As IGN's designated hardware expert, I've seen quite a few third-party
controllers in my day, and while function is essential to any
third-party product, most manufacturers place more emphasis on form,
generally by creating a unique ergonomic design or a cool graphic
finish. The Tron controllers, however, have a nice balance of both.
Of the three designs, the Xbox 360 and Wii controllers are the two most
similar to their first-party brethren, taking on a similar form, button
design and arrangement. The controllers look and feel comparable to the
designs people already know and love with some subtle variations, plus
awesome LED illumination effects. Did I mention the LED illumination
effects? The PlayStation 3 version, on the other hand, varies more
drastically, incorporating a more rounded base, narrower handle grips,
and concave triggers.
For added comfort and visual flair, PDP used a combination of textured,
gloss finish, and matte plastic on each design, as well as texturized
rubber grips. The textured materials, namely the grips, are great for
extended play sessions, allowing players to keep a solid handle on the
controller despite the usual buildup of sweat. Fans will also appreciate
the fact that the labeling of all of the buttons on the controllers
features Tron-style lettering. To further solidify the collector's
element of the controllers, there is a metal panel on the bottom of each
controller that certifies its authenticity and lists its production
The Xbox 360 Controller
Let me get one thing out of the way right now; yes, the Xbox 360
controller is wired. It sucks, but there isn't anything PDP or any other
Xbox 360-developing third-party manufacturer can do about it. It's an
unfortunate truth, but Microsoft simply doesn't allow wireless
third-party controllers. But if you can get past the fact that the Tron
Xbox 360 controller is wired, it's actually a pretty solid design.
Admittedly, there are some clear quality differences, namely that the
buttons and triggers look a little cheap and the Xbox 360 dashboard
button is a printed logo encased in plastic rather than a raised
metallic, illuminated button, but it otherwise feels and performs great.
The triggers and shoulder buttons feel fantastic, with just the right
amount of resistance and pop when fully depressed. The thumbsticks, on
the other hand, are a little looser than we're accustomed to, with a
somewhat weak center of resistance. However, the thumbsticks are just as
responsive in terms of detection as the first-party alternative, so
players simply have to take time to acclimate themselves to that aspect
of the design.
Critics of the Xbox 360's d-pad will also be pleased by the Tron
controller's raised plus-style d-pad, which is notably stiffer and more
responsive than Microsoft's controller. Vibration effects are also
fairly strong in the Tron controller, a somewhat uncommon quality in
third-party controllers, which are typically underpowered.
The biggest weakness of the Xbox 360 version is, again, the USB cable,
but as I said, there isn't much to be done there. Fortunately, PDP
provides roughly 6' of cable to give players some room to roam.
The PlayStation 3 Controller
The PlayStation 3 controller is by far my least favorite of the three;
the design, although unique, is not quite as functional as the other
two, and deviates from the first-party version in some less favorable
ways. The grips are smaller and more narrowly spaced, making the
controller feel cramped. Also, the rounded edges of the base angle the
triggers and shoulder buttons in a way that feels awkward in your hands.
The triggers and shoulder buttons fall below your fingertips, making
players curl their index fingers to tap them, further making players
Most importantly, unlike the Xbox 360 version, which was bound by
Microsoft's strict licensing rules to be wired, the PlayStation 3
version could have been wireless, but isn't. Third party manufacturers
are permitted to use 2.4GHz USB dongle systems to make their controllers
wireless, however, PDP opted for standard USB wiring for the PS3
version. While I'm not the biggest fan of dongle systems -- due largely
to the fact that USB dongles are hard to keep track of and occupy one of
your console's few USB ports -- I would have appreciated wireless
connectivity on the PS3 controller.
Like the Xbox 360 controller, the resistance of the thumbsticks in the
PlayStation 3 version is a bit lacking, but responsive enough to make up
for it. The concave thumbsticks are also a nice touch and the
illuminated direction indicators alongside the d-pad look awesome.
The Wii Remote
The Tron Wii remote is easily my favorite design of the three because it
looks and feels the most like it's first-party basis. If it wasn't for
the illumination effects, rubber grips, and Tron logo, I'd have a hard
time telling PDP's Wii remote apart from Nintendo's, and as a result,
players get the best of both worlds; the familiarity and quality of
Nintendo's controller, but the added style of a third-party license.
The layout, size, and shape of the buttons are identical to a Wiimote's,
down to the look and feel of the d-pad. The Tron Wii Remote is also
the only controller in the series to feature native wireless
connectivity, allowing players to sync the device to their Wii's
straight out of the box – no dongle required. The design of the LED
effects is also one of the coolest and most extensive of the bunch,
following along the edges and center of the front panel.
Battery performance wise, the Wii remote was about on par with the
standard Wiimote; roughly 24 hours of continuous use. Battery
performance can also be improved by switching off the LED illumination,
which can be performed by tapping a button underneath the battery panel,
parallel to the sync button.
All things considered, the Tron controllers from PDP are effective
third-party solutions. There are some clear benefits and sacrifices made
for the sake of style, like going wired USB on the Xbox 360 and PS3
variations and some of the less favorable ergonomic choices, but
considering how awesome they look, they may be worthwhile concessions
for avid Tron fans. For $49.99, they aren't the cheapest third-party
controllers on the market, but they are definitely some of the coolest.
More than anything, however, these controllers look and feel like
collector's items, not just because of the unique Tron styling, but the
amount of consideration PDP put into the slick packaging and individual
numbering of each unit. They may not be the controllers you reach for
first when you fire up a game, but they are certainly going to be the
ones you show off to your friends.
buttons and triggers, though stiffer or looser than the first-party
controllers, are just as responsive.
elements look cheap, but they are solidly constructed.
aesthetic value and solid performance make these compelling third-party
solutions, but the fact that the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions are wired
may be a turn-off for some.
$49.99, these are great for Tron fans and passionate gamers alike.