Scuf has introduced two pricey controllers, the $170 Instinct and the $200 Instinct Pro. They’re made for Xbox, and to that end, they feel like Microsoft’s official controller in fit and finish. I mean that quite literally because they have the same dimensions as the newer Xbox wireless controller that ships with the Series X and S consoles.
The similarities go all the way down to the main board, which Scuf told The Verge is, in fact, the same as Microsoft’s. This means that Scuf’s new controllers will use Microsoft’s dynamic latency input protocol to nip lag in the bud, and they will get all of the firmware updates and improvements as the official Xbox controllers. These are the first wireless controllers made by a third party that were designed to work seamlessly with the Xbox Series S and X consoles. In addition, it works on Xbox One, as well as PC with the Xbox USB wireless adapter, or via Bluetooth with iOS, Android, and other platforms that support gamepads.
The Instinct series controllers are far from being a copy of the default wireless controller in terms of features, and in some cases they mirror or go beyond what’s available with the $180 Xbox Elite Series 2 controller. The Instinct Pro has switches located beneath each trigger that can vastly shorten their travel distances when activated (down to approximately 0.2mm), making it feel like you’re clicking a mouse. The Instinct Pro also has rubber grips around the back that offer far more grab than your average controller.
Those features make up the $30 price difference between the Instinct models. Otherwise, they’re the same, with swappable faceplates, thumbsticks (and the anti-friction rings around them), and D-pads to give your controller a custom feel and look. Each controller ships with one faceplate (replacements start at $24.99 and go up depending on the design), four thumbsticks (two regular concave sticks that match the color palette of your Instinct model, as well as one tall black domed stick and one short domed stick), and a hybrid eight-way D-pad much like the one on Microsoft’s latest controller. The D-pad can be replaced with a cross-shaped option for $9.99. Extra thumbsticks come in a two-pack for $9.99 or a four-pack for $14.99. The Instinct series controllers ship with a 6.5-foot USB-A to USB-C cable for wired play, and it will sell a 12-foot cable on its site for $19.99.
On Scuf’s site, you’ll be able to buy all of these accessories, as well as customize an Instinct controller to your liking. If you’re someone who wants a lighter controller, you can even opt to remove its vibration motors in the grips for $3.99 (though, the Impulse trigger-specific motors will stay put, apparently), shedding 20 percent of its weight. To say that Scuf has built an ecosystem of accessories around the Instinct controllers is a bit of an understatement.
In addition to tweaking how the Instinct looks and feels with regard to its analog sticks, some of the functionality is open for customization. Both controllers have four rear, nonremovable paddle buttons that can be programmed to perform the same functions as almost any of the buttons (aside from the Xbox button, share, or the rear triggers), which may save you some time or frustration if you aren’t content with a game’s default controller scheme. The Instinct supports up to three saved profiles, and you toggle between them with a rear button that changes the color of the front-facing LED between blue, red, and green.
The Instinct series has a mute button near its bottom that only works when a headset is plugged in. Notably, the mute button works on the hardware level, so it’ll work with your wired headphones whether you’re using it with Xbox, PC, or with another platform like iOS or Android. Lastly, the Instinct controllers have a magnetic battery hatch and it supports regular AA batteries, rechargeable ones, as well as the Xbox Play & Charge kit made for the Series X and S controller.
I like that you can thoroughly tweak its appearance and the rear paddles, but it’s hard to ignore that the $180 (and sometimes cheaper) Xbox Elite Series 2 offers almost all of the same highlight features as the $200 Instinct Pro, as well as some unique ones that are sorely missing here. The Elite Series 2 has adjustable analog stick tension, a rechargeable battery (though, some may view this as a flaw), and a hard case included, which make it a little easier to warrant the high cost. Though, if you value a flashier look over more features, Scuf’s Instinct series controllers might be the preferred pick.