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ASTRO C40 TR Gaming Controller Review

By Christopher Coke on May 02, 2019 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

ASTRO C40 TR Gaming Controller Review

ASTRO. In the world of gaming accessories, it’s almost a household name thanks to their popular gaming headsets. This month, the company is breaking new ground with the ASTRO C40 TR Gaming Controller for PS4 and PC. The C40 comes to stores at $199, looking to dominate the custom controller market. It’s a premium piece of kit at a premium price but in the right hands, could it make you a better gamer?


Specifications

  • Current Price: $199.99
  • Platform: Playstation 4 and Windows 7 or later
  • Weight: 310g
  • Audio: Wired (3.5mm), Wireless
  • Wireless Range: 10 Meters
  • Thumbstick Control: Short or Tall Sticks
  • USB Cable: 2 Meters
  • Battery Life: 12+ hours
  • Inputs: Micro USB
  • Onboard Profiles: Switch Between 2
  • Accessories:
    • Included travel case
    • C40 TR Tool
    • 2 Standard Height Domed Caps
    • 1 Tall Height Concave Cap
    • 1 Tall Height Domed Cap
    • USB Wireless Transmitter
  • Warranty: 6 Month

If you’re at all competitive in the console world, there’s a good chance you’ve looked into custom controllers before. If you’re a Call of Duty fan especially, you’ve probably heard talk of “Scuf” controllers surrounding the infamous “drop shot.” This year, I’ve been lucky enough to try several custom controllers and am now coming off several weeks using ASTRO’s new C40 TR. It’s priced at $199, which makes it quite the premium accessory a game console but has the potential to actually make you better at the games you’re playing.

The ASTRO C40 is easily the heaviest and most premium feeling controller I’ve ever used. It’s larger than a standard DualShock and heavier than the Scuf Vantage I reviewed back in January. It can be used in either Wired or Wireless modes with the included 2.4GHz adapter. Instead of swapping out a plastic faceplate, you have CNC milled aluminum for that ultra high-end feel.

One of the C40 TR’s biggest selling points is its modularity. Customizable controllers are nothing new but rather than give you swappable plastic sticks, ASTRO gives you entire modules. This means that you can swap between a PlayStation and Xbox stick layout on the fly or even do a weird arrangement like having both sticks on the left. It also means that you might be able to buy different modules in the future, say with custom tensions. Making the swap is as easy as unscrewing the faceplate with the included tool, pulling them out, and lining up the red line on the module with the line on the controller before pushing it into place. That’s it.

The other big feature here is the programmability. Two extra buttons are built into the grips of the controller, UL and UR. Any of the face buttons can be mapped to these, as can the sticks and bumpers, completely on the fly. You simply hold the rear programming button for five seconds, press the grip button you want to map, the button you’d like to place there, and you’re done. The controller also supports two profiles using a switch on the back (see the dots in the picture below) for quick mapping changes.

One big drawback is that the triggers can’t be mapped to the UR or UL buttons. At least right now. Since they’re analog instead of digital “off and on” switches like the rest of the controller, translating them to a pair of digital buttons is a challenge. ASTRO plans to add trigger mapping in the future, though analog control isn’t likely to come along with it, though I don’t know that anyone would expect it to since the rear buttons aren’t triggers themselves.

I did find this limit to be rather frustrating in the review period. I’ve been playing a lot of Mortal Kombat 11 and block is, by default, mapped to R2. Even though this is exactly the kind of button you would want on the rear button, I wasn’t able to use it. There are workarounds if you’re willing to go into your console’s accessibility menu but that update from ASTRO really can’t come soon enough.

If you’re a fan of shooters, you’ll also be happy to hear that the C40 includes high-quality trigger stops. These are built right into the body of the controller and are much better than the rotating plastic bits found on the Scuf Vantage.

It’s also fully compatible with PC and features several customizations only possible using PC software. The entire process of getting up and running on the PC is quick and easy and automatic update tracking means that you’ll be running the latest firmware after your first time connecting and prompted to update with every release after.

I’ll expand on this in the next section but to cut right ot the chase: the ASTRO C40 feels just great to use. The buttons are all snappy and responsive. The sticks have just enough tension. The slightly larger size and excellent contouring make it feel comfortable and natural in the hand. It’s easily the best controller I’ve ever used and puts the standard DualShock 4 to shame.

That said, what’s up with the 6-month warranty? That’s painfully short, even if it does mirror its biggest competitor in Scuf. When I’m paying this much for a controller, I expect the company to stand behind the product for at least a year, so this is definitely something ASTRO should reconsider. I don’t see the controller breaking anytime soon, so it doesn’t worry me, but it does make me wonder why which isn’t a question ASTRO should want new customers asking.

ASTRO C40 TR or Scuf?

Leading up to this review, I was lucky enough to be able to get a Scuf Vantage Cosmic Edition to use and compare to. In the custom controller scene, Scuf is a major name and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they’re ASTRO’s main competitor here. If you’re considering a high-end controller, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll be comparing to Scuf at some point. The controllers are priced similarly and are trying to do similar things. So which is better?

When it comes to pure feel, ASTRO’s C40 has the edge. It has a little more weight to it and feels more durable in the hand. The sticks also feel better to me and the metal shaft gives them a satisfying little click when you push them all the way to the side. The face buttons are snappier, too, though the Vantage is a little bit better with this for the D-pad.

The ASTRO is also better with modularity. You can swap between Xbox and Playstation stick layouts easily whereas the Vantage locks you to one. You’re also changing out the entire stick module instead of just the stem, which opens the door to new modules in the future, maybe with different tensions or other customizations.

On the other hand, the Scuf definitely wins when it comes to inputs. While the C40 has two profiles, the Vantage has an extra pair of paddles on the back and SAX buttons on the sides. For the games that I played, I found two to be sufficient, but the Vantage is the clear winner in sheer programmability. The C40’s current inability to map triggers in inputs is also a big handicap compared to the Scuf.

At the moment, the Vantage is also much more customizable. You’ll have to purchase them separately, but there are dozens of alternate pace plates, including exclusives from your favorite streamers, esports stars, and YouTube personalities.

The C40 TR has one major advantage though: you can use your headset in wireless mode. At this price point, it is baffling to me that Scuf would require you to be wired just to use a headset. Frankly, I don’t want to be draping USB cables across my lap unless I have to and definitely not when I’ve spent more than $200 on the controller. The C40 lets you cut the cord, which is a big selling point.

With both on hand, I’ve definitely found myself preferring the ASTRO C40. It may not have as many inputs, but its slightly larger size, heavier weight, great buttons and sticks, and excellent responsiveness definitely make up for that in my case. It just feels great to use.

Final Thoughts

The ASTRO C40 is a fantastic controller. It’s the best controller I’ve ever used. Even though it seems designed for shooters, I found its responsiveness perfectly suited for fighting games, MMOs like ESO, and RPGs. There’s simply nothing this thing can’t do, which is why it’s become my go-to, even while I have high-end customs from Scuf and Razer feet away in my desk. The lone drawbacks come with trigger mapping and the six-month warranty, the former they promise will be updated in the future.

At $199, the ASTRO C40 TR doesn’t come cheap and is clearly not for everyone. This is a product designed for competitive players. If you’re the kind of gamer who demands every edge, this will definitely provide it. If you’re not, you’ll likely find it too expensive and that’s okay too. For those that do buy in, they’ll be getting the one of the best controllers on the market today and that’s quite an accomplishment for ASTRO’s first try at a controller. As such, it earns our Golden Hardware Award.

Pros

  • Excellent weight
  • Modular design, easy to swap layout
  • Buttons feel great, very responsive
  • Joysticks are exceptionally good
  • Wireless audio
  • Customizable face plate
  • Nice included carrying case

Cons

  • Can’t map triggers (currently)
  • Micro-USB
  • Price/6-month warranty

The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purpose of review.

Christopher Coke / Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight