Thursday, September 15, 2016

PowerA FUSION Xbox One Controller Review

Here we are about a year after Microsoft’s high-end Elite controller hit the market and it is pretty easy to say that it has unquestionably been a success.  It is widely regarded as one of the best game controllers ever, so it is no surprise that third-party peripheral makers want to get in on some of that sweet Elite action too.  PowerA released its own FUSION Pro elite-style controller last year, which I liked fairly well in this article, and now in Fall 2016 the company is releasing an updated version that, confusingly, drops the “Pro” from the name but actually adds features and is better overall.  See my full review of the new 2016 PowerA FUSION Xbox One controller right here.


  • Manufacturer: PowerA
  • Pros: Swappable analog sticks; programmable buttons on back; works well overall; low price
  • Cons: Feels cheap; wired; weak rumble
  • MSRP: $50
Probably the most important thing to remember about the new FUSION controller is that it is only $50 MSRP.  For that $50 you’re getting a controller with trigger locks, two programmable buttons on the back, 9.8’ braided cable, 3.5mm audio jack so you can use any headset with it, and six swappable analog stick tops.  It obviously doesn’t quite have the bells and whistles of Microsoft or Razer’s elite-style controllers, but it costs way, way, way less than they do and does offer some of those elite features at a price that is lower than you'd pay for a standard controller.  It is extremely reasonably priced for the features you’re getting.

Those elite-style features work pretty well on the FUSION, too.  It only has two programmable buttons on the back instead of four, but they can still make a big difference in the middle of an intense firefight so you don’t have to take your thumbs off the analog sticks to press a face button.  I am also happy to say that the back buttons themselves are much easier to press than they were on last year’s FUSION Pro controller, which were way too stiff.  Programming the buttons is as easy as holding the program button on the back of the controller for a couple of seconds, pressing the button you want to copy, and then pressing the back button you want to program it to.  

The trigger locks work just like you’d expect since they’re just physical locks that slide in and out of place so you don’t have to press the triggers all the way in.  They are dubbed “quick” trigger locks here because they’re easy to slide in and out, and they definitely work well.  The feature I’m probably happiest with overall on the Fusion, however, is the inclusion of swappable analog sticks.  I didn’t like the huge stick tops on last year’s FUSION Pro, so being able to put on smaller tops similar to those on the standard XONE pad was very much appreciated.  The FUSION comes with two concave small tops, two large flat tops, and two small convex tops that you can mix and match to find what works best for you.  They simply snap into place, so taking them off and changing them is very easy.
The rest of the FUSION controller is pretty standard stuff.  The buttons are all in the same place as on a standard pad and the overall shape of the controller is almost the same as the standard pad.  The face buttons stand a more proud above the surface than the standard XONE controller, but I didn’t mind them.  The bumper buttons are a touch on the soft and spongy side when you press them, but that also didn’t bother me.

I used the PowerA FUSION controller extensively to play a wide range of games over the last week-plus and don’t really have any complaints about how it performed.  I played a lot of Stories of Bethem, Dead Rising, ReCore, NASCAR Heat Evolution, Pac-Man CE 2, and Halo MCC – a collection of games that couldn’t be more different from each other – and the controller performed perfectly in all of them. 

The FUSION controller comes in black or a white GameStop exclusive version.  It is compatible with Xbox One as well as PC, but I didn't test it on PC.  It does not work with Xbox 360.

While it performed like a champ in every game I threw at it, I do have some complaints, too.  The plastic feels cheap like a dollar store toy.  It is kind of unpleasant feeling at first, to be honest, but I got used to it.  I also was somewhat disappointed in the rumble as well.  It feels very weak compared to the standard pad.  The Fusion also has the haptic feedback rumble in the triggers, but it was also very weak to the point I could barely feel it.  I even played the Forza games – games that use the haptic triggers extensively – specifically to test it out and it barely registers.  My final complaint is that it is a pain in the butt to use a wired controller these days.  The cord is nice and long, so it isn’t as if I ever had problems, but wires just kinda suck. 

In the end, though, the positives outweigh the negatives and the PowerA FUSION Xbox One controller is fairly decent overall, particularly for the $50 price tag.  The low price tag is directly tied to the cheap feeling plastic and the fact it is wired, of course, but you’re still getting elite-style features for 1/3rd of the price and it does perform well overall.  If you want to test drive some of the elite features but don’t want to pay a lot, or just need a decent extra Xbox One controller, the PowerA FUSION controller for Xbox One is worth a look. 
Disclosure:  A review unit was provided by the manufacturer.