If you need a gamepad with a detachable USB-C cable, two back buttons, in a standard Xbox form factor, and only want to spend about $40, you should consider the Turtle Beach React-R.
The React-R is a little empty feel and light, which makes it feel more “budget” than the “budget” hardware here. This also means that this console is a bit loud. Button presses and joystick movements resonate at a highly audible level. The USB-C jack may also cause a problem with larger cables because they risk not being attached to the chassis. Either use the included cable (not pictured) or stick with thin USB-C cables. But do not refuse this matter yet.
All the buttons and triggers feel adequately responsive, if not as quick and easy as more expensive controllers (or even some on this list, in fact). They have almost the same feel and sound when pressed. Vibrations can get hit or miss on PC though, as they won’t always work with some games. When that happened, that thing definitely gurgled.
The two customizable back buttons are shaped like a wide and inverted Ls, which means you can press them by pressing your middle finger grip toward your palm, or you can push your fingers up into the controller to operate them.
The standard d-pad “satellite dish” on modern Xbox consoles is a bit spongy, but it doesn’t float in the slot or anything else. The gamepad also has a lot of textured surfaces that look a little spiky at first, but those surfaces will likely wear out over time. Given its extra features, especially the back buttons, this is a good value if you just want a simple spare console, something you catch out of the tray a few times a month. It also uses a USB-C cable, so you won’t need to keep track of a different or special cable if most of your peripherals have moved to the newer standard.
But the best part about this controller is the low cost of entry to start getting used to the professional settings with the customizable back buttons. Back buttons aren’t for everyone, and it can be argued that they mostly benefit competitive games (especially shooters). But keep in mind that Turtle Beach React-R (and even some of the other consoles on this list) is an affordable way to try this feature out if you haven’t done so yet. Think of it as a “trainer” and develop a bit of muscle memory for the back buttons before you spend two or three times on an Xbox Elite or Scuf controller. You may find that you don’t use it, and then you can either stick with that console or upgrade to something like a regular Xbox Core gamepad, and save yourself the money of getting a scammy pro console when you don’t. You don’t need or don’t use these features.
Fortunately, assigning the back buttons on this controller is easy. Double click the middle button, then click the back button you want to assign, followed by the button you want to assign to and there you go. Fast enough even to reset it during the repost counter if you want to try a few different settings.
Knowing how to make use of the back buttons might involve some trial and error if you’re new. This is why sometimes it’s better to log those hours of training into something more expensive, rather than putting miles on a more expensive machine when you’re just learning the ropes. Essentially, when you’re ready to move from that console as it runs its course or you’re interested in a more premium device, React-R will tell you whether or not you want to prioritize the customizable buttons from the back. So, I think this is a solid value.
React-R also has a unique feature called “Superhuman Hearing”. You press a button in the center area, and if you have headphones plugged into the 3.5mm guts jack on the bottom, game sound will be processed differently. I’m hesitant to call this a gimmick, but I honestly can’t think of a scenario where this would be really useful for me, even in a game where perceptual hearing is essential like, for example, siege (And I wouldn’t get caught playing this game on a console anyway.) So yeah, I think it’s kind of a gimmick.
But what does this even do? Well, I did a quick equalizer test on the audio output when this mode was on, and concluded that the game audio should be running through some kind of nice low-end filter and/or maybe some boost the mids and highs on the EQ spectrum. In normal terms, this basically means that the console is outputting the game’s volume and higher frequencies, so sharp, clicking, and sharp sounds like reloads and footsteps, are in theory louder. It remixes the game’s sound to highlight the areas where these sounds are most clearly defined. This kind of makes sense, but I don’t see that holding up the way customizable back buttons do.
Listening to this mode at full volume over an extended period of time is likely to become stressful, if not potentially damaging to your hearing. Turtle Beach intends this to be something quick that you’re playing at the moment to get a sound advantage over sneaky opposition, but I’m either not playing the right games or I’m not convinced. It’s a nice feature, but I’ve never used it outside of running some audio tests on it to see what it does.
Turtle Beach React-R also has a slightly more expensive sibling that will sometimes appear in search results when you search for this: The Recon. Although it often retails for less than $60, its listing price puts it in more competition with the Xbox Core console than anything else on this list. For that reason, the Recon will be a topic for another day…but if you can put one up for sale for the same price as the React-R, it’s a much more premium device and has the same features – including a silly hearing mode. .