Comfortable Gaming Pad
Gamepads are rarely the main choice for PC gamers, who tend to rely on the traditional mouse+keyboard control or – if they happen to play flight simulators – joysticks. There are, however, many games that offer two-player experience or other perks that support the choice of a gamepads instead of another set of mouse&keyboard (which is not usually supported by games either). And, naturally, sports and arcade titles benefit from such a controller as well.
A short while ago we reviewed the Speedlink Strike FX gamepads and found them to be an excellent choice, but they lacked a non-slip surface and also turned out to be rather difficult to use for a large-handed gamer. Speedlink XEOX Pro controllers address both of these issues and bring Xbox style controllers to PC gamers (and PS3 gamers). We got our hands on both the wired and wireless editions and are happy to report our findings below.
The Speedlink XEOX Pro gamepads are equipped with the usual XYBA buttons and an 8-way digital D-pads. In addition, you have ‘Start’, ‘Back’, ‘Rapid’ buttons as well as a 'Mode' button on the front face, the last of which resembles the round LED thingy on Xbox controllers. This can be used to activate the wireless connection. In addition, you get the two bumper buttons on left and eight as well as two analogue triggers. Furthermore, the two analogue sticks are equipped with a button function (I haven't found a use for that yet, but I guess someone will). The controllers also come with “intensive vibration effects for realistic gaming experience,” whatever that is supposed to mean when simulating a car crash, for example.
Wireless gamepad also advertises 10 metre wireless range and a Li-polymer battery that should go for up to 10 hours of continuous gameplay. Charging time over mini-USB takes about two to three hours. These figures seem more or less realistic in view of my experience, although I tend to put the controller to re-charge way before there's any danger of it dying in the middle of a gaming session. The wired gamepad comes with a 2.5 metre connector cable, which is plenty enough.
Under ergonomics we consider such factors as the comfort of using the equipment as well as the weight and other design factors that affect the usability of the controller. The design of the XEOX gamepads is familiar to anyone who has used Xbox gamepads in the past. Thus, unlike the Strike FX pads that were modelled after PS3 controllers, the XEOX controllers are usable also by people with larger hands – not least because of the more conveniently located left stick. Thus, even after longer gaming sessions, I felt no strain on the palms of my hands. The controllers are, however, somewhat large to small gamers. Especially in the case of gamers as small as a 4-year-old who you'll find resting the controller on their lap while they use both hands to use the sticks and buttons.
The build quality of both gamepads seems good, although the mode switch on the bottom of the unit is a weak point and might break easily. Fortunately, you will not find yourself switching between XInput and DirectInput that often. The finish is very comfortable non-slip rubber on all surfaces of the controller (except the buttons) and it is thus far more comfortable to hold and use than the Strike FX controllers were. The handles have finger-grooves at the back, which dots the 'I' for me.
The only bad point I can find is the D-pad, which is a bit loose and does not fill me with confidence in its accuracy when I use it. There is no problem with it physically, however, and the only problem is really the unpleasant tactile feel that it provides.
Drivers and Installation
As was the case with the Strike FX controllers, plugging either XEOX gamepad into a Win7 machine was quick and easy. The same driver installation CD worked for both controllers and the USB wireless module activated almost instantaneously. The wireless adapter is much larger than the one that came with the Strike FX controller, however, and I cannot fathom why it should be so. In front of a PS3, it might look a bit oversized even and even on a desktop PC, I was tempted to plug it into one of the rear USB ports to hide it away and protect it from inadvertent strikes that might break the port.
Overall, we found the Speedlink XEOX Pro gamepads to be fantastic controllers and very affordable to boot. The wireless controller wins the comparison between the two versions of the XEOX controllers, as the connection was very trustworthy and we'd definitely recommend these to anyone looking for a comfortable Xbox-like gamepad experience.
HG Rating: 8.9