PowerA FUSION Pro Controller Review: The Elite Series 2's Affordable Little Brother
PowerA, based in Woodinville, Washington, makes third-party console hardware like headsets and battery packs, but the company’s primary claim to fame is that it makes a variety of third-party wired and wireless controllers for the Xbox One and Switch. Many PowerA controllers feature exclusive art, and they are anywhere from slightly to considerably cheaper than their first-party counterparts.
In past console generations, that’d usually be a giant, flashing warning sign. Anyone who grew up in the 2000s or earlier knows the pain of getting stuck with a dodgy third-party controller on game night.
PowerA doesn’t really do that, though. Its controllers just show up and do the job. They aren’t expensive Cadillac options like the Razer Wolverine or stripped to the quick like an Amazon Basics controller. They’re in a comfortable middle ground, perfect for a budget purchase or to keep around for player two.
That’s part of what makes the FUSION Pro a surprise, as it represents PowerA’s entrance into a higher product bracket, and which appears to be intended as a strictly wired alternative to the forthcoming Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. It has many of the features of the Elite Series 2, such as swappable sticks, rubberized grips, a special carrying case, adjustable precision controls on the trigger buttons, and the spider-leg paddles on its underside, but at an MSRP of $79.99, costs a full $100 less.
The first impression I got of it is that the FUSION Pro is heavy. A lot of PowerA controllers I’ve tested out are on the lighter side, since a lot of them don’t use batteries or have a rumble pack. But the FUSION Pro is solid and weighty in your hands. It’s not tiring to hold for long periods, but still has a firm, solid presence as you play, with nice grips, responsive buttons, and a rumble function that feels like a dull roar.
You can pop out a hatch on the bottom of the controller to install what PowerA calls a Pro Pack, which adds four programmable paddles to the FUSION Pro. The idea is that each one can be operated with your fingers, which lets you hit commands without having to move your thumb off of the right stick. That, in turn, can buy you a half-second here and there in the heat of battle, particularly if you’re playing against other humans. It takes a lot of getting used to, but you do notice a difference when you don’t have to, say, stop adjusting your camera in a Halo game in order to reload or melee a guy.
The FUSION Pro also features a magnetic faceplate, which is easy to remove, and which lets you swap out the thumbsticks if you want or need to do so. The controller comes with two extra sticks, one short and one “domed,” that you can adjust to suit your preference. It also has two replacement anti-friction rings for the extra sticks. The rings make for smoother, cleaner-feeling inputs as you move around a map, which is one of those quality-of-life bonuses that you don’t really notice until you go back and forth between the FUSION and a different controller.
Swapping out the sticks is surprisingly tricky, though. The primary issue is that the sticks are attached to a small oval-shaped rod, which looks round at first glance, so you’re in for a couple of fun minutes of chasing the rod around the port until you manage to hook the stick back on. It’s not quite as easy as it looks like it ought to be.
That’s pretty thin gruel as complaints go, though. The FUSION Pro is a solid, all-around controller with a lot of interesting options, which will come in handy if you’re looking to take a step up from your stock controller.
In fact, its biggest issue isn’t any kind of mechanical flaw, but rather, that it occupies a strange middle ground. It’s a cheaper alternative to a luxury product. There’s a lot to like about the FUSION Pro – it’s comfortable, customizable, responsive, and feels like you could use it to hammer a nail – but if you’re serious enough about your Xbox gaming that you’re interested in the kinds of features that the FUSION Pro has to offer, it’s hard to imagine that you aren’t also serious enough that you’d just bite the bullet and get a Wolverine or Elite S2.
Then again, that extra $100 can be put towards an extra game or two. If you want a durable, long-lasting controller with a couple of interesting extra options, but don’t want or need wireless capability or the additional functions of the current high-end models, the FUSION Pro can set you up.
- A solid, responsive controller that feels like it’s worth the $79.99
- The rubberized grips make it a comfortable option for long play periods
- Incredibly durable
- You can keep most of the features you want, and turn off or detach the ones you don’t
- The cord is long, durable, and detachable. You don’t really miss the wireless functionality until and unless you’re trying to use multiple wired controllers at once
- There’s a lot here you won’t need unless you’re terminally serious about your gameplay, and if you’re that into it, it’s hard to figure you wouldn’t go the extra mile for the Elite or Wolverine
- Swapping out the analog sticks is harder than it needs to be
- There aren’t a lot of conveniently-accessible USB slots on the Xbox One
[Note: PowerA provided an early retail model of the FUSION Pro for the purposes of this review.]