Release date: Available now
During the recent PlayStation Network unpleasantness, many PS3 users took advantage of one of the features that sets the PS3 apart from the Xbox 360 and the Wii: it’s also a Blu-ray disk player. But there are no on-screen instructions for how to use the standard DualShock controller when watching movies, and let’s face it, most of us are too lazy to dig out the PS3 owner’s manual. Peripheral manufacturer Subsonic has come to the rescue with the NEO controller, which attempts to simplify the PS3 Blu-ray experience.
The basic layout of the NEO is the same as the DualShock, but Subsonic has added a set of four media control buttons on the back edge of the controller between the shoulder buttons. You can use these buttons to stop and start playback, and skip chapters backward and forward. The NEO is slightly larger than the DualShock, with bigger buttons and D-pad buttons, and the tops of the thumbsticks are dimpled inwards, which is helpful for players who grip the sticks from the top instead of on the sides. And the unit has a slick-looking, glossy sheen on the top, with a more grippable spongy surface on the bottom.
But bigger isn’t necessarily better. Players with small hands should stick with the DualShock, as the NEO might be just big enough to cause them problems. I found the right-side buttons to be not quite as responsive as those on the DualShock. The lithium-ion battery didn’t respond as expected to my Energizer charging station; the instructions say not to charge the battery for more than three hours, yet the light on my charging station never indicated that the battery was fully charged, even after more than a day of charging. And the media buttons are so poorly labeled that it’s practically impossible to read them in the low lighting that many users employ when watching movies. But the big problem with the NEO is one of necessity: the buttons on the DualShock do the same things that the NEO’s media buttons do; you just have to either experiment or (gasp) get up off the couch and find your PS3 manual, either of which is preferable to paying $60 for a new controller.
The NEO controller looks great and handles fairly well (assuming you have average-size hands). But if you’re tempted to buy one strictly for the Bluetooth media controls, think twice; your trusty DualShock does the same things that the NEO does, and it won’t cost you extra for the privilege. The NEO takes a nice step in the direction of innovation, but it doesn’t quite deliver.