In this article, I will tell you the 6 best wireless controllers for PC (2021). Although the mouse and keyboard are the input method of choice for many PC gamers, it never hurts to have a dedicated controller lying around—even better if it has wireless connectivity for undeterred play.
Controllers are suitable for third-party and sidescrolling games and can provide unique advantages in several competitive titles (such as Rocket League and Fortnite).
What’s in a Wireless Controller?
Here are a few things you need to keep in mind when comparing wireless controllers.
Layout: There are several controller layouts out there, so they can change everything from the button order to the joystick location. You probably already have your preferences when it comes to layout, and that we’ll mention any major changes that any controllers may have compared to the rest of the pack.
Battery: When you talk about any wireless device, battery life is a major concern. Some controllers depend on removable batteries, while others use rechargeable batteries. Whatever you prefer, they should last at least a few gaming sessions until they need to be swapped out or charged.
DirectInput vs. XInput: these are the two main APIs that used in Windows to recognize controllers. XInput is a more advanced API that is much more widely supported in PC games like many PC-based controllers. However, when it comes to controllers designed for consoles, such as DualSense, which we will discuss later, they are still known as DirectInput. To get DirectInput controllers to function properly in all games, you will need a program to switch the input from DirectInput to XInput.
The best way to do this is via Steam, as its controller configuration settings will take care of all this with only a few clicks—more advanced features like gyro sensors can also work. This is the method that we recommend to most players because you are likely to purchase most of your games through Steam anyway, and you can use this in non-Steam games as well.
Additional Features: While stuff like remapping input, extra buttons, and swappable joysticks are not necessary features for the controller to have, any controller that does feature them would certainly receive some bonus points. This usually requires installing the controller software, which we’ll be sure to mention and link to.
Connectivity: There are two main methods when it comes to connecting your new controller to your PC: Bluetooth or a wireless adapter. Both work well, based on what the controller supports—but adapters, generally speaking, have more stability and lower response times.
The Xbox controllers have always been the “default” PC controller, and the latest model aims to continue this legacy. While the Xbox Wireless Controller lacks a unique design, extravagant features, or a cool name, it makes up for that by handling the fundamentals of the controller extremely well. It’s comfortable, the inputs sound good to play with, and it even comes in a few slick colors. On top of that, Xbox controllers are incredibly simple to attach to Windows computers, and you can remap inputs using Xbox Accessories app.
The Xbox controller runs out of two AA batteries lasting about 30 hours, but you can avoid this with either an official rechargeable battery pack from Microsoft or a third-party offering such as a PowerA charging stand. The wireless controller connects via Bluetooth, but you can pick it up with an external adapter if you want a more secure connection It’s also worth noting that Xbox One controllers, which are incredibly similar to the Xbox Wireless Controller, can be found at cheaper prices if you look around—especially if you don’t mind buying used.
PlayStation controllers are renowned for their comfort and quality, and DualSense aims to further enhance with a new sleek design and more features than ever before. Moreover, things like improved rumble or adaptive triggers do not translate well to the PC, restricting the additional features to only gyro controls. Even, if you want anything different from the Xbox controller that still has a premium touch, the DualSense is a fantastic choice—even if you need to do some extra work to set it up.
The DualSense controller can connect through Bluetooth, but then you will need to run it via Steam’s configuration controller software as the DualSense uses DirectInput. Definitely better than the Xbox controller, but the outstanding design of the DualSense makes it all worth it. You can also expect the rechargeable battery to last 5-12 hours at maximum charge. Similar to the Xbox One controllers, the PlayStation 4 controllers (DualShock 4) can be found at lower prices than the DualSense if you don’t care about the updated design.
The Logitech F710 is an elegant controller that has stood the test of time—and it’s much cheaper than the others on this list. Although it’s a fairly simple controller, it still has a fantastic design (modeled after the PlayStation controllers) and works fine with your Windows machine. Just plug in the USB dongle, throw in a few AAs, and you’re good to play—no fuss needed. You can also install the “Profiler” software to customize your inputs.
Unfortunately, there is no estimated battery life for the F710, but customers and reviewers say that it will last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Although your mileage can vary depending on the batteries you install and how often you play, the battery life seems to be at least acceptable.
Move up from the standard Xbox controller in every way, the Elite controller has loads of premium features for a high price match. This controller is highly customizable on both the software and hardware levels; you can swap joysticks and D-pads for alternatives with different designs and sizes, adjust dead zones triggers and remap inputs via the software, and use the paddles on the back of the controller for additional actions. Throw in an improved design with gripping handles and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to 40 hours, and you’ve got a nice controller on your hands.
And just as with the standard Xbox Wireless Controller, the Elite connects via Bluetooth or an adapter with a Windows computer (sold separately).
8 Bitdo is one of the highest quality manufacturers of third-party controllers around and although it focuses mostly on Nintendo Switch, the excellent Sn30+ Pro also works on PCs. The controller looks like a classic handle and joystick SNES controller and is great for playing sidescrollers and other old-school games. Through 8Bitdo’s “Ultimate” software, you can customize inputs (great because, by default, it uses the Nintendo button layout), alter trigger sensitivity, and even configure turbo buttons—repeating the same input at fast speeds.
The Sn30+ Pro connects via Bluetooth and lasts around 18 hours at full charge. It’s also available in a few colors that mirror the style of the SNES, the Super Famicom, and the standard black (pictured above).
Since its launch, the Switch Pro Controller has been praised for its extremely comfortable design and great gyro sensors, and this experience can be brought to the PC. The controller uses a fairly standard Xbox-Esque layout, with the exception of certain minor alterations, such as the order of the face buttons (such as the “A” and “B”).
This controller also feels heftier than most and lasts for 40 hours at maximum charge. It connects via standard Bluetooth but relies on DirectInput instead of Xinput, so it’s highly recommended to run via Steam Controller Configurator—especially because it makes gyro controls work.
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