PowerA Spectra Xbox One controller review: A flashy option for RGB fans, with caveats

As we all know, RGBs not only improve the power of your devices, but they also make you a better gamer (obviously). That's why I was especially intrigued by the PowerA Spectra, offered to us for review. Let's take a look.

Xbox Powera Spectra Controller Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windows Central Recommended Award

PowerA makes a solid range of good accessories for all gaming consoles and devices, from controllers to charging solutions and stands, like this Xbox One X stand I personally use. Alas, third-party controllers don't exactly have the best reputation around, although the situation is improving in recent years.

Having been impressed by recent third-party efforts from Astro like the C40 controller for PS4, I've come to be a little more accepting of off-brand controllers. And thankfully, PowerA's Spectra is another contradiction of that old meme. It's pretty damn good.

What you'll love about the PowerA Spectra Controller

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The PowerA Spectra is quite a looker. The controller has RGB strips around the controls, and around the edge, giving it a unique look. You can cycle through eight static colors or set it to cycle mode. I set mine to red to match the RGBs on my sexy Razer Blade 15.

The controller itself is also surprisingly well constructed, defying the meme that third-party controllers are poor quality. It feels solid in the hand, and dare I say, the shoulder buttons feel less flimsy than the official Xbox controller, with thicker plastic and more clicky action. The shoulder buttons on the regular official Xbox controller have a lot of flex to them, which wears down the plastic. The PowerA Spectra shoulder buttons feel reassuringly strong by comparison, which is nice to see.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The buttons too are clicky and tactile, and I feel like the action on the d-pad might be superior to the regular Xbox controller as well. It doesn't slide around on its pivot, which simply feels nicer to me. You'll also get a 3.5mm audio jack underneath, but no proprietary Xbox socket for adapters or products like the Xbox chatpad.

On the reverse, you get two additional buttons that can be mapped to grant greater control. The cable is also strong, with a braided design and a "lock" that stops it from falling out. Next to programmable buttons, you also have trigger locks, which decreases the travel before activation. It can make it easier to more rapidly fire pistols in shooters, and is a feature I've come to love in the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller.

Xbox Powera Spectra Controller Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox Powera Spectra Controller Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

There are a few downsides to this controller though, well-worth being aware of.

What you'll dislike about the PowerA Spectra Controller

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Perhaps my biggest, most obvious gripe is the lack of any form of wirelessness. The trade-off is a lower price point, perhaps, which comes in at £30 UK / $40 US. It's also possible that Microsoft charges some sort of licensing fee to use its Xbox wireless protocol. If you don't mind (or even prefer) no wirelessness, the cable is well-built, but it uses a unique shape that makes it hard to use other standard USB cables. If this one ever wore out, you'd be a bit screwed.

Also, I'm not a huge fan of the action on the thumbsticks. Their rotation accuracy seems diminished compared to the official controllers, which makes turning feel a tad odd. I was still able to compete just fine on games like Overwatch and Bleeding Edge, but it took a bit of getting used to. It's a shame because I found the triggers and other buttons to have really good action and ergonomics, otherwise.

One other minor gripe is the soft-body coating they've used on the plastic. It feels nice, but it is a smudge magnet. Also, these types of coating can get marked very easily, and require a lot of cleaning. Overall, though, this is a very solid product given its $40 asking price.

Should you buy the PowerA Spectra Controller?

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Ultimately, your purchase decision rests on those gorgeous RGBs, which you'll generally never see while actually playing a game, since you'll be looking at the TV.

However, this might be a fun gift for kids, especially if you're gaming with them as "player two." They're also far less likely to nitpick over things like the iffy thumbsticks, which actually do the job.

The fact this controller has no wirelessness immediately makes me not want to use it, having grown accustomed to the convenience of untethered gamepads. Otherwise, I could totally see myself using this, as an RGB junkie. Solid effort, PowerA.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!