Thrustmaster has been producing quality gaming peripherals since the early 90s, best known in recent years for its extensive trove of racing wheels. This latest product isn’t aimed at driving sim devotees, however, Thrustmaster having set its sights on the ever-growing pro controller market with the €169.99 eSwap Pro Controller. For the past few weeks we’ve been putting this new pad through its paces – here’s our verdict.
The key selling point being shopped to gamers here is the ability to change the position of its D-pad and analog sticks, allowing you to swap between a symmetric or asymmetric layout at any time, within a matter of seconds. This is done by simply removing and then placing these modules into their magnetised compartments – it’s a nice touch, though it’s a bit of a novelty. Unless you happen to be sharing this pro pad with someone who has a different layout preference, it’s likely you’ll find the layout that suits you just and leave it at that.
Things get more interesting when you consider that the right analogue stick can be swapped out for a module with two additional buttons. It’s something that’s geared toward fighting game fans, alongside a redesigned circular D-pad that might allow for easier sweeping moves of the thumb in games like Street Fighter V, but diehard fighters will almost certainly be eyeing up a sweet arcade fight stick instead of a multipurpose controller.
The only other benefit to all these swappable modules is being able to mix and match colour schemes if you decide to splash out on some additional eSwap components.
Focusing purely on this heavily marketed feature does the controller a disservice, however. In terms of design, comfort, and build quality, this gamepad is right up there with the very best, with Thrustmaster flexing close to thirty years of peripheral building prowess.
If you’re a competitive gamer then it’s usually the four top buttons that matter most. The Thrustmaster’s triggers are a nice middle ground between Sony’s DualShock 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One gamepad, leaning ever so slightly towards the latter thanks to their smooth finish. Meanwhile, the two bumper buttons are long enough for you wrap your fingers around without clashing with the controller’s design.
Looking at the rest of the controller’s layout, there are no big surprises. It has everything you’d expect from an officially licensed PlayStation 4 gamepad including the console’s standard touchpad, options, and share buttons. Another interesting point to make is the face buttons; they’re slightly smaller than the DualShock’s and give a nice little click when pressed, almost like a mouse. This small design choice makes it seem like your inputs are quicker than using a regular controller, though this is likely a placebo effect.
This wouldn’t be a pro tier controller without a cluster of buttons being tucked away under the rear side of its design. They’re easy to reach with your middle and ring fingers, and Thrustmasters eSwap PC software allows you to program these inputs, which can be handy for reloading weapons in shooters or perhaps shifting gears in a racing sim. The software is relatively straightforward, easy to use, and has other options for adjusting stick dead zones and sensitivity.
The Thrustmaster isn’t a conventionally handsome piece of kit, combining glossy, matte, and rubber textures with the company logo clearly visible in two places. In terms of form and function, however, it comes out with flying colours. You probably won’t be adjusting the eSwap’s layout often though the process takes just seconds thanks to the way these modules are magnetically locked to the front of the controller.
Compared to other gamepads, this one’s slightly longer which can look a little strange though makes it incredibly comfortable – at least for a huge-handed gamers such as myself. When gripping the Thrustmaster, your mitts will wrap around it perfectly, making contact with the textured handles.
As with most controllers designed with esports and competitive gaming in mind, the eSwap doesn’t support wireless, which cuts out as much input latency as possible. The included micro USB cable locks into the controller via a small compartment above the touchpad which prevents it from accidentally being pulled loose.