Technology

Turtle Beach put drift-free sticks and a screen on its new $200 controller for Xbox and PC

Turtle Beach is throwing its hat in the premium controller ring with a new $200 gamepad for Xbox and PC called the Stealth Ultra Wireless Controller, launching on December 15th. But instead of simply adding some rear buttons and hair triggers — the hallmarks of most competitive-focused gamepads — it’s also packing drift-proof Hall effect sticks and a 1.5-inch screen capable of both fine-tuning settings and getting notifications from your phone.

In addition to being Turtle Beach’s first foray into the ultra-pricey gamepad world, competing with the likes of the Xbox Elite Series 2 and Scuf controllers, it’s also the company’s first fully wireless Xbox Series X / S controller (following a trend of Microsoft slowly opening up its wireless licensing while shutting some third parties out). It doesn’t connect quite as effortlessly as stock Xbox gamepads, but the Stealth Ultra uses a simple USB-A dongle that can be plugged into its included dock — tying up only one USB port on your Xbox console or PC for both connectivity and recharging. And, arguably most importantly, the Stealth Ultra can remotely turn on an Xbox console even though it connects via a dongle (something that unfortunately isn’t the case over in PlayStation land).

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The Stealth Ultra also has a laundry list of premium features you normally find in $150-plus controllers, like four programmable rear buttons, hair-trigger lockouts, tactile microswitches for its face buttons and bumpers, swappable thumbsticks, Bluetooth compatibility, customizable RGB lighting, and a zip-up hardshell case with passthrough USB-C charging. The most significant omission from the Stealth Ultra that comes to my mind is its lack of interchangeable D-pads (sorry, fighting game fans), and its claimed 30 hours of battery life falls short of the Xbox Elite’s max of 40 hours. (Though, frankly, 30 hours is still miles ahead of any current Sony controller out there.)

It maintains the cadre of Turtle Beach’s software features found in its lower-cost Recon and React-R controllers: various EQ presets for tweaking headset game audio, Superhuman Hearing to get a better bead on enemy footsteps while using a 3.5mm wired headset, and Pro-Aim for quickly cranking down stick sensitivity while trying to pick off some accurate sniper shots.

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Where the Stealth Ultra really sets itself apart are its Hall effect sticks and that bonkers screen jammed into the middle. Hall effect sticks are a welcome addition to this premium controller segment, as equally pricey gamepads from both Microsoft and Sony can suffer from stick drift over time, but the Stealth Ultra’s screen offers an intriguing novelty for connectivity and settings. While you may think it’s a touchscreen, it isn’t. The on-screen controls of the 1.5-inch display can only be tinkered with by hitting that plus button on the bottom of the controller’s face, disconnecting your inputs from the game and dialing in what you see on the screen.

What can you control on the tiny screen? Well, for starters, all of Turtle Beach’s audio customizations, RGB lighting effects, and up to 10 user-customizable controller profiles. That actually sounds much better than other Turtle Beach controllers, which have a cluster of somewhat confusing buttons to toggle many of those settings. The other use for the Stealth Ultra’s screen is getting phone notifications mirrored to your gamepad directly from iOS or Android. Android phone notifications require you to install Turtle Beach’s Control Center 2 app, which can also be used to dial in the same settings found on the Stealth Ultra’s built-in screen.

I don’t know if having mobile notifications popping up between my thumbs during a game is any less distracting than keeping them confined to my phone screen, but perhaps Turtle Beach is onto something with a second screen-ish experience here. At the very least, it’s good for quickly toggling advanced settings without having to exit to your console’s dashboard or open up another app on your PC. I’ll have to see how it works out once I get some hands-on time, and see how the Stealth Ultra stacks up to other premium offerings for Xbox and PC.

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