Gioteck SC3 Wireless Pro Gamepad: A Middleweight Trying To Punch Up

November 29, 2021
FEATURES

Even though the last generation of consoles is quietly winding down, it doesn’t mean hardware companies are. Gioteck recently released a cracking headset that crossed both generations exceptionally well, but their latest controller — the SC3 — is firmly fixed on the PS4 and PC market. It would certainly be an interesting marketing proposition if it didn’t also work on PS5, which we can confirm it does despite not being labelled as such. This one also has a few extras in the box that may tip the scales for those looking for a replacement pad.


Box Contents


The controller comes with two extra pairs of thumbsticks of different sizes, as well as a set of three changeable fascias, screwdriver, manual and charging cable. 


Aesthetic


The eagle-eyed will note that the SC3 doesn’t look like a PlayStation controller or even the model it’s replacing, the VX-4. Quite the opposite: much like the SC1, its PS3 equivalent, the SC3 is designed like an Xbox controller. The D-pad and left thumbstick have switched places which will feel right at home for both Xbox and PC players, though understandably require some getting used to if you’ve never experienced a similar controller before. 

The build quality is mid-range overall, despite the £59.99 price point suggesting a high-end pad. The grips are nicely textured and there is a choice of either shiny white fascias or matt black and grey with a camo-style pattern. Changing them felt fraught, as each fascia plate feels quite flimsy and removing them when they are snapped into place felt like they could break if too much force was exerted to take them out. 

The face buttons feel equivalent to their Microsoft counterpart, and the thumbsticks are kept in place by decent magnets. L3 and R3 click as they should, the triggers are shiny and can accommodate even the fattest fingers, and the bumper buttons appear to be microswitched. In addition, there are two extra buttons under the grips that can be programmed and activated with your middle or third fingers (depending on how you play). 

The touch pad, conversely, felt cheap and a little loose. More concerning was the connector port for the cable. On the initial build we received, this was incredibly temperamental and simply wouldn’t hold the connection for any length of time. This resulted in frustrating wired PC gaming sessions where half the time was spent unplugging and replugging the cable back into the controller, and the other half holding the pad gingerly for fear of losing connectivity. A replacement pad fared better in terms of holding the cable in place, but the overall issue remained: the port on both pads was slightly off-centre of the shell, which prevented a snug fit for the connector. This issue is only likely to affect your actual play if you’re a PC gamer and don’t have Bluetooth connectivity on your machine, but it is worth noting as this port is the same one that is used to charge the pad so it seems odd that more robust QA wasn’t done in this area.

There are also volume buttons for controlling a stereo headset, but the port is positioned in a place that makes it impossible to use with certain PS4-specific headsets, such as the Thrustmaster Y-350P. Cutting off access to premium headsets in favour of built-in volume controls was a curious move, and not one that works in the pad’s favour. 

One style feature that SC3 does have over the PlayStation (and Xbox) controllers is lighting. There are six different LED lighting colours, as well as a fast and slow rainbow lighting state which can be cycled through. They look good without being intrusive and in the case of PS4 play will allocate a different light bar colour to each player by default. More fascias are promised for the future to further customise the pad.


Setup 


Connecting the SC3 to a PC can be done via cable or Bluetooth, and given the note mentioned above, wireless is likely to be the way to go for stability.

Pairing the controller with the PS4 (or PS5) requires you to plug it in via the cable, wait for the pad to light up, then press the Home button. This initially didn’t work for us on the first pad, which we narrowed down to the port connectivity (again). Holding it in place let us eventually connect as planned, and the second pad worked as it should.

Programming the S1 and S2 buttons under the grips was straightforward enough; you first need to hold the central rear shift button until the controller moves into programming mode, choose a button you want to map to one of the extra buttons, and then choose either S1 or S2 to assign it. If, like us, you found the L1/R1 buttons a bit too cumbersome to reach with your index fingers, the programmable rear buttons will be welcomed. 

Another option is the ability to add vibration to either of the pad triggers. This felt a little unnecessary, given that the vibration activates on every press of the trigger rather than being game-controlled. There are three settings: off, standard vibration and strong vibration; players who love feedback whenever a button is pressed may scratch an itch that was missing from the official PS4 pad, but the lack of context meant that this addition felt a bit gimmicky.


Usability


Given that the SC3 is being marketed as a premium controller with a price to match, we would expect the pad to perform at least as well as the official Sony pad that can be picked up for ten quid cheaper. It tries its best, a few too many comfort issues and quirks came to light during gameplay to fully recommend it. 

The thumbsticks, even using the lowest height pair, were still higher than both a PS4 pad and Xbox / Microsoft pad. It seems bizarre that given the customisable nature of the SC3, a pair of thumbsticks weren’t included that matched the size of controllers already on the market. That isn’t to say that the SC3 will induce cramp after ten minutes, but we certainly felt it after an hour and a half of tense action stalking around the mansion in Resident Evil VII: Biohazard. Thumbstick action is also a lot floatier than on other pads, which may actually work in its favour in fighting games where quick combos are required. 

The triggers are smooth and shiny like the Xbox pad, rather than the PS4 equivalent, but their size meant they were still very usable. The bumpers on the other hand were incredibly sensitive and the merest caress of one activated it with a click. Given one of the default actions mapped to a bumper in RE7 is the use of scarce meds, much teeth-gnashing was endured before the R1 bumper was finally mapped to one of the new programmable S buttons. 

The annoyances progressed to PC gaming too — at one point during a game of Eastward, the controller decided to start vibrating and refused to stop. I had to physically disconnect the pad from the computer to stop it. This wasn’t a one-off issue either: it persisted through various parts of the game and was confirmed to be controller-specific since the vibration didn’t manifest when using a different pad. We didn’t experience this with other PC games though, so it might be an odd combination of game programming that activates something equally weird in the SC3, since the replacement unit had the same quirk. 

It is worth noting that the initial review unit we were sent felt like it had some defects which may account for a few (but not all) of the PC and PS4 issues we experienced, and sincerely hope that the build of future pads that hits the market irons out all of these problems.

Battery life was reasonable at about five to six hours, which will obviously reduce if you activate the rumble triggers at the highest setting (in our case, we didn’t use them other than for testing the setup). 


Overall


The SC3 is by no means a bad controller. It has a number of interesting design choices which will appeal to different swathes of the gaming community. The pad layout may attract or repel gamers depending on their preference, but should certainly appeal to PC players. Programmable extra buttons offer choice and also offset possible issues with games that require careful use of the over-sensitive bumpers. The lighting is funky and gives the otherwise mixed build quality of the pad a more premium sheen. Yet the biggest problems with the pad are also the ones that might put people off entirely: a headphone port in an off-centre location which limits certain headsets, thumbsticks that don’t offer equivalent height options to their counterparts and most importantly, a temperamental connection port. None of these on their own are deal-breakers, and if the pad was half its current RRP they might have been able to be overlooked entirely. But the SC3’s ambition to be marketed with a premium label means that the reflective price can’t be justified unless you’re looking for an Xbox controller layout on a PlayStation pad. 

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Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.