SCUF Instinct Pro Xbox controller review: Is this pricey gamepad worth it?

SCUF's modified Xbox controller boasts a suite of additional features, but is it worth the asking price?

SCUF Controller Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

SCUF is something of a legend in the controller space. Armed with a suite of patents that effectively shape all of our gamepads, the firm is among the only companies capable of producing wireless third-party controllers for Xbox. You'll notice that Razer, Turtle Beach, Hyperkin, and effectively all other best Xbox controllers are wired, as a result.

As someone who has sworn off wired controllers for over a decade, the prospect of a third-party alternative to Microsoft's incredible Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 piqued my interest. SCUF's Instinct Pro does a few things the Xbox Elite Controller doesn't do, while costing slightly less at RRP. However, it also doesn't do a whole load of things the Xbox Elite Controller does do, which makes me question exactly whether or not it's worth the asking price.

Here's a look at the SCUF Instinct Pro from Corsair, the only alternative wireless Xbox controller on the market.

SCUF Instinct Pro: Price and availability

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

The SCUF Instinct Pro is a wireless and Bluetooth-modified Xbox Series X|S controller, and works with Android, compatible Windows PCs, iOS, and of course, Xbox. It features back buttons, trigger locks, and a magnetic swappable faceplate, which can be purchased separately from SCUF's website. It has a large array of features, and will set you back $170 clams as a result. As of writing, the availability on this thing is exceptionally low, with all stock sold out on Amazon and the SCUF website. If you want to land this controller, you may need to keep your eyes peeled.

SCUF Instinct Pro: What's good

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

The SCUF Instinct Pro is the only third-party wireless Xbox controller on the market. Thanks to SCUF's patent monopoly over gamepad features, it seems to position them uniquely in this space, giving them an advantage over other manufacturers (fairly or not; you decide). In any case, as someone who has sworn off wired controllers for over a decade, it's nice to finally get an alternative option to Microsoft's standard Xbox controllers, but at that $170 price point, is it really a good alternative?

With that price, the SCUF Instinct Pro positions itself up against the Xbox Elite Controller range, complete with back buttons, trigger locks, and swappable thumbsticks. To sweeten the deal, the SCUF Instinct Pro has magnetic faceplates that add a whole host of attractive design options. SCUF sent over this gorgeous dragon-styled design, with shimmering red wyrms on a black background. The paintwork is immaculate, and there's a huge range of alternative options over on SCUF's website.

SCUF Controller Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

SCUF Controller Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

SCUF Controller Review (Image credit: Windows Central)

Source: Windows Central

Competitive gaming and trick-shotting have really put a spotlight on hair-trigger locks and back buttons lately. The benefit of back paddles means you can perform reloads, crouching, jumping, and so on without moving your thumbs from the joysticks. Typically to use ABXY, you'd have to roll your thumb off the movement button briefly to perform these actions, unless you were playing "claw" style. The back buttons eliminate the choice, giving you a crucial ergonomic edge. To that end, the back buttons on the SCUF Instinct Pro work extremely well. They're very clicky and tactile. Unlike the Xbox Elite Controller's back paddles, they're not easy to actuate by accident, due to their positioning and resistiveness. I'd say I overall prefer them to the Elite Controller's back paddles as a result, even if the upper buttons are a bit harder to press overall. You can customize which actions they perform using the profile button on the back of the controller too, giving you a large degree of control over your experience.

The SCUF Instinct Pro is a great product, and won't disappoint.

Additionally, the controller has hair-trigger locks that work well, shaving crucial milliseconds off trigger pulls. If you're using a rifle or a pistol, you will fire much faster than a competitor with a standard controller. As I found while playing Call of Duty earlier, it won't make up for lack of skill (sadly), but if it comes down to two evenly matched players reduced to sidearms, the player with the hair-trigger lock will win out.

Overall, the SCUF Instinct Pro feels like an enhanced Xbox Series X|S controller for the most part. And, well, that's because it sort of is. It has the same internals, same shape, and same design, albeit elevated with rubberized grips, those additional features I mentioned above, and a mic mute button feature right there on the controller. Still, there's a big question of value here, especially considering the competition.

SCUF Instinct Pro: What's not so good

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

Since the SCUF Instinct Pro generally feels so similar to a standard Xbox controller once you're using it, you start to wonder where those extra $120 goes. The back buttons are great, sure, and the trigger locks have a unique clicky feel that elevates them above even that of the Xbox Elite Controller. However, the Elite Controller feels like it has a mountain of extra features, while also including additional accessories, for only slightly more than the asking price.

The Elite Controller gives you a dock with an absurdly large internal battery, far outlasting even the beefiest AA-style charge packs you can get for this controller. The Elite Controller also has tension control over the sticks, comes included with additional sticks, which are sold separately for the SCUF, and in a lot of ways feels nicer to use. That being said, the Elite Controller and its Series 2 cousin are known for their lack of longevity. The hair-trigger locks on my Elite Series 2 controller fell off after a year of dedicated use, and others have reported bumper issues. The truth is that no device with moving parts is going to last forever, but the more standardized build of the SCUF Instinct Pro may see it last longer than the heavier, potentially more delicate Xbox Elite controllers. There's no way of knowing for sure if that's true until I've used this thing for several months or more, however, and I'll be sure to come back and update this review when I have had more time with it to assess its longevity.

Scuf Controller Review

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

Beyond the price, there's not a huge amount of things to complain about necessarily. I felt like the actuation on the ABXY buttons on the SCUF was not as good as a standard Xbox controller, since the button travel is reduced due to the custom faceplate magnets underneath. It's a very minor thing to complain about, though. I think SCUF could have been onto a big winner here if they'd been a bit more generous with the price, but there is a lot of value reflected in that price, especially if you're a fan of the faceplate feature, which is super nice.

SCUF Instinct Pro: Competition

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

Ultimately, the SCUF has one single competitor on the market, and that's the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2. The Series 2 is often available at a cut-price for roughly the same amount as the SCUF Instinct Pro, give or take $15-20. If you're spending this much on a controller, I doubt you care too much about saving 20 bucks. The Series 2 comes with the most impressive battery life in the history of gamepads, alongside the best charging station ever made for a controller. It also has a hardshell carry case, additional sticks with included tension controls, in-app configuration software on Xbox, and feels a bit nicer in the hand.

The SCUF Instinct Pro has better trigger locks, though, and a lighter design. The back buttons on the SCUF also are arguably better, since they are more difficult to accidentally activate, stacked up against the paddle design on the Xbox Elite Controller. The SCUF also has a dedicated headset mute button, but the fact it only works with wired headsets reduces its usefulness a bit. I'm also not a fan of the always-on LED as well, unnecessarily taking up battery life if it's not in use.

I think ultimately, the choice comes down to design. The SCUF Instinct Pro comes with a range of faceplate options that are easily swapped, thanks to its magnetic interface. With the Xbox Elite Controller, what you see is what you get; it also doesn't have a share button, unlike the SCUF. The SCUF is like a standard Xbox controller massively enhanced, but it falls short of the full package offered by the Series 2.

SCUF Instinct Pro: Should you buy it?

Scuf Controller Review

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

The SCUF Instinct Pro is impossible to discuss without mentioning its closest competitor. If this controller was the only option in the $170 price range, it would honestly be a bit of a no-brainer. The back buttons feel great to use and genuinely provide an advantage, especially in competitive games. The trigger locks are better than its closest competitors too, with tactile clicky activation. Where it really shines is in those faceplate designs, which are gorgeous, and easy to swap out and customize.

You should buy this if ...

  • You love the faceplate designs
  • You want back buttons for elevated competitive play
  • You prefer having a dedicated share button and wired mic mute button

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • You don't think you'll use the back buttons that much
  • You don't like the faceplate designs, since the Xbox Elite Series 2 is probably better value in this scenario

I can't help but wish it was a shred more affordable, though. It feels like for just a little bit extra you get a lot more bang for your buck with Microsoft's competing Xbox Elite Controller Series 2. Although, there's certainly something to be said about longevity.

The Elite Series 2 paddles are held on with magnets, whereas the SCUF back buttons are actually built into the controller, making them less susceptible to misplacement. The Elite controllers have also had a notoriously bad track record with build quality over time, with parts falling off or failing. Since the SCUF controller is based on a standard Xbox controller design, it may wind up being better value over time than its competition. There's no way to know for sure without a time machine, though.

One thing that I DO know for sure is that the SCUF Instinct Pro is one of the best Xbox controllers on the market, and comes in only a millimeter behind the Elite Series 2. And hey, if you like those faceplate options on SCUF's website, you can't put a price on style.

Regardless, the SCUF Instinct Pro is a great product, and won't disappoint if you decide to pick one up.

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden 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 caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!