Trying out budget controllers can be like sampling discounted oysters from some guy at a street corner. Yes, there’s a chance that you might get a decent product at a good price. Then again, there’s also the potential for a stomach-churning experience filled with pounds of seething, bitter regret. In fact, the latter has been mostly true in my case, leading me to swear off budget controllers and just pay the extra dough for the real (and official) deal. So when a review unit of Performance Designed Products’ Rock Candy Xbox 360 controller came in the mail, well, let’s just say that if my expectations were any lower, they’d be hanging out with Jack Dawson. Then I tried it out.
For starters, the Rock Candy controller is quite colorful to say the least. Designed as an homage to the candy it’s named after, the controller features a bright plastic shell that comes in green, blue and pink. The shells are also transparent, allowing players to view the controller’s insides. The look itself is likely going to be a love-hate thing. While some might appreciate the bright transparent look, others might think it’s a bit too kiddy.
As its name implies, however, the most important thing for a controller is how it controls. The Rock Candy got started off on the right track thanks to its feel. Budget controllers I’ve had before were typically light and felt flimsy. In contrast, the Rock Candy controller has nice heft and feels quite solid. The overall shape also tries to mimic that of the official Xbox controller quite well. With the exception of the more sharply rounded back, the Rock Candy controller does a pretty good job of approximating the standard Xbox gamepad.
The dual joysticks and triggers are also well done. They have have a bit more give than the official controllers but have a nicer feel and more resistance than some of the cheaper third-party controllers I’ve tried. In short, I’m chalking up the joysticks and triggers as another positive for this gamepad. This brings us to the buttons. While they’re not bad per se, they do have a more clicky feel — a common issue for budget controllers. In contrast the official controllers have a smoother feel when you push against them. Still, the clickiness is not as bad as other budget controllers I’ve used before.
Another issue, albeit a minor one, is the wonky positioning of the “Start” and “Select” buttons. I’m not sure if it’s just a matter of PDP trying to be different but the two buttons are located higher, which just feels strange and not as ergonomic if you’re used to the official controller. The white plastic material used for the triggers and joysticks also look a bit cheap.
Still, at just $25, the Rock Candy is a solid third-party controller that is $15 cheaper compared to the official wired version of the Xbox 360 controller. And just like Microsoft’s wired controller, you can also plug the Rock Candy to a PC or laptop’s USB port and it will work with games that are compatible with a gamepad (games like Diablo III and Guild Wars 2, for example, do NOT work with gamepads unless you’re using a mod). In fact, I primarily use it as a secondary laptop controller (this is a portable electronics site, after all) during multiplayer sessions of games such as Phantasy Star Online 2 with relatives. Basically, this is the controller everyone fights for once the official wired controller I have is already taken. In short, while it isn’t quite as good as the official wired gamepad, this is actually one of the better third-party budget controllers out there. It’s definitely much better than, say, the Gamestop-branded controller I bought several years back, which was so underwhelming, I honestly don’t even know where it is any more. Give it a look if you’re looking for an affordable wired gamepad for your Xbox 360 or computer.
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