Having spent a week or so with the Stadia Controller, I’ve collected some of my thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of this gaming peripheral.
TL;DR, the controller’s pretty great.
The design of the Stadia controller is absolutely gorgeous. My controller, coming in the colour dubbed “Just Black”, features a dark body and light grey buttons. The thumbsticks have this two-toned design that matches the rest of the Google Hardware lineup. The entire controller looks sort of like a rounded blob shape, but it is still clearly recognizable as a game controller. When holding the controller, everything is placed in convenient locations, and it is really easy to reach all of the buttons and triggers.
The body of the controller is made out of two textures. On the front of the controller, the plastic is a soft touch smooth finish, similar to the one found in the Pixel Slate Keyboard. This texture gives the controller a really clean look, while also feeling great in the hands. The back of the controller is made out of tiny protruding dots. The dots are small, but you can definitely feel them in your palms. Personally, I quite like it and it gives me more grip on the controller. The entire controller is rounded, and has almost no sharp edges. Holding the controller in my hands, it almost feels like the controller was actually crafted specially for my hands. The handles are just long enough, and the curve where the handles meet with the back of the controller is done just right.
Any good game controller needs to have good controls, and the Stadia Controller almost has this down pat. The thumbsticks on the Stadia Controller feel like any other controller, especially like an Xbox One controller. There are tiny dots on the rim of the thumbsticks as well, providing extra grip. The thumbsticks are also clickable when you press down on them. The D-Pad has a joined, four way mechanism, and reacts just like the one found on the Xbox One controller. You’ll find the four usual buttons found on the right, and they are all pretty clicky. The main gripes I have with the controls however, are the triggers and bumpers. The bumpers are alright, and they do their job fine, just a bit too clicky for my tastes. The triggers are pretty bad though. They hardly have any resistance when pushing on them, and they have a really “loose” feeling. Even though there’s hardly any pushback, the travel to the place where the software determines when the trigger is pushed is super short. This makes accidental pushes happen a lot easier. It might depend on what game you’re playing, but overall the trigger experience is just not that great. If you’re just playing some casual games however, this probably won’t affect your gameplay. There’s also a “three dot” select button and a menu button, which are pretty much standard on any controller.
The Stadia button in the middle acts as the power, Stadia menu, and connection switch. Turning the controller on is as easy as holding it down for a few seconds, and pressing the button. While in a game a short press opens the Stadia menu, where you can see your achievements and find friends. This button also has a light under it, making it a display for connection status. When not connected, the light blinks white, and when you get your controller linked up to your screen, it changes to a still white. While charging, the light turns orange. Pretty neat!
Stadia Controller is pretty standard compared to all the other gaming controllers out there, but it does have two special buttons, and a different type of connection system.
The first button is a capture button, which when pressed, can take a screenshot of your current frame. Holding it down for around three seconds will save the recording for the last 30 seconds of gameplay. This is pretty useful when you want to capture an epic moment during a game and share it with your friends. Screenshotting and clipping both capture directly on the Stadia server, so you’ll get the highest quality clip no matter what. You can then access the screenshots through the Stadia app or website. It would have been good if Google gave us the option to sync to Google Photos, but I guess this will do for now.
The second button is the Google Assistant button. Google says that in the future, pressing this button while in game will allow you to ask the assistant for help about a certain stage of the game, but that is yet to come. Right now, the assistant button only works on the Chromecast Ultra, while mobile and web support are “coming soon”, so don’t go picking up this controller just for this functionality.
Since the Stadia Controller is designed for cloud gaming, Google wants to mitigate any input lag by linking the controller to wifi, and connecting directly to Google’s data-centres, where Stadia runs. (This is why in setup you need to connect the controller to wifi) In my experience, the controller felt pretty similar to using just a mouse and keyboard, in terms of lag, but I have a pretty good connection so it may vary from user to user.
The Stadia Controller is a great piece of hardware. It’s great for looking at, and it’s great for playing games. It is comfortable to hold, and most of the controls are excellent. There are three colour options available, “Just Black”, “Clearly White”, and “Wasabi”, and they all are very aesthetically pleasing. If you want to play on your TV using a Chromecast Ultra, the Stadia Controller is required hardware as there’s no other way to connect, but if you are playing on web or mobile, any old controller will do the trick. I found the capture button on the Stadia Controller extremely useful though, and I think it is one of the main highlights of this controller. I found myself using the Stadia Controller a lot, and coming from an Xbox One controller, the experience is definitely better in my opinion. The controller goes for $89 CAD on the Google Store. However, if you’re not a fan of the special features and design of the Stadia Controller, I would recommend getting a cheaper controller that has the same great control experience. If you’re interested in Stadia though, and you like the good design and special features, pick a Stadia Controller up!
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4 / 5
What a superb write-up, Nomnomburger! 👏
I definitely agree on the L2, R2 triggers having too little resistance. I’m really enjoying the very definitive *click* from the buttons though. Audio feedback is amazing, a bit retro.
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