Scuf Instinct Pro Review
We did a review of Corsair’s Scuf Instinct Pro because it consistently shows up on pro players’ profiles, trailing just behind the console manufacturers’ own devices. Touted as a premium controller, our reviewer put it through some paces to test out its performance quality.
At a weight of 280 g, this is a substantial controller in the same tradition as Xbox controllers over the past couple of generations. This is not the only thing it shares with Xbox controllers, as its shape and button position is identical to standard Xbox controllers. Its 12 m range makes it usable in any reasonably sized gaming space and Bluetooth makes it easy to connect to a wide range of devices. A set of 4 back paddles allows players to map button functions to an input that’s accessible even with both thumbs on the sticks.
The Scuf Instinct Pro really shines in its easy and seemingly endless customization. Faceplates, thumbsticks, d-pads, and back paddle profiles are all modifiable quickly and easily.
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Scuf Instinct Pro - First Impressions
I was ready to dismiss this controller, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really like the standard Xbox controller not only for how it works in the game but also for its heft and the way it fills the hands. The Scuf Instinct Pro does everything that the Xbox controller does but better.
The controls are responsive and smooth. The triggers still have all the travel I love about Xbox, but the option to make them activate with a click when speed matters. The back paddles are weird at first, but with even a little getting used to them, they’re actually pretty awesome.
Everything about the Instinct Pro controller screams premium, and the more I played with it the more I liked it. And anything I didn’t like, it was easy enough to customize until it was better.
In the package
- 2 concave thumbsticks
- 2 rounded thumbsticks
- Braided USB-C cable
And our review device also came with the Player Pack, which included a carrying case for the controller, a longer USB-C cable, a set of 4 more thumbsticks (including the longer versions), and a bottle of Gamer Grip.
Playing with the Scuf Instinct Pro
From the weight and balance to the textured grips to the over-the-top faceplate designs, everything about this controller screams “premium.” It straight-up makes the standard Xbox controller feel cheap, despite the fact that it’s both a solid piece of hardware and a classic design.
One could certainly do worse than the out-of-the-box Xbox controller. But you can also do better, which is where the Scuf Instinct Pro comes in.
Like an Xbox controller (but better)
The Scuf Instinct Pro is the exact same size and shape as a standard Xbox controller with the same positions for both thumbsticks, the d-pad, and ABXY buttons. Same goes for the both the R and L buttons (top and bottom), even keeping the trigger-like travel distances of the RB and LB buttons.
Like many premium Xbox/PC controllers, the Scuf Instinct Pro comes equipped with Instant Triggers. These switches toggle a faster press of the RB and RL buttons. So instead of the sweeping trigger motion, a simple click activates the button (much like a mouse click would).
Meant to provide an edge in shooters and other games where milliseconds count in competition, I almost never used this setting myself when testing the controller. The Scuf’s Instant Triggers are just a little too touchy for me and would take some getting used to.
And speaking of things that need getting used to: back paddles. When I first heard of these buttons on the back of controllers, I honestly wondered what they were for. After playing around with them, however, the advantages are clear: keep both thumbs on the sticks while still hitting the other buttons. That means jumping, crouching, switching weapons, etc. while on the move.
And the back paddles on this Scuf controller are perfectly placed. They rest right at the tips of my middle fingers but aren’t so sensitive I misclick on them. But given I usually play with a mouse and keyboard (especially shooters), I don’t use these all the time. Still, I see the appeal and can see getting used to them could give me an edge.
As one would expect from Corsair or any high-quality hardware brand, the Scuf integrates seamlessly with Xbox and PC. I never got any input lag when playing wirelessly on either platform.
Batteries (and battery life)
For a controller at this price point, one would expect a rechargeable battery pack. That person would be disappointed. Like the standard Xbox controller - and many like it - the Scuf Instinct Pro requires two AA batteries. (Fortunately, these are included with the controller.)
Now, there is an argument to be made for a competition-grade controller to use batteries instead of requiring a charge. If a controller loses power during a tournament, it’s way faster to switch out batteries than charge the device. But this feels like a justification that doesn’t quite match the price tag of US$200 or more.
Scuf Instinct Pro customizations
This is where the Scuf Instinct Pro really shines: customization. Up until now, it’s been all about the quality build of the controller, but there are lots of high-quality controllers out there.
The biggest players will always have an edge when it comes to pure performance, so Corsair doesn’t even try to beat Microsoft or Sony at their own game. Instead, it’s leaned into making an awesome controller with all the customization you can imagine.
So if you want to stick it to the man or make the controller exactly what you want it to be, here are some of the top customizations I liked about the Scuf Instinct Pro.
Though this has the least impact on performance, the changeable faceplate is probably one of the most obvious customizations you can get. Even the standard grey has a certain gunmetal chic to it, but there are a ton of designs to choose from. And since it’s held in place with discreet - but strong - magnets, there’s no worry about wear and tear preventing you from securing another faceplate.
To be honest, this wasn’t a huge deal to me as this wasn’t my customization (I was using the office device). But I’d absolutely spend a little extra to do this for my own controller.
It’s incredibly easy to swap out the thumbsticks on the Scuff controller. It was so easy that it took me a little while to figure it out because I was worried I’d break something. But no, it’s just pull them off and pop new ones one. And since the faceplate comes on and off with zero issues, it takes minutes to swap out different sticks if you have preferences from game to game.
The Scuf comes with a pair of alternative thumbsticks right in the package, so you get both rounded and concave. This was nice so that I can get a feel for different controls. We also got a second pack of thumsticks which also included two of the lengthened sticks.
Even though the length difference is blink-and-you-miss-it small, I found it made a huge difference in gameplay. But I found that the longer thumbsticks were way faster, and the rounded sticks were faster than the concave ones. However, the faster I moved with the thumbstick, the less accurate I was. That probably smooths with practice, so that's another part of the customization potential of the Scuf Instined Pro controller.
For most of my testing, I settled on short concave thumbsticks for both. I didn’t want to change change everything about the controller in my hand, but I can see a time and place where just about every configuration would work, especially if you factor in personal preference and playstyle.
The d-pad is also replaceable with a couple of different configurations: hybrid and standard. The hybrid pads are similar to the Xbox X|S controller while the standard is more like the Xbox One. When it comes to the d-pad, I don’t have a strong preference so it didn’t impact the review for me. Frankly, I have to double check the controller to remember which one it is (it’s qt).
So this one boils down to preference, but it’s nice that absolutely everything about the game controls are customizable to some degree.
The back paddles are definitely handy, especially once you’re used to them, but not all games are going to need the same functions mapped to them. So while this didn’t come up much in my review - I focused on shooters like the rest of ProSettings - it is nice that there are presets available for shooters, racing games, or whatever you need.
The Scuf Instinct Pro can store up to 3 profiles at a time, and it’s easy to switch between them with a button on the back of the controller. And of course you can make those profiles whatever you want.
Removable rumble packs
This is one of those “But why?” customizations, but it turns out this feature is pretty popular among competitive esports players using the Instinct Pro. So while some players may prefer the constant tactile feedback of the rumble packs, others find it distracting and the option to switch it off is appreciated.
Again, it’s a very individual choice, but points to Corsair for even allowing customization to the sensory experience of their controller.
Final thoughts on the Scuf Instinct Pro
The Scuf Instinct Pro controller is definitely a premium controller. From the way it feels to the way it plays, everything about it is an enhanced experience over an out-of-the-box console controller.
And it boasts a level of customization that is not only possible but incredibly easy, so it’s great for the gamer who marches to the beat of their own drum. Plus, with the perfectly placed back paddles, it introduced me to a whole new gaming experience I never knew I wanted.
Of course, this controller isn’t for everyone. It will always be just shy of the performance of premium controllers released by the console manufacturers themselves (In this case Microsoft). It is also a very expensive device, especially considering it isn’t rechargeable.
So my final thought on this controller is that it does everything I need, and a whole lot that I want. And it does so in exactly the way I want. If you’re a player who will pay a premium to tweak, then this is the controller for you. Get it here.
But if you’re looking for a premium Xbox experience that’s a little more standardized, you may want to check out the Xbox Elite controller.