It’s no secret that professional gamer gear has been popular (and quite profitable) for a number of manufacturers, so the actual question regarding the announcement of the DualSense Edge — Sony’s first pro wireless controller for the PS5 — back in August was this: why did it take the company so long to bring such an obvious product to market?
Well, now that the DualSense Edge is just over a month away from stores Sony provided a few answers to that question, along with an opportunity for select journalists to try out the actual product in its final form. These are the first impressions yours truly got in about two hours’ worth of playing with it — with a comprehensive, detailed review coming up during the product’s release window in January.
A familiar look, impressively engineered
The DualSense Edge doesn’t go for the flashy “gamery” look other pro controllers do: as an official Sony product it follows the company’s design language for the PS5 and its peripherals, so it initially seems similar to the standard DualSense. It is only when held for the first time that a number of differences become apparent: its build quality is of the same high standard, but a few careful touches here and there add an extra flair the current DS lacks. The slip-resistant coating of the inner grips makes for a better, sturdier feel, while the etched PlayStation symbols on the touchpad offer more accurate sliding along its surface. The triggers sport anti-slip edges too, while the new function buttons underneath the thumbsticks are also striated so as to not let thumbs slip while making option selections.
The DualSense Edge is somewhat heavier than the standard DualSense, the heft of it reassuring, its sturdiness easily felt and quickly appreciated even before getting into a game. It’s fair to say that Sony has generally done a good job of putting together a product that feels premium in the hand. The very way it can be opened for gaining access to the replaceable thumbstick modules indicates that a lot of thought has been put into its design and features in equal measure.
It’s worth pointing out that Sony managed to add these new configuration options — some of which clearly required extensive changes to how different parts inside the new DualSense work together — without making the Edge any bigger than the standard DualSense is. The two controllers are exactly the same in terms of size, so current DualSense owners will feel right at home when first using the premium model (and going back to a standard DualSense occasionally won’t feel weird). The Edge is even compatible with the current DualSense charging station, an obvious plus.
The premium feel Sony is going for with the DualSense Edge extends to its accessories. The carrying case is beautifully crafted and all the extra bits and pieces — like the different keycaps and buttons — are smartly arranged within it, offering easy access and safe storing when not in use. The USB-C to USB-A charging cable is comfortably held in its own compartment of the case and it’s no less than 2.8m (about 9 feet) long, enough for comfortable gaming on a TV while the controller is plugged into the PS5 for charging. Talking about charging, the carrying case provides an opening so that the DualSense Edge can be charged while stored: that way one can leave it charging, then detach the USB-C cable to just take the carrying case containing the controller and go if need be. Not bad at all!
Customization options galore in hardware and software
It might sound strange to point this out when talking about a hardware product, but the star of the show when it comes to the DualSense Edge may actually prove to be the software driving all that added functionality: yours truly has never seen more configuration options offered in the Settings of any home entertainment system controller. Everything can be tuned in to an unexpectedly high degree, from the sensitivity curve and the deadzone of the thumbsticks to the triggers’ range and deadzone — individually for each one — while Sony has configured plenty of presets that may serve many gamers well without making any other changes, which is nice. The full array of buttons on offer is obviously remappable in a visual, easy to understand way and all of the above can be saved into different user profiles which can be loaded at any time.
The way the DualSense Edge handles these profiles is in line with what PC gamers are accustomed to when using pro-grade gaming mice or keyboards in a competitive environment. The controller itself can hold inside its own built-in storage up to 3 complete profiles, so consumers can e.g. take their DS Edge to a friend’s house and play without losing their favorite controller setups. The PlayStation5 can hold up to 30 such profiles too, each of which can quickly be transferred to the DS Edge at any point — so the vast majority of gamers out there will be able to store and access individual profiles for all of their favorite titles with ease.
The software side of things is obviously very important for any modern controller — especially for one that’s upgradeable via said software — but the DualSense Edge goes the extra mile when it comes to the hardware too. Sony has practically gone as far as it could in terms of extending the functionality of the original DualSense without the Edge ending up being, you know, a totally different controller.
The combinations of the two types of newly added buttons, the redesigned triggers and thumbsticks, plus the three different types of stick caps, are already quite a few to begin with. Adding the programmability and adjustability of software tweaking on top of that makes the array of options available to consumers impressively wide, so it will be interesting to see how demanding and experienced pro players mix and match those in everyday (or tournament) use.
A justifiably high price… given the advantages on offer
Yours truly tried out the DualSense Edge controller with Gran Turismo 7 and, well, it’s easy to see why Sony believes that PS5 gamers looking for the best possible controlling experience on PlayStation will gravitate towards this product. While the responsiveness of the Edge is not that much higher — not by default anyway! — the overall feel is, for lack of a better way to put it, “being closer to the game”. The heftiness of the new controller helps, of course, but the higher quality of the components behind all the controls relying on accuracy — such as thumbsticks and triggers — makes for a more immediate, enjoyable experience overall. It’s quite obvious, though, that the Edge will be making its case based on its ability to adapt the “feel” of its controls to different players’ tastes and different genres of games — which, let’s face it, is what a pro controller is all about.
The elephant in the room, of course, is still the cost of this product: at $199/€249 the DualSense Edge is not cheap by any means, in absolute terms or compared to the standard DualSense — which, incidentally, as the most technologically advanced controller of its kind and at just $69.99/€69.99, looks like an absolute steal right now! The Edge does seem competitively priced compared to its direct competition, though: the SCUF Reflex Pro costs the same amount of money while offering fewer extras and, crucially, fewer customization options in hardware and software. The DualSense Edge, being an official Sony product, will also enjoy better support — firmware updates that can add extra functionality to it, a la DualSense, and PS5 system software updates doing the same — for far, far longer.
Above all else, though, Sony’s executives feel that what will help the DualSense Edge stand out — convincing demanding consumers to make the jump from the current DualSense in the process — is its flexible, extensive array of configuration options offering a better experience than what the PS5’s standard controller is capable of. In a per-recorded presentation, they went so far as to claim that these options were the very reason Sony looked into building a pro PlayStation controller in the first place.
Judging from what yours truly has seen so far, they are not wrong: this is a product with so much potential — both demonstrated and potentially untapped — that it deserves to be considered as seriously as its price tag implies. Some questions remain, though: is it as durable as (ideally even more than) the standard DualSense controller? How easy is it to make the most out of it in different kinds of games? Is battery life affected because of all that extra functionality and, if so, by how much? Stay tuned for the comprehensive review come January, then!