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access_time April 10, 2019 at 9:00 AM in PC/Mac by David Poole

Review | Astro C40 TR Gaming Controller

High-end gaming controllers have really come a long way this generation, with Microsoft’s Elite controller setting a bar for standard features. With Microsoft creating a solid foundation, Astro Gaming set out to find a solution for the PlayStation 4 that would not only pay take inspiration from the Elite controller, but improve upon it in practically every way. Their result? The Astro C40 TR controller.

Having plenty of experience making various headsets, Astro had always wanted to step into the realm of controllers. Given the opportunity, they set off to research what gamers truly wanted in a controller. Speaking to many tournament players, streamers, press, and staff alike, they gathered enough data to formulate a solid game plan. Not only did the listen to various issues, but they also took their own ideas and their own technology to go above and beyond.

One of the issues that Astro wanted to address was the problem of analog stick drifting. Speaking to a lot of gamers, one of the most common issues was that their sticks would drift on their controllers. This would make the controller basically useless to them and in need of an entire replacement. Not so with the C40, as Astro made it possible to replace analog stick modules entirely. For $20, a player can simply swap out their affected joystick and place a new one, reducing the cost dramatically. Even with that issue, the C40 is made to last, with buttons able to withstand 10 million presses.

The way Astro did this was by making a removable faceplate. This piece, removable with an included screwdriver, allows players to not only remove and replace analog sticks and D-pads, but it also allows for gamers to swap the left analog stick and D-pad positions. This is a game changer for fans of the Xbox controller layout, even just offering new options for PS4 players. Like the Elite controller, the C40 also comes with additional sticks of different lengths to give more options. Unlike the Elite controller however, the C40 does not come with the alternate D-pad “disc” style, giving players the option to purchase it separately. It may be an issue for some, but it really doesn’t detriment the value of the controller.

Another big difference with the C40 in comparison to other controllers on the market is the paddles. Most controllers in this category have four programmable paddles on the back (like the Evil Shift controller). Astro worked with several gamers in both competitive and casual environments and found that most that use controllers like this only really use two paddles on the back. The C40 has the UL and the UR buttons for this, which can be activated with a press from pretty much any angle. They work incredibly well and after various testing, two does seem to be the ideal number. Whether it’s programming V’s Griffon and Shadow familiars to the back in Devil May Cry 5 or programming jump and crouch in Apex Legends, the buttons have a use in many scenarios.

One thing that’s nice with the UL and UR buttons is how easy they are to program. There’s a small button on the back that can be pressed to activate the program mode. All it takes is pressing the UL or UR button, followed by another button to register it, and you’re good to go. The Evil Shift controller made this a little bit more difficult by using the share button as the program button. It’s just nice that the C40 has its own dedicated button for the job. It makes it easy to change on the fly, even in the middle of a game. Even better that it works well with the larger form factor of the controller. It really just feels nice to have in your hands. The trigger stops on the back are also great, giving hair trigger precision with ease with a simple toggle.

Another useful feature is the profile switch, allowing users to swap between two separate profiles. Not only can this be used with the programmed UL and UR buttons, but it can also work with the special C40 software. When plugging the C40 into the computer, users can use the software to go even further in customizing the settings. Want to adjust the trigger and analog stick sensitivity? You can make it so fine-tuned that a slight push can be equivalent to a considerable one. Adjust the rumble sensitivity in both sides, even the brightness of the LED light on the touchpad.

The software even allows customization of the audio, which makes sense given Astro’s pedigree in sound quality. The controller has access to its own EQ settings for any headset you plug into the 3.5mm jack. You can also use this to adjust the microphone sensitivity and speaker volume, similar to the settings on the PlayStation 4 for the DualShock controller. Lastly, the software allows users to map buttons however they wish. Overall, Astro took that extra level of detail and applied it to the C40 with a fantastic set of options.

When using the controller, players will have the option to use it in either wired or wireless mode. The C40 has a handy little switch to toggle between both options, and obviously for wired mode, players will have to use a micro USB cable. Interestingly enough, while we couldn’t pinpoint the exact latency, both wired and wireless modes have better response time than the standard DualShock controller. Even playing in wireless mode, the difference is almost nonexistent. The controller comes with a USB adapter that works well for wireless mode and even helps to transmit high-fidelity wireless audio to the controller. Top it off with over 12 hours of battery life and you have a controller that suits many needs.

Now, as amazing as the C40 controller is, there are still some drawbacks. Since the controller doesn’t utilize some of the same systems as a traditional DualShock, it lacks a few features. One that may be immediately noticeable is the fact that the PS button can’t turn on the PlayStation 4. This is in both wired and wireless modes. Another feature missing is the light bar, which means the C40 isn’t very compatible with certain PlayStation VR gamers. That isn’t to say it wouldn’t work in games like Resident Evil VII or Ace Combat 7. Finally, there is the lack of a battery indicator, as there is no on-screen aid to tell players the battery is about to die. A lot of this is due to the design, but luckily, most of these issues can be avoided.

When all’s said and done, the Astro C40 TR is a new gold standard in the high-end controller space. It takes almost every aspect of the Xbox Elite controller and goes the extra mile for the PS4 and PC. It has a handful of issues, but gamers buying this controller for the intended purpose likely won’t run into them. For $199.99 MSRP, it can seem like a costly price of admission. For what you get however, it’s well worth it and highly recommended. This isn’t just an answer to the Elite controller on the PS4; it’s a modern marvel in the controller market. It’s easily one of the most, if not the most impressive controller money can buy.

Final Score: 9.5 out of 10


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