I have owned a PS3 for over two years. Other than the occasional game of Little Big Planet with the kids I don’t play it. There are a number of little reasons why. It mainly boils down to one detail- I can’t stand the PS3 controller. To be fair this is nothing new. I had a real problem with both the PS2 controller and the PSone controller. From the first time I picked up a PS3 controller I noticed its design caused me pain over a very short time. I am not talking Nintendo Thumb here. After less than 20 minutes of use, I get cramps in my hands and wrists and my forearms start to hurt. I never had this type of pain playing with any other controller. The Playstation controller has become the main barrier of entry for me to enjoy games on my PS3.
After a tip from ElektraFi that a company makes PS3 controllers with the Xbox 360 layout, I started looking around online. I found a number of different controllers but being in Canada seemed to really limit my choices. I was also pretty disappointed in the initial reviews that I read for most of them. After a little more digging around I decided on the dreamGEAR Shadow 6.
Once it arrived, and after I unboxed it, I realized it was more of a hybrid between the two controllers than an outright 360 clone. The outward shape of the Controller S design is one of my favourite to hold. The Shadow 6 mimics this design. It has soft coating on the outside, rubberized palm rests, a nice weight to it and it fits nicely into my palms. The extended side supports are at a nice angle that made reaching the thumbsticks and buttons easy and natural without putting any strain on my wrists. I find with the stock PS3 controller that I have to roll my hand around to hit the face buttons with my thumb...especially the circle button. To be clear, I am not a mutant with abnormally large hands or anything. I just feel the buttons are too close to the edge. The Shadow 6 buttons are easily accessible and feel intuitive. I can keep the controller resting in my palms and hit everything on the face without swinging or rolling my hands away.
The power button in the middle lights up as it does on the Xbox controller. It also borrows the quadrant ring design and Microsoft player notification. The more brightly lit quadrant identifies which player you are. Unfortunately, the entire ring is transparent so it appears the whole ring glows. You must look pretty closely to see which quadrant is lit up. The controller also lacks numbers around the quadrant ring. If you are not familiar with how the 360 controller scheme works the Shadow 6 scheme won’t make sense right out of the gate. As you would expect, pressing the middle button brings up the home screen as well as the battery life indicator.
The shoulder buttons and triggers on the Shadow 6 are slightly different than both the 360 and PS3 designs. The L1 and R1 are narrower and longer than the Playstation controller but they are not tapered nor shaped like the 360 controller either. I found this to be a little easier to land on versus the stock design. The shoulder buttons were responsive with every game I played. The L2 and R2 triggers are wider than the stock PS3 triggers and feature a concave design at the bottom to hold your finger in place. I really like this feature as I always find my fingers slipping off the PS3 triggers. I found this design makes them easy to grab and does not affect the triggers’ responsiveness.
The thumbsticks are convex, and if you prefer the PS3 design, you are in luck! If you prefer the concave design, as I do, you will find the thumbsticks a little hard to control. dreamGEAR stiffened up the sticks on the Shadow 6. Initially, I was quite happy about this design decision. I always felt the PS3 thumbsticks to be too loose to be anywhere near accurate. This is especially true with any driving or racing game I ever played. With the Shadow 6 thumbsticks I felt like I had more control. It wasn’t as easy to slam them back and forth and I could be more precise with my turns. However, I assume PS3 shooters are tuned for the looser stock thumbsticks as it seemed quicker to aim and get a shot off with the stock controller. This was disappointing initially but I eventually learned to compensate. As much as I like the stiffer sticks on the Shadow 6, I believe looser thumbsticks, or at least a happy medium between the two, would have been a better design choice.
When I first unpacked my PS3 I couldn’t believe my eyes. A rechargeable battery in the controller and a 4 foot cord?!?! My Xbox play and charge kit has a 9 foot cord! If the batteries died and I didn’t feel like plugging it in, I could always replace the handy double A’s. The Shadow 6 comes equipped with a rechargeable battery as well although I was really hoping for a longer cable. I more or less got my wish. The controller is packaged with a 6 foot cable but it doesn’t make it to my couch...where I sit...to play games. On the plus side, dreamGEAR didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The controller uses the same mini USB profile as the stock controller so I can use either cord to charge it or easily find a longer one online.
Battery life is actually quite respectable. I played with it for a good nine hours and according to the battery life indicator I was only down two bars.
Rumble in the Jungle
As any respectable third party controller for the PS3 should, the Shadow 6 includes both rumble and SIXAXIS(TM) control. The SIXAXIS(TM) works fine and, while the rumble rumbles, the rumble felt off. I can’t say it was bad...just different. It is hard to quantify. It’s like driving a car that’s not your own. The feeling from the tires through the steering wheel is different as you drive along taking turns, stopping and going. That is how the rumble felt...different.
We’ve made a connection
The controller’s wireless operates on the 2.4ghz band. I have wireless headphones and phones, cell phones and wireless networking all operating at the same time and I never had an issue. I experienced no lag or any unusual dropping of the signal. The Shadow 6 was rock solid the entire time. It did leave me wondering, however, why other companies don’t utilize the PS3 bluetooth connections.
The Shadow 6 connects via a dongle plugged into one of the PS3’s USB ports. If you have a Slim like me that leaves you one remaining USB port. This is not a big deal unless you are charging one controller and need to charge the Shadow 6 as well. As it happened, I experienced this exact scenario. My youngest daughter needed to charge her controller while my oldest daughter used the Shadow 6 when it was running low. We worked around it but it was a rather large pain in the arse.
Initial connection couldn’t have been easier as the dongle and the controller synced with each other right away. All was well and good until I noticed the dongle sticking out past the front face of the PS3. This is an issue in my house as we have a sliding glass door on our AV cabinet that people (kids, wife and me) tend to open with much force. I envision that door side swiping the dongle and breaking it. Why not just push the PS3 back you ask? The distance I would have to push it back make the PS3 face buttons harder to reach. This is due to my AV cabinet configuration. It in no way affects the performance of the controller but it is a concern if your setup is somewhat like mine.
If you leave the dongle in (and why wouldn’t you?) the Shadow 6 always defaults to player one. It defaults to player one even if the controller isn’t on. While the Shadow 6 was off, I picked up another controller, turned it on and it registered as player two. I had to remove the dongle and wait 30 seconds before I could register as player one with another controller. A little annoyance? Yes, but when you have kids who have “their” controllers, little things like that can start wars!
All in all the dreamGEAR Shadow 6 is a great controller for those of us who have issues with the PS3 stock controller setup. The design and feel are great and, for the price I bought it at, it can’t be beat. The only faults I found were the dongle sticking out and the controller defaulting to player one. I shouldn’t have to remove the dongle after each session to solve the problem as that defeats the purpose.
The Shadow 6 comes in two flavors: Black and Desert Camo. Its MSRP on www.dreamgear.net is $59.99 USD. In an effort to bring full disclosure I would never buy any controller at full price. I always wait for sales. I found it first at www.bestbuy.com for $32.18 USD. However, being in Canada I didn’t have a lot of hope I might find it. I was wrong as I hit up www.bestbuy.ca and picked mine up for $34.99 CDN shipped.
This is a great controller. It plays very well and can be had for almost half the MSRP of $59.99 online.
dreamGEAR, LLC www.dreamgear.net