featured, well designed product; not a surprise from PowerA, who have a reputation for excellent, lower cost peripherals. A great alternative if you can’t quite stretch to the cost of an official controller.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this – or any of my other content – it’d be much appreciated if you’re able to share this article via social media. I’d also be forever grateful if you’re able to support me via: Ko-Fi.com/geekmid or PayPal – all of my work is provided for free and I earn no income from the blog, so any donations are gratefully received and assist me in keeping my writing dream alive. Above all else though, thanks for reading – I truly appreciate it!

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