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Scuf Instinct Pro Xbox Series X / S Controller: The Kotaku Review



An image of a Scuf Instinct Pro controller with a beautiful purple faceplate.

Remember the giant hands. The controller is normal size.
Picture: Mike Fahey / Kotaku

Since 2011, Scuf Gaming has made a name for itself by producing some of the highest quality third-party console controllers and owning a ridiculous number of control patents. Scuf Instinct and Instinct Pro are the company’s first step in making an elite-level controller for the Xbox Series X / S consoles, and it did quite well.

What is Scuf Gaming?

We have written about Scuf controllers on Kotaku for years now, tested both its PlayStation 4 controllers and the answer to the original Xbox Elite Wireless Controller. We also covered the patent infringement case against Valve and the Steam controller, where Valve was ordered to pay Scuf four million dollars.

Scuf Gaming is an Atlanta-based peripheral manufacturer founded in 2011 that does two things. First, there are highly configurable, usually quite expensive controllers for Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Two, it collects game patents as if they were baseball cards. The company owns more than 100 patents, including rear buttons or paddles on game controllers, “sax” buttons on the side and shutter stops, which limit the distance a controller shutters must move to activate. The company has an entire page on the site dedicated to their patents. Do you know the Xbox Elite controller from Microsoft? Most of the technology that makes it so elite was licensed from Scuf.

Scuf was acquired by Corsair Components in 2019, making it an integral part of Corsair’s evil gaming hardware empire, which also includes Origin PC and streaming device maker Elgato.

What is the Scuf Instinct Pro controller?

The Scuf Instinct Pro is a combined wired and wireless controller designed for the PC and Xbox Series X / S consoles. It’s Scuf’s latest idea to create its own Xbox Elite wireless controller. There are actually two models of Instinct. The $ 200 Instinct Pro, which comes with trigger stops and textured grips, and the $ 170 non-pro Instinct, which lacks the two features.

Rear view of the Scuf Instinct Pro controller and displays the new buttons on the back.

Without the metal paddles, it looks much smaller like a slice of meat from behind.
Picture: Scuf Gaming

Both Instinct models have four buttons on the back of the controller. It’s Scuf’s beloved patent child. They used to be long metal paddles, but now they are cute little buttons that are easily activated by the middle fingers. Under the battery compartment – yes, Instinct Pro uses batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack – there is a button to quickly switch between three different button configuration profiles. The small silver switches next to the battery compartment lock the controller’s triggers, so they do not have to travel to activate, which is nice for shooters.

An image of Scuf's Instinct Pro with a green faceplate.

There are so many faceplate colors for this thing.
Picture: Scuf Gaming

The front of the Scuf Instinct Pro is very similar to your regular Xbox Series X / S controls, down to the split button and one-piece directional dial. There is an extra dedicated mute button for headset users, which is lovely.

How does the Scuf Instinct Pro controller feel?

What really sets Scuf Instinct Pro apart from standard Xbox Series X / S controllers is the removable faceplate. Not only does it allow you to change the look of the controller with different covers and analog pins, you can also change the analog pins for different sizes and shapes. There are a couple of convex sticks included in the package, which I immediately threw away because convex sticks are rubbish.

An image of the Scuf Instinct Pro controller with the white faceplate removed.

Do not look at it there, it is embarrassing.
Picture: Scuf Gaming

Aside from the groovy little back buttons, the Scuf Instinct Pro controller feels like an official Xbox controller with a structured grip. The form factor is pretty much the same as my regular Xbox Series X / S game pads. Despite its modular design, the Instinct Pro has a nice, solid feel. The weight is fine.

I was worried that the small buttons on the back would not be as satisfactory as the metal paddles from older Scuf models or Microsoft’s Elite Wireless Controller, but they are actually decent and unobtrusive. You can feel them there, but they do not feel that they are in the way.

Is the Scuf Instinct Pro controller better than standard Xbox Series X / S controllers?

If you’re looking for extra features, more buttons and customization options, Instinct Pro has the original Xbox Series X / S controller turned down. If you do not need any of these things, the standard controller should do just fine.

Is the Scuf Instinct Pro controller better than the Elite Wireless 2 controller?

This is a much tougher conversation. First, Microsoft’s Elite Wireless 2 costs $ 20 less than $ 200 Instinct Pro. Elite Wireless 2 has several hair trigger stops in contrast to the Instinct Pros, which are either on or off. And Elite Wireless 2 has adjustable analog pin voltage, something Instinct Pro does not.

An image of the Scuf Instinct Pro controller in a giant, mutant hand.

Seriously, my hands are huge.
Picture: Mike Fahey / Kotaku

That said, I prefer the small nubby buttons on the back of the Instinct Pro, and my custom faceplate is so much nicer than the Elite Wireless 2. If you want to make a statement with your controller, the Instinct Pro is the way to go.

Should you buy the Scuf Instinct Pro controller?

Look folks, I’m not going to tell you what to do with your money. If it was up to me you would use everything to transform robots from Japan sent directly to my front door. What I want to say is that if you drop $ 200 on Scufs great new Xbox Series X / S and / or PC controllers, I do not think you will be disappointed. It’s a solid pro-grade controller that feels like something Microsoft can make, and not just because Scuf owns most of the patents on what Microsoft does anyway.


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