Turtle Beach Recon Controller Review
I’ve watched over the last three decades as third party console controllers transformed from oft-mocked backup choices to viable competitors, and now Turtle Beach is changing the game yet again with their first entry into the space.
The brand new Recon Controller combines excellent first-party-caliber performance with a feature set that’s both impressive for the price, and packed with options that no other controller has. It’s a remarkable first effort and should make all the other manufacturers nervous.
Note: Turtle Beach sent me a final retail unit of this controller to review alongside technical info and some marketing assets. I wasn’t compensated in any way, I don’t get a kickback if you buy one, and I had full editorial control over this article. For more information, read my review policy.
The Turtle Beach Recon Controller (official site here) sells for just $59.95, and it’s available in either white or black. It’s a wired controller and it’s compatible out of the box with Xbox One and Series X|S consoles, and the PC platform. In the box, you’ll get the controller itself, a nice 3m long braided USB-C to USB-A cable, some instructions, and a Turtle Beach sticker.
As a weird note for detail-obsessives like me out there, I discovered that the braided cable smells unusually pleasant, sort of like a nice department store. I’m not the only one that smells my new electronics, right?
The most prominent unique feature on the Recon Controller is the huge block of extra buttons that sit right at the top. These buttons are where the magic happens, and are the best thing about this excellent controller.
Seriously, if you’re a lover of extra features, then this is your new favorite Xbox controller. The Recon Controller has four built-in EQ presets for your wired headset, a toggle for Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing mode, easy access to full volume controls for game audio, mic monitoring, and chat balance, four profile slots to store different settings in…and a new mode called “Pro-Aim” that lets you toggle right stick sensitivity on the fly.
All of these controls are a bit overwhelming at first, in a good way, and I adjusted to them quickly. The volume, mic monitoring, mic mute, and game/chat balance controls all tie directly into those same functions in the Xbox operating system, so you won’t ever have to open the audio panel when using this controller.
Superhuman Hearing mode works just as well as it does on Turtle Beach’s headsets, widening out soundstage and boosting footstep noises so you can easily hear location cues in games. Having this available with a quick thumb press meant I used it more often than I have on their headsets, where I would have to take my hand off the controller to toggle it on.
The four EQ modes are Signature Sound, Bass Boost, Bass and Treble Boost, and Vocal Boost (for better comms intelligibility). I tried all four with many of the headsets in my collection, and found they paired perfectly with Turtle Beach’s recent phenomenal Recon 500 headset. It seems to me like they were specifically designed around Turtle Beach’s “house” sound signature, though they still sound great on other headsets, too.
I prefer using the Signature Sound mode with the Recon 500, and with the Logitech G335 I’m in the middle of reviewing I prefer using Bass Boost. The boost modes are tastefully done with careful consideration of sound quality, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a profile that suits your individual preferences, and it’s great to be able to instantly swap between them.
While the integrated amp provides a very clean output, it’s not exceptionally louder or more powerful than the one in the standard controller, so don’t come into this expecting to drive crazy audiophile gear. Still, it’s more than capable of handling any gaming headset on the market.
The Pro-Aim mode also works flawlessly, with selectable levels of lowered sensitivity that you can swap to by holding one of the paddles. It’s perfect for precise aiming moments. The two back paddles on the controller are fully customizable as shortcut keys as well, and I love using one for reload and one for swapping weapons in games like Borderlands 3.
The sticks and buttons on the Recon controller feel very similar to those on an official Xbox model, which is no small feat. They have a good solid response, and I had no issues with dead zones, drift, or sticky buttons during a full week of intense gaming. When I say “intense gaming,” I mean many hours of things like first-person shooters and the upcoming very button-mashy Samurai Warriors 5. If I have any long-term durability issues I’ll update this article, but I don’t expect that I’ll have to.
Both the triggers and bumpers have a stronger, more prominent level of clicky feedback compared to the first party controller model. That’s great, because one of the bumpers on my Series S’s included controller has turned into a mushy mess. While the triggers don’t have any sort of stopper functionality, they still pull quickly and smoothly and work equally well for quick shots or things like driving games.
D-pads are often the bane of third party controllers, but Turtle Beach did a great job here. The D-pad has a bowl shape to it that perfectly cradles my thumb, and while it’s a little loud (just like the d-pad on the Series controller), it never let me down during any menu navigation or 2D gaming.
The center buttons (menu, view, and screenshot/share) are clustered closer together compared to the standard controller, but I adjusted to them within the first hour of use. This is also a small price to pay for all the extra buttons and functions packed in up at the top.
As a fan of rumble feedback, I’m pleased to say the Recon controller has excellent motors for both standard and impulse trigger feedback. In fact, the impulse triggers have a more powerful response than on the Microsoft controller.
The ergonomics of the Recon controller truly shine. The gentle scoop of its overall profile should be perfect for a whole variety of hand sizes, and I found it super comfy even for long gaming sessions. The rubber grips feel durable, and even have small channels cut into them to help reduce sweat build-up. That seems at first glance like a feature that the marketing department wanted to put on the box just to fill out a list, but it actually works.
In addition to the rubberized handles… the triggers, bumpers, and back paddles all have a micro-bump texture that makes them easy to find and very grippy. The paddles are set at just the right height so that they’re easy to press, but hard to press accidentally.
BETTER THAN THE REST?
I have a Razer Wolverine V2 here that I enjoy using sometimes. It’s a $99 wired controller that launched late last year.
The Recon controller makes it seem silly.
While the Razer model does have impressive clicky mechanical buttons, it falls short of this new Turtle Beach model in so many ways that it’s almost comical. It has awkwardly-placed view and menu buttons. It has a clunky large shape. It doesn’t have any built-in audio features. It has a permanently-attached cable. It doesn’t have any impulse trigger support whatsoever. And instead of back paddles, it has weirdly-placed additional buttons that sit between the triggers and bumpers.
If I were advising someone to pick between the two, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Recon controller.
This is an awesome controller for the price. Sure, it’s wired, but as far as I know that’s a Microsoft thing that all third party controllers (which aren’t just mods of the official controller) are bound by. I love that it has a detachable USB-C cable. I love its comfortable feel and excellent responsiveness. And I love that it’s packed with all of Turtle Beach’s cool signature audio features.
You’re getting so much more for the money with this controller compared to other options that it should be your first choice if you’re looking for a new Xbox controller, and I think its extras may even edge out the official pad if you’re a heavy user of wired headsets. Turtle Beach could have gotten away with pricing this a few dollars higher and I would still like it just as much.
The Recon Controller sets the new standard for what a third party Xbox controller should be. Its audio features are completely unique, and its design outshines more expensive options. The more time I’ve spent with it, the more I’ve found to like.