Words - Don Spencer
The controller vs keyboard debate is a tale as old as time. Many gamers swear by the superiority of one or the other, whilst others are flexible dependent on the game being played. Neither input is going anywhere any time soon, and let's face it, the decision ultimately comes down to what suits your preference.
Clearly, both controllers and keyboards are extremely popular. They remain the two only mainstream inputs for gaming, aside from accessibility setups which have grown exponentially in recent years.
It is also important to consider that controllers and keyboards have their own internal power struggles too, whether it be choosing between a mechanical or standard keyboard, or between offset or inline analog sticks on controllers.
In any case, the debate rages on, and today we take a look at the advantages of each input option and their respective utilities.
First off, we're talking modern mainstream controllers here such as the Dualsense controller or Xbox controller. Let's forget about the monstrosity that was the Gamecube controller...
By nature, the controller has a smaller range of inputs, generally consisting of around 17 buttons as opposed to the 104 buttons found on a keyboard. The smaller range of inputs spread over a reasonable distance generally leads to a more straightforward muscle memory trajectory than the keyboard. It is unlikely you'll hit the wrong button often when using the controller.
Default button mapping is usually more intuitive on a controller and many styles of games will follow the same patterns, whereas the keyboard may have a greater variety of bindings outside of the standard WASD movement.
Whilst keyboard/mouse are by no means uncomfortable as long as you have the correct posture and angle, you just can't beat the ergonomic feel of the controller, which is designed to rest in the hands. The curvature of controllers have continued to improve over the years, and the option of adding grips give the controller a reliable feel.
The controller is also superior in terms of mobility and versatility. It's a lot easier to pop your controller in your bag to take to a friend's than it would be to cram in a keyboard, mouse and the necessary wiring. A Dualshock or Xbox controller can be played from a reasonably long distance and does not require a large desk or extended space to facilitate. All you need is a place to sit.
As well as hand and finger comfort, the controller also means that you can sit in a more relaxed position, with no need to be bound to a desk. The controller may be more comfortable on your pocket too, with top tier models such as the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller clocking in at £142.99, compared with top end keyboards north of £500.
Controller > CTRL
Despite keyboards being known for their precision, we highly recommend a controller for racing games/anything focused particularly on movement such as Rocket League or the likes of Dark Souls. Contextually sensitive buttons such as analog sticks and triggers mean you can draw back your bow, move your character and pan your camera continuously in concurrence with the amount of pressure you apply.
The controller analog sticks allow for total movement whereas WASD movement allows only for a few directions and so must be augmented with mouse control. Controllers may also offer some advantage in terms of single button commands such as clicking the left analog stick to sprint, rather than an awkward combination of shift and WASD.
Features such as rumble and haptic feedback also lend the controller a greater degree of immersion that is rarely replicated in mouse and keyboard, as any amount of vibration in a mouse could seriously interfere with precision. For optimal vibration and haptic feedback we recommend the Sony Dualsense controller.
The Keyboard and Mouse
Shift Over, Controller
The keyboard/mouse is truly the most expansive and customisable control input out there. 104 buttons allow for custom mapping on a huge scale and entirely to your specification. You can even add MACROS meaning that one button can perform what would normally require multiple individual commands.
The mouse is the best in show when it comes to precision. No more aim assist needed, just pop the cursor over your enemies head, and click your way to victory. The right click/left click combination of aiming and shooting is also very intuitive for games such as Call of Duty. An integrated scroll wheel makes switching between weapons more seamless than ever.
When crossplay is enabled in Warzone, there is usually a disproportionate number of PC players in the last players standing... No surprises here! The skill ceiling is certainly higher, but once you are a master of the codes and keys you might just be unstoppable.
Whilst the likes of Xbox Design Lab have afforded the player the opportunity to pimp their controller, the customisation options are few and far between compared to keyboard and mouse.
It is now standard practise to have at the very least an RGB range of lighting within the mouse, bringing an aesthetic flavour to the power concealed within. The same applies to keyboards, and most keyboards give you the option to change the lighting style so you can refresh your vibe or show off your setup to the world. Many mice have swappable panels so you can customise the shape of the mouse to fit your hand or for a preferred feel or texture.
In recent years, keyboards themselves have become more customisable in shape, including split-keyboards, 60 and 65 percent version and numberless keyboards.
Have you ever tried writing your CV, sending an email or coding HTML using a Nintendo Wii controller? Most likely the answer is no. Where keyboards shine (and PC gaming in general) is that they offer multi-faceted utilities, suitable for business and pleasure. Whether it be e-sports or e-mails, the keyboard has you covered for any and all technology based activities, with the option do switch seamlessly between tasks using shortcut commands.
A wired keyboard requires no charging either, so you'll never find your flow interrupted mid-task. We recommend the Fierce Draconis mechanical keyboard for maximum comfort and responsiveness.
Check out Fierce PC bundles for a showstopping PC and keyboard for the competitive edge.
Whilst it's true that PC systems are generally the most powerful and customisable gaming experience, there is no right or wrong way to play your games.
Both the controller and the keyboard/mouse bring their own unique advantages and less advantageous features, and on balance they are matched evenly. And if you don't want to compromise, use both. Your choice of input should be based on your game, environment and ultimately preference.
We expect this conversation to continue to change over the years, particularly with the advent of new accessibility options and the increasing popularity of V.R. gaming.
There is after all a man who has completed Dark Souls with a Guitar Hero controller. Different strokes, different folks.