Quality third-party console controllers are in short supply. Sure, there’s the occasional flash of brilliance from Scuff or Nacon but most of the ones I’ve had the chance of using come up a bit short. Either they are way too expensive, miss some crucial functionality you find in a first-party controller or they are simply not up to par in terms of basic design and feel. PowerA Fusion Pro looks to break the mold by seemingly promising everything you’d expect to find in your standard Dual Shock while also delivering some fancy extras at a lower price than many of its competitors.
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The unboxing experience of Fusion Pro is simple yet it immediately establishes the controller as a premium product. The colorful box holds the controller in a neat hard plastic protective case reminiscent of the one coming with Xbox’s Elite controllers. It’s a great thing to have if you are in the habit of carrying your controller around with you or even just as a nice and tidy place to keep it along with all the included accessories.
Speaking of accessories, first, you have two standard replacement thumbsticks along with an extra pair of blue anti-friction rings in case you want to add a bit more color to the controller. Adding or exchanging these is as simple as lifting the magnetic faceplate of the controller, and then snapping the thumbsticks and the rings on or off. Second, you have a thumbstick clip of sorts for racing or flying games that will prevent accidental finger slip-offs and increase movement precision. Lastly, and something that I’ll come back to a bit later, there’s the paddle Pro Pack and the cover for where it connects to the controller in case you don’t want to use it.
As far as the controller itself goes, the first noticeable thing about it is the pure design minimalism. While it might look somewhat uninspired it’s a really no-nonsense, straight-to-the-point controller that looks to emulate the simplicity of the Dual Shock without unnecessary gaming embellishments. With that in mind, the Fusion Pro also has all the features of a first-party PlayStation controller – from the standard face buttons and the symmetrical analog sticks, all the way to the touchpad, the 3,5mm headphone jack, the speaker, motion sensors, and dual rumble motors.
The second thing to notice about the controller is how much heftier and weightier it is than the standard Dual Shock. It’s somewhat difficult to describe when talking about its size because on paper, they have roughly the same dimensions. However, each segment of the Fusion Pro is just a bit thicker which adds up for a significantly added heft that you’ll truly notice only when you grab ahold of the controller.
I have relatively normal-sized hands and on the Dual Shock, I can easily and comfortably hug the controller so my thumbs connect in the touchpad area while on the Fusion Pro they barely reach the sides of the touchpad and I have to put some serious effort to extend them in order to connect. However, despite the added size, all the buttons on the Fusion Pro, as well as the analogs sticks are easily and comfortably accessible and you’ll probably completely get used to the size after a short adjustment period.
The same applies to its weight of 365 grams with the Pro Pack attached which is in the ballpark of similar high-end controllers. Over on PC I mostly use a similarly weighty Xbox Elite Series 2 controller and I had no problem switching to the Fusion Pro. The adjustment period will only ever be necessary for those used to the 100 grams lighter standard PS4 controller. Ultimately, the added size and weight are more of a pro than a con and they definitely make Fusion Pro feel less like a fragile toy and more like a serious and highly premium gaming peripheral.
This is further boosted by its build quality and the materials used. The top of the controller features a soft and highly comfortable matte plastic that’s much less prone to getting shiny and oily after prolonged usage. The rear grips of the controller are rubberized which adds to the comfort and makes it so you don’t have to worry about the Fusion Pro getting slippery. The rubber is also a different color and has the same triangular pattern as seen on the touchpad, which is a nice little design detail that makes these segments stand out a bit when compared to the minimal smoothness of the rest of the controller.
One last example of a really thoughtful design is the charging port and cable. The port itself is located in a small indent on the back of the controller and the connector has a small plastic mechanism so it snaps firmly in place when you plug it in. This keeps the often unreliable and easily breakable micro-USB completely protected and doesn’t allow the very long cable to bend, flex or accidentally unplug from the controller.
Fusion Pro supports three connection modes and you can switch between them by using the small slider on the back of the controller. The leftmost one is for when you want to connect to the PS4 via Bluetooth or with the USB, the middle one for when you want an exclusive USB connection, and the one on the right enables a wired PC connection. Wired modes are self-explanatory and connecting the controller via Bluetooth is as easy as holding the “PS” and “Share” buttons together for a couple of seconds.
Whichever platform you game on, after getting used to the size and weight, using the Fusion Pro is almost a perfect experience. It feels quite robust and comfortable when held with the textured back providing a good grip. The face buttons are clicky and tactile but also somewhat less noisy than on the Dual Shock which to me made them somewhat more satisfying to press. The D-pad, a weak point for many controllers, doesn’t have those audible clicks when pressed but it’s still strangely satisfying to use on top of being sufficiently precise.
What’s also comparable to the first-party controller both in terms of texture and resistance are the thumbsticks. Using them felt great and while I can’t attest to long-term usage, I experienced no stick-drift whatsoever during my time with the controller. They are made more satisfying and a bit more precise to use with the addition of the mentioned anti-friction rings. While these are essentially small ringed pieces of plastic, they truly make every thumbstick/controller interaction feel buttery smooth. It’s somewhat difficult to explain and something that you can notice only if you use it side by side with the regular Dual Shock.
The L1 and R1 triggers have a bit shorter travel distance and sound clickier than on the Dual Shock while the R2 and L2 triggers feel roughly the same. What’s great is that the Fusion Pro has a trigger lock mechanism that you can control with convenient two switches located on the underside of the controller. Locking it all the way shortens the travel distance of the trigger by about 70% which can be highly useful for competitive games where each advantageous millisecond counts.
One negative point that there’s no going around is the fact that the 3,5mm headphone jack won’t work if you are wirelessly connected to the console. Essentially you’ll have to connect the controller via the USB and select the exclusively wired connectivity mode with the slider on the back in order to completely immerse yourself in the game via a wired headset.
Now, let’s talk about the paddle pro pack accessory. First up, I really liked the fact that the pro pack is a completely optional part of the controller and can easily be removed for games that won’t benefit from additional buttons. When used, however, the paddles can add immense functionality to the controller and make you a better player in certain games. Basically, you can simply assign any button on the controller to any of the four paddles ensuring that you don’t ever take your fingers off the thumbsticks in the heat of battle.
Now while the added functionality is great, their design and sensitivity coupled with the size and weight of the Fusion Pro can cause issues. I found that the size and weight of the controller made my grip a bit stronger and seeing as the paddles protrude quite a bit in relation to the body of the controller and are quite sensitive caused some accidental presses. I got used to it after a while but the paddles still never felt quite as good as the ones on the Xbox Elite controller or some other competitors. This can somewhat be alleviated by the ability to remove individual paddles or, as I said, removing the pro pack completely if you aren’t using it.
Last but not least, the battery life is also an area that benefits from the larger size of the controller. Fusion Pro‘s battery lasts significantly longer than the one on the Dual Shock and you can easily squeeze around 15 to 20 hours of playtime on a single charge.