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Jun 12, 2023

PDP Afterglow Wave Controller Review

Lights Off
4 Awesome
Retails for: $44.99
We Recommend: $44.99
  • Developer: PDP
  • Publisher: PDP
  • Genre: Hardware, Controller
  • Released: May 11, 2023
  • Platform: Windows, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Reviewed: Windows

PDP’s line of Afterglow Wave Controllers are not that new. They first came out with a black and then white versions in late 2022, and now we have a grey variant for this year. Functionally these controllers are identical from the other color variants, but the new grey straddles a line in color and confidence that has to be acknowledged. It’s a controller that knows what it is, what it can do, and why you need to have it. The PDP Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox Series X|S and PC is simply awesome, and should be on every gamer’s wishlist because of how budget friendly it is.

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As it’s in the name, the Afterglow Wave exudes a gorgeous eight-zone lighting system, as it lights up the titular wave patterns and both thumbsticks, too. While I’d say having the face buttons glow would be overkill, it is something I wish it would have. When holding the controller, the light from the glow bounces off your hands and really enhances the experience, especially when night gaming. Though there’s a pleasurable aesthetic during daylight hours as well. You’ll notice that there are two extra buttons, these two paddles offer you an alternate button to press that might be simpler to do. For instance, you can map them to the click of the thumbstick, one for each side. Whatever the controller can do, it can be mapped how you like. I really like the grey color, as it literally bridges itself between the black and white versions brilliantly.

When the controller is powered, you’ll know it due to the incredibly bright RGB, but there is a white LED above the Xbox button to let you know. This is for many reasons: having the Xbox button lit up is trademarked by Microsoft, you might have accidentally programmed the controller to have its RGB lights off, or you intentionally have them disabled and will need some other means of confirming it is powered. The smooth eight-foot USB cable offers a lengthy distance from you and your machine, whether it’s a PC or an Xbox. It plugs in snugly into the tight housing, a PDP staple that feels secure and won’t break easily. Audio is a big part of this controller, with a 3.5mm jack at the bottom for headphones and controls you can utilize like increasing volume or adjusting the audio to favor the game or chat. There’s even a special one-touch mute button like the DualSense controller on PlayStation 5 has. This controller does more than others, and even Microsoft’s own, and offers competition like no other.

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The plastic textured grips where you palms and fingers rest are not too rough, nor do they feel nonexistent. It’s the right kind of texturing that shows PDP cares, but those hoping for rubber grips will be disappointed. The thumbsticks do have a unique circle pattern on the face, and follow the concave styling as one would expect. Both triggers are textured ever so slightly, and feel smooth at a glance unless given a closer inspection. The Afterglow Wave Controller doesn’t feel like the official controller right away, but this is a difference you’ll forget after just a few hours of using it.

My primary tests revolved around F1 23, Forza Horizon 5, and STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor. Playing a game like STAR WARS Jedi: Survivor that demands precise movements and reflexes felt like a good test for the controller, as I needed to see if there was any perceived lag or problems with it. There were none, in fact the paddles made it so I could tie the ‘target’ button to one of the paddles, and ‘sprint’ to the other felt great. Racing games are where most of my time goes when using a controller for something, so testing on my most played game over the years and a game I was reviewing made the most sense. Unfortunately there’s one flaw with this controller, and I discovered it not long after using it. There’s a really unfortunate “trigger squeak” when pressing the right trigger, something I found out when playing racing games, and to this moment it hasn’t subsided. With all of the internals, I’m hesitant to use any chemicals to rid the sound from the controller, and hope it goes away over time.

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The packaging and website advertises the PDP Controller App you can use on PC and Xbox. After I got it installed on my Windows 11 machine, the controller wasn’t immediately recognized. This app does support multiple controllers and types, so you can have many plugged in at once. After several app updates, it finally showed up (version for those curious). A sticking point for some might be, that I had to create a PDP account and login before the app would be fully functional for me. I’m not sure how, but the Xbox app on PC also noticed the “One Free Month of Xbox Game Pass” and there’s a ‘Claim’ button for me to use. The controller does not need the app to function, but in order to fully customize the controller, I recommend it.

Upon opening the app, you’re presented with a plethora of options to change: Analog Sticks, Audio, Triggers, Vibration, Re-map Buttons, and Customize RGB. The analog sticks can have the dead zones adjusted, as the triggers can where you define a minimum and maximum dead zone. The audio controls are nearly the same as the controller itself, allowing you to set the audio mix, volume, mute the mic, and adjust the mic monitoring levels. For those who like to have custom rumble settings, you can set the percentage of the vibration. You can actually re-map all of the controllers buttons if you want, not just the paddle buttons – that was one of the most surprising things to me. Lastly, you can customize the RGB across four profile settings. They can have different lighting effects, speeds, brightness, and even be tied to timers. Once you get everything dialed in, you’ll hardly go back in.

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As far as wired controllers that aren’t made by Microsoft go, PDP nails it here. The RGB and LEDs are really a cut above the rest, and is just not something you see on an Xbox controller, and looks and feels great here. It’s worth noting that this controller is cheaper than official Xbox controllers, and these offer more customization and lighting for around fifteen dollars cheaper. It’s a shame the unit I got had a squeaky trigger, but hopefully that’s not your experience. The PDP Afterglow Wave Controller for Xbox Series X|S and PC is my new daily driver, and if you’ve not paid attention before, don’t overlook these controllers now.

An Afterglow Wave Controller was provided by PDP for review purposes