Turtle Beach Recon controller review: Full control
Quick verdict: The Recon controller provides some much needed extra control for Xbox and PC gamers but makes some trade offs to get there.
- Control panel sits close enough to thumbs that everything is accessible but it’s also out of the way enough so you won’t accidentally press anything.
- Comes with a 3-metre long braided USB-C cable.
- Mappable underside buttons are useful.
- Wired only.
- Superhuman Hearing doesn’t really give you a competitive advantage.
- Feels a little cheaper than Microsoft’s default Xbox controller.
The Turtle Beach wired controller for Xbox and PC comes with a number of extra bells and whistles that you wouldn't find on any stock standard Xbox controller, particularly in the form of enhanced audio controls. Still, it's not a direct upgrade.
It also sacrifices a few of the features you've come to expect from Microsoft's controller offering, and considering it sits around the same price (around $80-$100), picking the Recon is an exercise in weighing up the trade offs.
The USB-C wired Turtle Beach Recon controller provides an enhanced auditory experience with 4 EQs and extra controls for your voice chat and headset.
It adopts the new Xbox Series style controller layout with a couple of additional buttons but it will work on anything that runs modern Xbox software including any Xbox Ones and Windows machines.
It also features two mappable buttons on the bottom of the controller, and the option to use the right underside button as a toggle for precision aim. Unlike the default controller, you won't find an accessory port on the base, just a single 3.5mm headphone jack for your headset.
The centre panel is the headliner for the Recon controller. You have volume controls, which change their brightness based on how loud you've got it set. You can toggle how loud you can hear your own voice through the microphone, and you can mute your mic with a dedicated button as well.
It's all quality of life stuff that you really begin to appreciate if you're on chat a lot when you're gaming. The control panel is perfectly placed within reach of your thumbs on either side but it's placed far enough away that you're unlikely to accidentally push any buttons. It just gives you the tools you need all on one device without taking over the whole thing.
While it's sturdy and will likely last many hours of gaming, it does feel like the shell is made out of a lower quality plastic than a traditional controller. Fortunately the rubber grips draw attention away from that feeling in the places where you actually hold the thing so it's usually quite easy to ignore.
In the box you'll find the controller itself but you'll also find one of the most generously sized USB-C cables ever included with a controller. This braided cable is 3 metres long and even comes with its own cable tie.
The cable is a great touch but it's also a necessity because this controller is not wireless at all. You will need to be plugged into your PC or Xbox at all times if you want this to work.
If you like to game at your desk this isn't a problem but for lounge room console gamers an always-wired controller may be a bit of a deal breaker especially if you're gaming in a shared space. If that sounds like you, a Bluetooth controller may be a better option.
Gaming with the Recon is as comfortable as any default Xbox controller. The buttons are just as responsive and the thumb sticks are just as precise.
I also found the extra buttons on the underside to be quite useful. You can map any of the other controller buttons to them using the control panel but if you don't map the one on the right it actually lowers the sensitivity of your thumbstick way down so you can aim with a bit more finesse.
As someone who waves their gun about like a fire hose while playing console shooters this was actually performance enhancing and I felt a tangible difference in my gameplay. Check out the video above to see an example of this in action.
The major draw for this controller is the headset audio options found in the centre panel.
I tested it with a range of gaming headsets and regular headphones including the Astro A40 gaming headset, the SteelSeries Arctis 3, an old pair of wired JBL earbuds and a pair of Sony WH-1000XM3s. Everything sounded as good as if they were plugged into any other device.
With headphones plugged in you can choose between 4 equaliser pre-sets. These EQs are certainly an improvement over plugging into the standard Xbox controller and are different enough that most people will find one they really like and stick with it. You can also override your EQ choice at any time with the "superhuman hearing" button which the packaging claims will "give you the ultimate audio advantage". It does not do that.
I tried Superhuman Hearing in some of my favourite shooters like Splitgate, Doom Eternal and Halo. I quite liked how it sounded in these games so I just kept it on but I was still as trash as ever. Pressing it certainly makes everything louder and boosts the higher frequency sounds like footsteps and gunshots but that's about it.
After putting in a few hours on the Recon controller I just treated it as a 5th EQ option rather than something to enhance my gaming abilities.
Should you buy the Turtle Beach Recon controller?
- Buy it if you play with friends a lot and want more control over your chat and headset audio.
- Don't buy it if you just need a second controller or play alone most of the time.
Being wired, the Recon controller is not going to appeal to everyone but for gamers who want a single device that can handle all of their sound settings this is worth looking into.
It sits around the same price as the stock standard Xbox controller from Microsoft so you'll need to weigh up if the extra features and omissions are worth it before you buy this. The stock default controller is wireless, has an accessory port, and has a better build quality overall.
The Recon controller gives you all the chat and volume controls you need right where your thumbs are and gives you those underside buttons and precision controls that can make a small difference in competitive shooters.
Overall if you're looking at buying a controller for multiplayer gaming this is certainly worth considering and that goes double if you're competing at something that involves aiming.
If you're just in need of a controller for your player two or you don't chat all that much I'd recommend sticking with Microsoft's default offering.
Pricing and availability
Where to buy
How we tested
The Recon controller was tested over 4 weeks of gaming on both a Windows PC and Xbox One console. It was tested with a variety of wired headsets and game titles.
Images: Tobias Venus
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