Bored of your usual black or white Xbox controller? Well, there are many options available to you, whether that be via the likes of the Xbox Design Lab or through a host of third party manufacturers. One of the latter is that of PDP, and their Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox is a pad that brings forth one hell of a light show.
Unplugged, the PDP Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox is your everyday third party Xbox controller, just with a few slight amendments to the norm. Yet it’s when you plug-and-play that his thing comes alive.
Out of the box and the Afterglow Wave is an all-black (or all-white) Xbox pad, one complete with all the usual buttons that you would expect of an Xbox controller. The two thumbsticks are in the normal place, both with some deeply concave feels, coming across pretty much as an official offering would. From there we have a well sunken D-Pad; one that is extremely flush with the faceplate of the controller itself. Much less clicky than that of which we are used to, in use this D-Pad performs well.
The usual ABXY facebuttons (fine, but a tad spongy) come in standard size over on the right side of things, whilst the usual Nexus, Menu, View and Share buttons adorn the middle of the controller. Aside from the black-on-white of the Nexus as opposed to the official white-on-black cues, and the fact that the Share button is round instead of pill-shaped, you’d be hard pushed to spot too much difference between this PDP pad and a more expensive official drop.
There are also slightly elongated bumpers on the top face, whilst triggers sit below those. There’s plenty of movement in the latter and the former are easy enough to hit, but we couldn’t particularly say we’ve been taken with how PDP have set these up. A lack of texture or grip means that neither the bumpers or triggers ever feel great in use.
That lack of grip transcends down onto the pad itself too, and we’ve not found this to be the best pad to keep hold of. Don’t get us wrong, you’re not going to be seeing the Afterglow Wave flying through the air with the greatest of ease, but it’s certainly not as tactile a controller as an official pad is. And that’s even with a bit of texturing on the back of the hand grips.
Around that back though is the welcome addition of a couple of programmable buttons. Programmable how you see fit, whether you’re a fan of back-mounted buttons or not, the ones here sit in the perfect spot, right under your middle finger as you grasp the controller. This means they are always ready for depressing, with recent times having seen us rely on them for gear changes in Need for Speed Unbound.
Mapping of such buttons can be done in the free PDP Control Hub App from the Xbox Store. This is PDP’s controller hub and allows you to update the firmware of your controller, to check on diagnostics, to set dead zones on the thumbsticks and triggers and more.
It’s also how the Afterglow Wave gets its name, as this is a controller which has been infused by light, complete with glowing rings around both thumbsticks and sleek lines running the length of the grips; it’s enough to keep the excitement real. Many may see this as a gimmick, and we were – and probably still are – in that camp, but it’s a nice gimmick to have, allowing the Afterglow Wave to standout from the crowd.
With the PDP Control Hub fired up, it’s easy enough to set the glowing vibes of this controller as you see fit, no matter whether you decide to use the predetermined profiles that have the lights running solid, breathing, as a wave (our favourite) or in time with the controller rumbles. The speed in which the light changes, as well as working the full gamut of RGB options are at your fingertips through the App, with the Afterglow Wave really coming into its own in those late night sessions. Granted, much of the controller lights will be covered by your hands, but it all looks uber cool all the same.
Alternatively you can control those colours via the pad direct, making the most of a function button on the front of the controller. Holding that and manoeuvring the left stick sorts out colour and intensity, whilst the right does similar in terms of the actual light mode – static, breathing or cycling. It’s nice that the option is there to customise on the fly, but if you want to go properly deep into what the Afterglow Wave allows, it’s the App which has it.
Slightly less exciting, but possibly of more use, is news that PDP have also included some on-pad audio controls in the Afterglow Wave, of use when a 3.5mm jacked headset is attached. Situated on the D-Pad, you’ll find immediate access to volumes and the chance to play with a game/chat balance. It’s something we are seeing much more with third party controllers, but it’s something we are massively on board with – it really does help not having to delve into the console settings or to fully remove your hands from the controller when in play. That previous function button when combined with the D-Pad actions what you need, doubling up as a mic mute button with a simple double press. It’s something we have used A LOT.
For all this to work though, you should be aware of one thing – this is a wired controller and as such you’ll need to be sitting within reach of your Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S or PC. Thankfully the USB-A to USB-C cable included in the box is of a decent length at some 8-foot, although it would be nice if this was braided. Picky perhaps, but that is always of preference.
There’s no debating that the PDP Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox is able to light up a dark gaming room, but aside from that visual gimmick, it struggles to be a controller that will be of immediate interest. It feels okay, albeit slippy, and has some much appreciated built-in audio controls, but some spongy face buttons and the need to be tethered at all times lets it down.
By all means go and grab the Afterglow Wave if you are looking for a third party controller with a difference, but there are better options out there. Even at the cut-price level in which this sits.
Huge thanks go out to PDP for providing us with the Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox (and the similar Rematch Glitch Green Controller, lacking of lights in return for a snazzy paint scheme) for review. You can grab an Afterglow Wave for yourself from Amazon for around £34.99. It’s available in either black or white – both of which come with that superb lighting effect included.
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