Analysis: PS3 vs Xbox 360 which controller is better for games

November 22, 2008

Analysis: PS3 vs Xbox 360 whcih controller is better for games The age old debate of which controller is better, the PS3 Dualshock 3 or the Xbox 360 gamepad, has raged on for years. Today, I will take the time to settle all the misconceptions and break down which controller is better for what type of game. I have performed an analysis on shooters, fighters and racers using various games to perform the shake-down test.

I will first start off with the actual dimensions, and then move onto the different game genres the controllers might be better suited for.


DS3 gamepad

Contrary to popular belief, both the PS3 dualshock 3 (DS3) and the Xbox 360 gamepad are quite similar in size. With both controllers laid out, the dimensions of the controllers are roughly 6 x 3.5 x 2 inches.  There is a misconception that the Xbox 360 controller is bigger than the PS3 controller, which is false. The Xbox 360 controller however does have slightly more girth around the handle area causing you to cradle the controller instead of grasping it like the DS3.

Fighters -  Soul Calibur (Xbox 360 & PS3 versions)

dragonpunch Fighters such as Street Fighter, Tekken and Soul Calibur require the use of the d-pad to execute precise moves. However, due to the finicky nature of executing a move, exact precision is required. When observing the d-pad of both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, gamers will notice a significant difference between the two.

On the Xbox 360, the d-pad is utterly useless due to its odd design. Moves are extremely hard to execute because you literally feel like you are trying to move a single piece of plastic, versus having independent up, down, left and right angles.

PS3_Dpad xbox_Dpad

This is where the PS3 dualshock controller excels. The d-pad on the DS3 is actually quite good. The angles are very easy to hit on the d-pad to execute special moves in games. Despite being on a single piece, the d-pad actually feels like the up, down, left, and right angles are on separate buttons due to its partitioned bending design. When you press down, the character will actually squat or sidestep down, instead of starting to walk forward or backwards due to inaccuracy.

Before you go off blaming Microsoft on the poor d-pad design, blame Sony and Nintendo for holding two of the best d-pad patents on the market.

Winner – PS3

Racers: Forza Motorsports 2 (Xbox 360) vs. Gran Turismo Prologue (PS3)

daytona Racers rely on two important things, horizontal movement and acceleration and deceleration. Considering that the horizontal movements in racers are always gradual turns, twitchy analog stick reaction is not necessarily important. However, the acceleration and deceleration does play an important role in playing racers.

PS3_trigger xbox_top

Most racers utilize the Xbox 360 triggers or L2 and R2 on the DS3 to accelerate and decelerate. I can see that Sony wanted to make the L2 and R2 buttons more like race car pedals, where you experience increasing pressure or resistance the more you press the L2 and R2 buttons.

The Xbox 360 triggers are a single solid spring action press, similar to that of a trigger of a gun, hence the name triggers. Once fully depressed you actually experience less resistance.

In theory, the PS3’s DS3 ‘triggers’ look good on paper, but perform poorly in practice. Due to the increasing resistance of the buttons, a gamer will start to tire from holding on the the trigger for too long. Gamers will even start to lose grip of the buttons after holding on for a long time. In contrast the Xbox 360 gamepad’s triggers, once fully depressed offer very little resistance ensuring less fatigue and longer gameplay time.

Winner – Xbox 360

Shooter – Call of Duty 4 (PS3 & Xbox 360 versions)

haloAnalyzing controller performance for shooters is extremely difficult because a huge part of it relies on gamer preference. Traditional console gamers who have used the dualshock controller since the days of PS1 more than 10 years ago, will swear that the dualshock is the best controller for shooters. However, more recent entrants to console gaming within the past few years may find the Xbox 360 gamepad better for shooters.


(Ironically the original PS1 analog sticks had a similar design to that of the Xbox 360’s gamepad)

Since I am a hardcore PC gamer, I will analyze the controllers from that perspective. In PC gaming the mouse offers near zero ‘dead zone.’ A dead zone is the area where the mouse or analog stick sits a rest and does not register any movement. An easy way of understanding this is if there was no dead zone in a controller’s analog stick, the reticule (or aim) would constantly move around the screen.

The dead zone is an area around the center of the analog stick which allows for the aim to rest without the on screen reticule moving all over the place. After careful analysis of both controllers, the PS3 has a slightly smaller dead zone than the Xbox 360’s gamepad.

This means that the Xbox 360’s gamepad has a larger dead zone, or area where little to no movement is registered. The PS3’s DS3 has a smaller dead zone, meaning that it takes less effort to register a movement using the analog stick. The PS3’s analog stick is also noticeably loose compared to that of the Xbox 360’s analog stick, which offers a bit of resistance.

So, you may be asking – what does the size of the dead zone have to do with anything?

The simple answer is precision. With a larger dead zone it takes more effort and motion to make a movement. Coupled along with higher resistance or friction to the analog stick, it can lead to over compensation for gamers. Also sloppy aiming occurs due to greater motion required to achieve a movement.

Since the PS3’s DS3 has a smaller dead zone the analog stick is much more responsive. Also, with the analog stick being looser, it is more akin to a mouse’s movement.

PS3_controller xbox360controller

However, there is a price for a smaller dead zone. Controllers can malfunction more easily because wear and tear eats away at the analog stick’s rest position. After a few years the analog stick may not sit dead center, causing the on screen reticule to move by itself. I have experienced this on several occasions with the DS2. Since the Xbox 360’s analog sticks have a larger dead zone it takes more wear and tear for this to happen.

Also, another price you pay for a smaller dead zone is it may be harder to use the PS3’s analog stick to aim for gamers who have slower reflexes. The larger dead zone can actually act as a handicap or cheat for gamers with faster reflexes on the Xbox 360.

In conclusion, if two gamers with fast reflexes, one with an Xbox 360 controller and the other with a PS3 controller played against each other, more then likely the PS3 gamer would out-twitch the Xbox 360 gamer in pure response time.

For further reference, here is Matt Peckhan’s take on it. He is a writer for PC World, Variety, 1UP, and PC Gamer UK, who actually came to the same conclusion as I did.

Winner – PS3


So there you have it. Both controllers have pros and cons, but unless you are hyper sensitive you won’t really notice the difference. I am sure this won’t settle anything but I hope I have provided some food for thought for you gamers out there.

There are many other game genres besides racers, fighters and shooters. If any of our readers out there are able to perform their own analysis and have found a new game genre a controller is better for, make sure to write about it in our comments section. If the games are available multiplatform or is comparable, and I am able to reproduce your findings I just might make a part two, including your findings.

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