Age of Steam

Valve’s Steam Controller – Mini Review

A couple of weeks ago I finally picked up a Steam Controller to use on my home theatre PC setup.

It comes with everything you need: the controller, a USB wireless dongle, a USB cable and a little USB wireless dongle holder that means you can sit the wireless dongle somewhere else if you don’t want the dongle sticking out of your machine.

First impressions of the design are good. I will say though the design is a little different to what I’m use to seeing with pretty much every other controller. The hand grips are inverted for a start, supposedly to help you rest your thumbs easier on the twin hap-tic scrolls, that allow you to simulate a mouse.

My first go of the controller didn’t fare too well actually. Configuring it early on (prior to doing some google searches) was a nightmare and to make matters worse I was using a streaming setup from one PC to the other via Steam. This may have caused a few more issues as well. On day one I was about ready to give up on it because it was quite frustrating.

Then I did a bit of googling and setup my main PC in the lounge room. Because the controller allows so much configuration, ridiculous amounts really, there were a lot of community presets available. Once you discover these the controller starts to really work. Setting a preset is easy: just enter Steam Big Picture mode, go to the game menu and load configuration. Now I am truly enjoying what the controller is meant to be.

steam-controller-custom-controls

Once you get to grips with customising the controller configuration it is a very powerful tool.  You can base your configurations on other community ones too.

The Steam Controller feels pretty good,  though my hands are still getting use to the slightly inverted hand grips. I’ve given the controller a couple of weeks now and I am starting to really get the hang of it. You have a single thumb-stick on the left too if you want to use it for driving games etc, plus all the buttons you’d be familiar with if you have an Xbox One controller. There are also a couple of buttons behind the controller, which is a bit like the Xbox One Elite controller.

steam-controller-rear-battery

Each AA battery fits into the hand grips on the outside, which provides a nice balance for the controller.

Does it work for non controller games? I can safely say that yes – it does. The Steam Controller doesn’t fully replace a keyboard (you do have a keyboard overlay option though) as you would expect but full mouse control is definitely available, via Steam and also just from your Desktop once it is configured. An interesting point is that it has to sync and be setup via Steam Big Picture mode so it doesn’t act as a Windows Device. Once it is setup though it works great.

If you were like me and wanted to play PC games that required mouse input for some opening menus, or you just want to play strategy games from your couch, the Steam Controller is definitely worth grabbing. Just be aware it will take a bit of time to get use to it (give yourself a couple of weeks at least). Once you do you’ll wonder why you didn’t get one earlier.

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