I’ve always wanted to love love DualSenseSony’s fairly groundbreaking controller revision for the PlayStation5. And yet, I admit, because even when I played the PS5 pre-release, I had my doubts. Those feelings persist to this day – but now Sony has a new breed of DualSense, an expensive premium version of the pad, and it’s hands down the best version of this controller. It’s arguably the best ‘elite’ controller offering on the market – watch out, Xbox.
But let’s deal with the elephant in the room first, okay? My main issue with the original DualSense was battery life, and I’m sorry to inform you that the DualSense Edge isn’t any better – in fact, it’s worse. Very early in the PS5’s life, I mused that all those extra bells and whistles on the PS5 controller – lights, haptics, resistant triggers, motion sensing – were all nice, but overall I’d trade most of it for a controller with better battery life. I generally stand by that opinion, especially with how I’ve seen those features used, with the truly groundbreaking applications of it being few and far between – Astrobot, still the gold standard in years!
But I digress. If, like me, you had a problem with the DualSense’s battery life, the bad news is that the Edge won’t make a difference to that complaint. However, the DualSense Edge is packed with other useful features and a really strong build quality – and that makes me forgive the battery life that much more and get on with it. It’s definitely my favorite PS5 controller right now; I ignore my originals.
So, what about those extra features? First of all, there are a lot of bits in this controller, and a lot of them are interchangeable. So if you want to switch out the analog stick heads, for example, you can – with two variations in style and a few more in height in the box. You can even remove the entire stick module yourself – and while there are no replacements in the basic set, the pitch is clear: if a stick breaks, starts to float beyond repair, or you want a different design, you’ll be able to get a replacement stick later modules for £20 and swap them out, keeping the same controller. This is a step up from most other Premium controllers on the market, although we’ve looked at a similar offering from Turtle Beach.
Unfortunately, the controller as supplied won’t let you use it with just one stick installed, and so that may never be possible unless Sony releases some kind of ‘cover plate’ to replace the sticks. I saw the argument for removing and emptying both sticks for a fighting game or a retro 2D game, say, to remove junk that won’t be used over the D-Pad. Due to the design of the controller, the D-Pad is static – it cannot be moved. So it is not possible to switch to an Xbox or Nintendo style stick layout. That’s a shame, but the functionality that’s here is nice.
There are two flappy paddle trigger points on the back of the controller, although they aren’t permanent fixtures. Instead, you clip in a trigger of your choice, one on each side. As with the stick heads, the box includes two different variations, a subtler variant similar to the one found on Xbox’s Elite controller and a higher profile version
There’s the standard trigger depth adjustment system on many controllers, with three depth steps for each trigger. Of course, on shallower settings you lose the adaptive triggers and their haptic feedback, but on the default settings those features are still available, which is impressive in itself.
Interchangeable parts are a tricky thing, because any part of a device like this that isn’t somehow permanently welded in place is a potential weak point. Controllers get dropped, sat on and sometimes thrown, especially with a new Street Fighter just around the corner – but the DualSense Edge feels great, strong – even when it’s in pieces.
Let me take the interchangeable analog sticks as an example. These things don’t come off accidentally. To get to them, a little fiddly switch that you’ll probably use a pen or needle to open has to be flipped at the back, releasing the front shroud that holds the sticks. For many modular controllers that would be enough, but if you look closer you’ll see that the DualSense Edge has little metal switches that lock the sticks in place. These need to be lifted and then the stick will slide out.
Even swapping the stick heads feels… different. On the Xbox Elite controller, the heads are held in place magnetically, and I’ve lost stick heads for weeks after the controller hits the deck and a head shoots across the floor. The magnetic thing is cool and easier to swap out, but the Edge instead had them snap firmly into place. It’s scary at first, as removing and replacing the stick heads requires quite a bit of force – but once you get used to it, you realize how good and sturdy it feels.
In what feels like an admission that battery life is terrible, the cable that connects to the controller is ‘lockable’, meaning you won’t accidentally pull it out if you get too animated during a FIFA match or something like that. I’d rather just have a controller with better battery life, but I appreciate this as a feature, and it has a robust and luscious feel again.
When you first connect the DualSense Edge to a PS5, the console will display a menu full of customization options and helpful tutorials guiding you through what the controller can do. Function keys that sit below the analog sticks allow you to switch between custom control schemes without stopping your game. The PS5’s UI is a hit or miss for me, but the functionality and configuration of the software that accompanies the DualSense Edge is smart, easy to use and matches the no-frills premium energy of the controller itself.
Inevitably, what many people want to know is how this compares to the Xbox Elite Series 2, the opposite number of this pad from Microsoft. And… it’s complicated? It’s pretty neck-and-neck in many things, the controllers being relatively evenly matched. You can see that Sony has carefully studied the Xbox version when making this offering.
There’s one big difference between the two – and that’s in how the analog sticks are used. With the Edge they can be removed, but the full potential of this remains unclear until we see whether Sony sells more varied options to replace them. I also think the DualSense Edge feels a little sexier and more premium, both in terms of the controller itself and the accessories and carrying case it comes with. But on Xbox, the Elite Series 2 has adjustable voltage analog sticks, the interchangeable D-Pad configuration, and doesn’t have a woeful battery life. Plus, you can now create custom designs with Xbox Design Lab. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, as they say.
This is all very interesting, because overall I think Xbox has been a little bit better with this hardware. For example, I really appreciate the Xbox Official Wireless Headset. I think this makes Sony’s Pulse 3D headset feel like a cheap piece of crap. But the DualSense Edge is actually on par with the Xbox Elite controllers – and if the build quality holds up and some of its early promise pays off, it could claim the crown as the best ‘Premium’ controller on the market. That’s a big win. Too bad about the battery life.