Even though the time of the current console generation will be coming to an end in a few months, there’s still lots of time to become more competitive. With the current controller family being as old as it is, there have been tons of 3rd party controllers with additional functions that have flooded the market. Unfortunately, the trend between all of those built in controllers is one thing – high price points. Fortunately, for those who wish to get the most out of their controllers, the eXtremeRate Dawn offers the functionality of rear paddle controllers such as SCUF, AimControllers, and Xbox’s Elite for a fraction of the price. What’s the catch? You have to break out your screwdriver.
The eXtremeRate Dawn Remap Kit can be found on Amazon for $29.99.
The eXtremeRate controller mod is a really cool piece of tech that sits inside your current controller. You don’t get a new controller, but instead, tweak your current one that you’ve come to love so much. The product itself is a tiny motherboard with an attached ribbon cable which “hijacks” then passes on the signal between your controller buttons and its own motherboard.
Think of it as a really useful electric parasite. OK, maybe don’t think of it as that, but that’s kind of what it does, and it’s not a bad thing—it’s super useful and pretty ingeniously engineered. In fact, for those who don’t want to solder anything or are uncomfortable soldering, the eXtremeRate mod doesn’t need any solder work at all. As long as you don’t need to program the touchpad, or left and right sick buttons. The idea of tearing apart your beloved controller might seem daunting at first, but it’s completely doable. Besides, you’re considering buying a new controller anyways, right? Why not try out a $30 option before dropping significantly more on high-tier hardware?
I will admit, I’m a sucker for a deal, especially when that deal means I’m able to get my hands electronically dirty. The ability to mod something for less than the price of another product and get the same result makes me feel accomplished. However, getting into a Dualshock 4 controller is not an easy task. Much like the frustrating bag of chips that doesn’t open until it explodes all over the counter top, the PS4 controller doesn’t like to come apart. This results in much the same effect, only instead of a $3 bag of chips scattering all over the desk, it’s a $60 controller with fragile ribbon cables and plastic pieces.
Once you’ve cracked the lid on your controller, however, things begin to get a bit easier. eXtremeRate has a brilliant step-by-step video of the installation process on YouTube. I followed this religiously and it made my job of installing it much easier. This is where, however, I ran into my first hitch. Lining the ribbon cable up with the tiny connecting pads is tedious and somewhat difficult even with instructions. I soldered the touchpad and re-assembled the controller to find that while the device turned on, the X button on my controller would not work at all. That button is kind of important. This meant there was a disconnect between the handshake of the mod’s ribbon cable and controller. So I took it apart again.
I repeated this process a couple times and couldn’t get the X button to work. So I backtracked and removed the solder keeping the ribbon cable in place and re-adjusted it to a spot that I thought might get a better connection. It did, and I regained control of the X button, but unfortunately lost touchpad support. Not wanting to lose X functionality again, I decided to leave it the way it was. Soldering the thumbsticks was a much more straightforward task. I walked away with a controller that had all but one button re-programmable which was a win in my book.
Worth the work
The rest of the installation was a breeze. Install the rear paddle switches, squeeze the controller back together without pinching any wires. Make sure to put the touchpad in a spot out of the way and align the LED with the hole in the bottom of the controller molding. Pop the button on their switches when it’s all together and bada-bing, bada-boom. You have your very own homemade controller.
The controller maintains all of its structural integrity that it had before. In fact, the plastic has a soft touch feel to it and, in my opinion, holds better than the stock plastic materials. It even fits my dual controller charger that utilizes the rear charging port. The carbon fiber look is cool, but there’s other options for rear panels as well available, should this particular one not suit your tastes.
The buttons have a clicky feel when pressed and a positive identifying response. You know when you click a button and can hear the switch activate, which is nice when troubleshooting if the buttons are activated or not. At first, I had a bit of trouble programming the rear buttons. I didn’t realize I needed to hold them down for a couple seconds and it was a bit unclear in the directions. Once I did, they all worked perfectly. There’s very little travel in the button presses. They have what I believe to be an appropriate amount of activation pressure.
To pair the rear switches, one must either press and hold four specific buttons or press and hold the part of the remote that you installed the foil touchpad on. Once the led shines blue through the hole in the underside of the controller, it’s in pairing mode and ready to be programmed.
Initially, I thought the shape and position of the buttons were a bit odd. The two lower switches sit where you might expect the tip of your middle finger would rest on the controller. However, the two upper switches don’t line up with any of your fingertips. Rather, they align themselves with the bottom pad of your middle finger. This was certainly a change of play style than I’m used to, even with rear paddles.
Speaking of changing up what you’re used to, modding your controller is only half the battle. Changing your habits from switching from a button you’ve been using your whole life to another one can take time. It will take practice to re-wire your brain to start using alternative switches. Even then, your instinct to use what you’re familiar with will prevail in surprise situations. However, with more games under your belt, it is easy to see how the seemingly small advantages stack up.
While playing Call of Duty, I am able to reload, normally mapped to square, while moving my point of view. With a stock controller, this is impossible. One must remove their thumb from the thumbstick, causing their view to become static while their thumb presses the square button. The amount of time saved by this action might not save much time. But that half-second could make the difference between getting or not getting that next killstreak.
The same goes for jumping, or any buttons that require your thumbs to be taken away from the thumbsticks. In fast paced games such as Modern Warfare, Apex, Fortnite, or Seige, this controller is really going to shine.
It does affect, however, the pressure points that one applies to their controller. I found how much I relied on the counter pressure from my middle fingers underneath the controller. This led to me accidentally hitting the rear switches when moving the thumbsticks or pressing the thumbsticks to sprint. It’s strange how just a slight adjustment of pressure can make one feel uncomfortable with the controller they’ve been using for years. However, it didn’t take long to find a new position for my hand to rest naturally without accidental switch activation.
There’s always going to be compromises when modding a controller that you’ve been used to for so long. However, I found that eXtremeRate kept the compromises to a minimum. The controller is exactly the same size as the stock controller. The replaced panel feels better than the original, and it works with accessories that you’ve previously bought. There’s no getting used to new shapes, contours, or compatibility. It’s the controller you’ve always known with four additional, low profile rear buttons. The only thing that you must get used to is adjusting your own gameplay for added efficiency and potential.
In the end, the eXtremeRate Dawn Programmable Remap Kit is a great, cost-effective alternative for controllers five times its price. It requires a bit of effort on your part, sure. However, if it takes you three hours to install, then you’ve made fifty bucks an hour on what you would have paid otherwise. It’s comfortable, easy to use, and seamlessly integrates with all of your current accessories. Its low price and functionality makes it not only a great deal, but an accessible option for anyone who wants the perks of an elite controller.