The virtual world is only as fun as your controllers allow it to be. The controllers in your hands are the only things connecting you to your virtual world. Whether it be for an intense game of Beat Saber, planning a virtual party, or simply navigating your menu to your mediation app, controllers are essential for any experience in virtual reality. You can even use them in your VR office while you dream up the next marketing strategy or non profit fundraising ideas. Finding your perfect controller is just as important as finding your perfect headset. Your virtual headset is only as good as your controllers.
We will be covering the top controllers on the market today. From original Oculus Rift Touch controllers to the newly released Valve controllers, you will find exactly what you are looking for. The controllers that we will be covering are the:
- Original Rift Touch Controllers
- Rift S Touch Controllers (also Oculus Touch)
- Vive Controllers
- Valve Index Controllers
- Vive Cosmos Controllers
- PSVR Controllers
- Windows Mixed Reality Controllers
- Samsung Gear VR Controller
This list will be updated as controllers come into the rotation.
1. Original Rift Touch Controllers
When the original Oculus Rift was released, this control was on top of the world. The HTC Vive had their original controllers with the Vive, but they didn’t compare to what Oculus was doing with their virtual hands. These Touch controllers with the grip buttons, easy to access joysticks, and the perfectly placed triggers made it easy to crown a winner 3 years ago. But that was a long time ago and we have had a lot of controllers in our hands since then. Let’s see how they stack up against today’s models.
If you have used the original Touch controllers right after using any of the new controllers from any other VR company, you were probably pretty disappointed in how they felt. This has nothing to do with the tracking of the controllers. The Rift sensors are great, but these Touch controllers are simply a bad representation of your hands in a virtual space. They aren’t great for any particular game, and they underperform for Beat Saber, which is a pretty big deal.
The haptics in this controller are pubescent compared to new models, although they used to get the job done. These controllers were great back when they were the hot topic, but the industry has moved forward. The controllers are great if they are all you have with the Oculus Rift. But if you have another option, take it.
2. Rift S (and Quest) Touch Controller
The newest versions of the Touch controllers are also the best. They aren’t as flashy as the Valve controllers, but they get the job done and more. The versatility of these touch controllers is up there with the Valve controllers. I know that may seem like a hot take, but let’s dive into what that means exactly.
Just like any controller in VR, it is going to have more than one purpose. You are going to be able to jump from SteamVR games to your Oculus Exclusives, and the touch controller will perform great. The weight of these is light enough for you to play Beat Saber for a few hours without feeling the burn in your shoulders. You can swing from web to web as if you were Spider-Man with these controllers without feeling like you are actually holding a controller. There isn’t anything that this controller is not good at. It is used for both the Quest and the Rift S, but both have different sensors.
The haptics in these are much more powerful and precise than the original Touch controllers as well. While you gaming, you are certainly going to fell the vibrations rumble through your hand. With the originals, you would often feel like they were just sending a text through your hand, but the newest controllers feel like they are giving a real representation of what you are feeling in the virtual world.
The new Touch controllers are the best overall controllers on the market right now. Some may argue that the Valve controllers have taken the title, but we argue different.
3. Vive Controllers
When the original HTC Vive released back in 2016, it seemed like a blowout with who had the best VR controller on the market. From first glance, the Rift controllers were going to win in every argument. Until you try the Vive controllers, you will continue to think that.
The Vive controller catch you off guard when you’re playing with them. The ease to hold them and the location of the buttons is something that they clearly focused on while in development and production. The controllers do a fine job at representing your hands in the virtual world (even with the new HTC Vive Focus), but it often feels like they were made with a specific use in mind. The best VR controllers don’t have anything specific in mind, they are just trying to give you a hand in the virtual world.
The lack of grip button on the Vive controller is what hurts this controller the most. When you are in virtual reality, you want to be able to pick things up and throw them. Without that, it is hard to feel fully immersed, and that is something that the entire VR community is aiming for. Once Vive can give us a controller that can be a real hand (or hand tracking), they are going to rank last for their VR controller. A plus of this controller is the VR development of apps and games that is accessible. This controller was setup from the start for developers, not gamers, even though it works incredibly well with Steam VR.
4. Valve Index Controller
In the months leading up to the Valve Index being released, many were more excited for the Valve controllers themselves than the actual headset. Although there were many people who thought they would be a bust, the controllers turned out to be alright. And by alright, I mean that they are some of the best, if not the best, VR controllers on the market right now.
Putting the Valve controllers on for the first time is a spiritual experience that I will never forget. It was like Cinderella with her glass slipper, except I am Cinderella and a video game controller is my glass slipper. In short, the fit was perfect. It felt like a VR glove. After I did the demo with them, I was ready for some Beat Saber to test the tracking and the feel of the motion controllers. The experience was amazing. This device, like all VR devices we test, was done with Beat Saber, the best virtual reality gaming experience in the VR industry.
The haptics in this controller are second to none, the Thumbstick isn’t in the way, and the motion sensors captured my movement perfectly. This controller also included a digital touchpad on the device for scrolling. This VR hardware is perfect for any SteamVR games and virtual reality games. Being able to interact with the virtual world with finger tracking is something that I never thought was possible until now. This will be dubbed as the original controller for the Index, the best device on the market that a consumer can order. Thanks Valve and Steam for the great product!
5. Vive Cosmos Controller
The Vive Cosmos got out to a slow start to its sales, and part of that had to do with the controllers. Not all of the blame can be put on them, but a good chunk of it falls on the controllers and the tracking with them. Vive tried to reinvent the wheel here, and it didn’t pay off at all. Major companies, with HTC Vive included, have shown time and time again that the inside-out tracking with sensors works, or outside-in with base stations work great.
There was no reason to jump into the Cosmos with controllers that are only tracked with light. It did not work in the slightest, and it showed in the early updates. The latest updates have tried to put a bandaid over the problem, but unless there is a major hardware overhaul, we are going to notice these controllers failing time and time again. For now, we suggest at least toying with the idea to buy HTC Vive original headsets and roll with those controllers.
6. PSVR Controller
The PS controller is the most simple out of all of the controllers out right now. With the same hardware and some of the same software as the controllers that were used for motion capturing on the PS3 Move, PlayStation kept it simple with their controller this time around. The entire PSVR platform is simple, but the controllers are the best part. They are simply a wand with a cool softball on the top.
What the controller lacks in style, it makes up for with performance. The controller is perfect for anything you are going to face in PlayStation’s virtual world. You might question this because the controller doesn’t have a Thumbstick, but PSVR games are optimized for the headset and controllers they will be on, so you won’t have to worry about getting around too much. You won’t need to break out your Dualshock controller anytime soon.
The PSVR controllers are very average in every single area except for one. Beat Saber on PSVR with the immerse motion controls are something you don’t want to miss out on. The haptic feedback is there, but not overwhelming like other controllers as well. The PlayStation camera also is imperative to the controllers and the immersive experience you are likely to have.
7. Windows Mixed Reality Controllers
These controllers are compatible with any VR headset on windows, and they are still perfect for VR gaming. Although they aren’t the first option for many people, these controllers still get the job done. The trigger on these is a little high up, and the slant is sometimes hard to deal with, but it is worth the play.
They are powered by two AAA batteries, which keeps the weight low at all times. The trackpad on these controllers is sometimes in the way throughout your gaming on your preferred VR platform, but that is a risk that you live with when you are buying a controller that was made for a headset that was never fully released.
8. Samsung Gear VR Controllers
The Gear VR controller is exclusive to Gear products. This controller is charged via USB cable, and the battery life is nothing impressive. This controller was made for navigating the simple Gear VR headset, and not much more. There have been an underwhelming amount of Gear VR games, so this controller has yet to see any real action.
This handheld controller was made for one hand, and only one comes with your headset. You are also able to control your android mobile smartphone with the controller as well. Although the controller is not meant for heavy VR gaming, it still has many uses. Daydream and the Daydream View are also compatible with the Bluetooth controller or bluetooth gamepad for augmented reality as well.