Without a controller, your gaming sessions are pretty much done for. Of course, you could go cap in hand and bow down to the PC scene, but the beauty of the console is that you can pick it up and get playing within mere seconds.
In order to do that though, you need a controller. And there are tons available. In the Xbox ecosystem alone there are numerous varieties of the Official Xbox Wireless Controller, with multiple skins and themes running through them. Throw in the Xbox Design Lab options and there’s next to no colour that you cannot get hold of. Then there’s the Elite Controller, with its fancy customisation and heft, whilst third parties have attempted the same – most notably Victrix with their self-proclaimed ‘world’s fastest controller’ in the Gambit, Turtle Beach with their Recon Controller and NACON’s Revolution X Pro.
But if you want something to really light up those late night gaming sessions, it’s the PowerA Spectra that should be on your shopping list. If only because the neon glows it gives out will see you playing through the night and into the early morning with ease.
The PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced Wired Controller (to give its full name), is an Xbox branded option for those gamers who just need a whole ton of colour in their lives. Set-up and laid out pretty much exactly as that of the official Xbox Wireless Controller from Microsoft, this wired controller feels great in the hand. I mean, really great in the hand.
Black in colour, it comes with a sort of soft-touch sheen to the upper side and this is absolutely beautiful to hold; non-scratchy and delicate to the touch. The underside has a bit of texturing on the hand grips, much like many other controllers in 2021. From there, the thumbsticks, the D-pad and all the face buttons are near enough exact replicas of the official scene, with just the Nexus button and menu, view and share buttons being a little more rounded than the norm. That Nexus button itself is a joy, harking back to years gone by with it’s easy to press feel.
With a teeny tiny white LED situated in between the trifecta of menu buttons to signify power is attached – it runs a 10 foot USB-A to Micro-USB cable for connectivity – the only real difference to the front of the Spectra is the inclusion of a volume rocker near the bottom. This is a really nice little addition and ensures that no matter what headset you have connected to this controller, you’ve got immediate volume and mute controls at your fingertips. Granted, that headset will need to run a cable to the 3.5mm jack, but once connected a push to the right of this dial will increase volume, whilst moving to the left will decrease it. Pushing it down immediately mutes your mic, with the dial itself glowing red to signify loss of comms. This really does save the need for you to head into the deepest darkest depths of the Xbox audio settings to mess around with the volume you need.
It’s the glowing of this volume dial which hints at more magic from the PowerA Spectra and as the name suggests, there’s the opportunity for you to customise a whole ton of colour on the controller itself. Split into three ‘zones’, the Spectra comes complete with colour changing capabilities, so you can light up your most hardcore gaming sessions.
Zone 1 works around the external lines of the controller itself, whilst Zone 2 covers the left thumbstick and face button surrounds. Zone 3 meanwhile will have you lighting up the night sky with a variety of hues around the D-Pad and right thumbstick.
This is all customisable thanks to the inclusion of a simple LED button on the rear side of the controller. Holding this down for a couple of seconds initiates LED Program Mode and from there a push of the D-Pad to the right will let you scroll through the Zones. From there, making the most of the four face buttons will set your colour type, each unique to the buttons themselves. This means that hitting the A button will cycle through five different types of green, whilst Y will cover the yellow angle, B that of red and X of blue. Mixing and matching will see you able to have the Spectra glowing all manner of colours.
Each of the three Zones can be set independently, with different colours, whilst pressing left on the D-Pad will toggle between a ‘breathing’ or ‘solid’ light effect. Push up and down on that same D-Pad and you’ll increase – or decrease – the brightness.
From there it’s a case of holding that same rear-mounted LED Program button to lock your colours in place, whilst a quick hit of that same button will switch on or off the colours in an instant. Yep, if you’re not meant to be gaming and need to hide your sessions in an instant, you can do so with ease.
Credit has to go to PowerA for creating such a simple to use system, integrating it brilliantly into the Spectra. Whilst it may seem complicated initially, just a matter of minutes is all you need before you’ve got your controller glowing as you wish. And it’s just as easy to amend that again once you get bored.
But there’s more and PowerA aren’t done with throwing some fancy lights at the gaming market, for the Spectra also comes with a couple of Advanced Gaming Buttons on the rear. Much like found in Victrix’s Gambit Controller or NACON’s Revolution X Pro Controller, there are two tiny programmable buttons sitting on the rear of the Spectra, exactly where your third finger sits when gaming. Via a press of the Program button on the rear, these can be assigned as whatever you feel the need. If you need to stick a manual gear change in for Forza Horizon you can, or if you want to move your RS press to the rear of the controller, it’s something that is more than possible. Again, it’s a really easy to use system that has worked flawlessly for us. What’s nice is that once programmed in place, even if you disconnect the Spectra from your Xbox, those same buttons are still remembered for your next session.
You’d think that would be enough to throw into one controller, but the Spectra also has trigger locks in place too. Available to lock both the right and left triggers independently of each other, two highly tactile clickable switches on the back will help you adjust the pull distance of your triggers. If you’re looking to get some fast firing in on Call of Duty: Vanguard or Battlefield 2042, these are sure to help. I can’t say I’m a massive fan of trigger locks, rarely feeling their requirements, but they are there if you need them.
Sitting here right now, having used the PowerA Spectra Enhanced Wired Controller for a good few weeks, there’s really very little to not like about it. It goes without saying that many will find the restriction of a cable a bit of an issue, but at 10ft long, unless you’ve got kittens who are looking for a new toy, or young kids hoping to drag themselves across the room, it’s rarely too much of a negative consideration. It would obviously be great if the multiple enhancements found in this controller could be worked into a wireless option, but then with the glow that this controller gives out, the battery packs it would need would be constantly on charge.
It’s that cable which is quite obviously going to be the block for many, but if you can see past that and fancy a controller that not only feels great in the hand, but is slightly customisable and massively colourful, you’ll not go wrong with picking up the PowerA Spectra Infinity Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox.
Huge thanks go out to PowerA for providing us with the Spectra for review. If you want one, you best get yourself over to PowerA direct. It’s on Amazon too – the £39.99 is a no-brainer.