First Impressions On The New Steam Controller at PAX East

I got hands on experience with Steams new controller at PAX East. Find out how it compares to a keyboard and mouse.

There has been a lot of excitement and scrutiny of Steam’s new controller. In one group, you have people excited that there is a new controller built from the ground up with PC in mind, and on the other you have people who consider it a joke because it only has one joystick. Well after getting to try the new controller, I have two new pieces of information that could be interesting to people who may be considering Alienware’s new Steam Machine, which comes with the controller.

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The Build

The build quality is pretty solid. It does feel like it may have a good amount of empty space in the core of the controller, but you can feel that the shell of it is sturdy. The buttons click and have solid tactile feedback, and the triggers don’t feel like they will stop responding anytime soon. Also the touchpads on the controller don’t feel like a cheap laptop trackpad. They have a nice texture to them as you slide your thumbs across, but not so much as to make your fingers hurt.

The Touchpads

This is the biggest part of the Steam controller and is what helps it set itself apart. However, the question everyone is asking is, “Do the touchpads work for gaming?”

Well they do, sort of… When using the touchpads you do get a little bit of feedback and they are very wide which gives you a lot of room to move. This is great for games that rely on mouse to be played such as Civilization or the game I tried to the controller on, This War of Mine. You have enough room to move the cursor around, but nowhere near as much as a mouse. The other issue is that it’s hard to get the same accuracy as you would have with a mouse. When it comes to accuracy, it’s almost identical to playing a game with a laptop touchpad. As any gamer knows, this is doable, but not ideal. 


The Steam controller is exactly what it looks like. It’s a hybrid. Not quite as accurate as a mouse, and doesn’t quite give you the feel of controller joysticks. If you want a controller to play something like Civilization or The Secret of Monkey Island, you will be pleasantly surprised. However, when it comes to something quicker like Starcraft or Counter-Strike, you may want to stick with a mouse. If you are looking for something versatile, the Steam controller is what you want, but if you are looking to play a lot of twitchy games or first-person shooters, you may want to stick with the classic keyboard and mouse.

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Ryan Mayle
Player, Photographer, Writer, and Caster for all things eSports.