Turtle Beach is a company synonymous with gaming. In fact, my earliest console accessory was the Turtle beach Px21 headset. Even then, Turtle Beach was in the business of creating products that found a balance between features and price points. The trend continues today. In fact, I recently reviewed the 600 Gen 2 Max, a solid headphone offering packed with impressive features, that doesn’t break the bank.
Turtle Beach is raising the bar on quality and affordability even further with their new REACT-R Xbox controller. This latest offering from Turtle Beach is pushing the boundaries of what to expect from a budget controller. Packed with features such as Turtle Beach’s SuperHuman Hearing Mode, programmable paddles, and full audio control, the REACT-R is hoping to set a new gold standard for aftermarket controllers. Can the REACT-R really achieve all of this in a market saturated with functional budget controllers? Grab that coffee, kick back and find out in our review of the REACT-R from Turtle beach.
- Current Price: USD$39.99 (Amazon)
- Connection: Wired - USB Via Detachable Cable
- Compatibility: Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows 10/11
- Headphone Jack: 3.5mm Jack
- Joystick Position: Asymmetric
- Programmable: Two mappable paddles via onboard programming
- Audio Feature: Superhuman Hearing
- Audio Control: Volume Control, Mic Mute
More Than A Feeling
The REACT-R is a comfortable controller. Not straying too far from the Xbox Controller design, it instead attempts to impress with the little but important details. For instance, while the official Xbox controller has textured grips on the bottom half of the controller, the REACT-R has a comfortable textured grip that wraps all the way around the handle. The handles themselves are slightly different in shape and are quite comfortable in my hands even over longer play sessions.
On top of the standard button layout present on an Xbox controller, the REACT-R also manages to pack in additional buttons without taking up any more real estate. Above the ‘Home’ button are three buttons unique to the REACT-R; Superhuman Hearing Mode, a modifier key that both gives the D-Pad a second set of functions, and a quick mute button. Located on the back half of the controller are two paddle buttons positioned perfectly for your middle fingers to rest comfortably on.
The REACT-R also comes with an 8ft USB-A to USB-C cable used for connection. There is a small USB-C port located between the two sets of triggers that works as the connection point for the controller. A 3.5mm headphone hack is located at the bottom of the controller and supports all 3.5mm including those with a microphone. As the controller has no built-in battery it also feels light to hold but sturdy while being used.
The buttons and analog sticks feel very similar to the official Xbox controller while the triggers (both sets) have a slightly different design. They have a larger surface area for your index fingers to rest on. Overall the REACT-R is an exceptionally comfortable controller to hold and feels sturdy to use.
The REACT-R performed exceptionally well during my playtests. All the standard buttons functioned and felt like the official Xbox controller. Even the thumbsticks, which typically tend to have a larger dead zone than official controllers, were impressively responsive. I tested the controller next to the official Xbox controller while playing Halo 5 and honestly didn’t notice a difference in response and feel while playing.
Similarly, the triggers, A, B, X, Y, and menu buttons all felt and responded like the official controller. I didn’t note any lag or stutter either. More impressive still was the vibration feedback from the duel rumble motors in the controller. It felt well timed and balanced. The REACT-R feels, for all intents and purposes, like an official controller while gaming on the Xbox. Even on Windows 10, I found the theREACT-R to be recognized and treated like the official controller immediately.
Overall, the REACT-R performs incredibly well, especially when compared to other after-market controllers in its price range. I would argue that its build quality, lag-free response, tactile feel, and response raise the bar on what to expect from a budget controller.
My only wish, and this isn’t a criticism of the controller but simply a request, is that there was a wireless version of the REACT-R. If Turtle Beach could offer a wireless REACT-R at a cheaper price than the official controller, it would sell like hot cakes. In fact, I would argue that it would be the gold standard for controllers for Xbox and Windows 10, not just because of the quality of the controller but because of the extra features that come packed in the REACT-R.
All Function, Almost No Fluff
I’ve tested out a few after-market controllers over the years. Most promise amazing features like turbo mode or automatic coffee making (the latter might be more of a wishlist item than a reality). However, I find that few really offer that much extra without a significant price tag and complex setup.
The REACT-R trims the fat and focuses instead on usable functions that are quick and easy to implement. The first and most impressive are the two programmable paddles. As mentioned earlier, these are conveniently located on the underside of the controller where your middle fingers naturally rest. Like all the other buttons on the REACT-R, the paddles are responsive and durable.
Now the REACT-R is not the first controller to give us programmable buttons. What does make it stand out, however, is how easy they are to program on the fly without the need for additional software or a complex process of button mashing to complete. Simply double tapping the aforementioned modifier key, located in the center of the three REACT-R-specific control buttons, puts the controller in program mode. Next tap the paddle you want to program. Finally, tap the button whose properties you want the paddle to take on. That’s it, you’ve successfully programmed the controller.
It’s simple, can be done at any point while the controller is plugged in and really does add a level of responsiveness that you didn’t know you needed. In my case, I mapped the left and right paddles to jump and crouch respectively. This allowed me to access these features in Halo without having to take my thumb off of the right stick. This in turn meant not losing aim control every time I wanted to jump or slide across the map. It led to smoother movement and aim control overall. The best part was that I was able to reprogram the paddles on the fly without pausing the game.
Gone are complex programming or the need for additional software. It works without a hassle which is definitely one of REACT-R’s greatest strengths. Similarly, audio controls of both game and chat can all be quickly controlled while holding the modifier key. It makes for quick adjustments without ever having to leave a game. Additionally, a dedicated mute button means your squad doesn’t have to hear you asking your mom for another bag of Cheetos.
The REACT-R also comes equipped with Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing Mode. When activated via the third dedicated control button, audio is boosted to allow you to better hear certain audio like footsteps or gunfire. In practice, the controller boosts a lot of the mid and high frequencies to try to enhance what you hear while in-game. I noted in my 600 Gen 2 Max headset review that this feature felt gimmicky at the time and while it actually did sound better when using my own headphones, it still wasn’t a feature that really added to my experience in a positive way.
Despite this small criticism, I was impressed with just how much pure function the REACT-R features without all the extra work of getting it set up and running. It’s very much a plug-and-play experience. Even on Windows 10, getting up and running was as simple as plugging in the controller. The extra features, specifically the programmable paddles and audio controls and their ease of use make the REACT-R a stand-out budget controller.
Turtle Beach has knocked it out of the park with the REACT-R controller for Xbox and Windows 10. Everything from design to application lands exceptionally well. The programmable paddles and enhanced audio controls, coupled with the ease of setup and use, make this the best after-market controller I’ve used. It offers more functionality than even the official Xbox controller at a fraction of the price. Though Superhuman Hearing mode is a bit lackluster and there is no wireless option, the function, features and price point of USD $39.99 makes the REACT-R the gold standard for aftermarket controllers and one that I have no problem recommending. Seriously though, a wireless version would sell like hotcakes.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.