When the Playstation 3 launched, many heads were scratched as Playstation veterans noticed something, different, about their controllers. Because of legal issues, Sony had to initially forego rumble capabilities for their next-gen system; instead, they opted to solely integrate motion-control functionalities in their SIXAXIS controller. This wouldn’t cut it, as the feather-light shell left gamers feeling almost as empty as the controller’s innards. Luckily, over a year later, Sony has since settled the lawsuit, and we now welcome the DualShock 3, with both motion-based controls and rumble-enabled. While not integrating vibration feedback is now passé, Sony’s first-party solution isn’t the only controller rocking and rolling; Nyko’s Zero, third-party PS3 controller offers the same functionality, but with a little more attitude.
With both controllers out on the market now, choosing which controller you want to feel shaking in your hands boils down to a cost-benefit dilemma. Traditionally, third-party peripherals have a bad reputation for just not “fitting in” with the hardware; sometimes, they just look, off.
While the Zero could fall into this category, the decision is ultimately up to the consumer. Available in three different color schemes (white/black, black only, grey/black), the Zero controller fits well with the PS3 look, save for the multi-colored LED taking the place of the PS Button, and its red charger cable—though the backlit face buttons are a nice touch. Also, it sits well in the hands with handles that are slightly bigger than the DS3’s.
However, the biggest difference between the two controllers is due to integration. Each time you boot up your PS3, you’re required to sync the Zero controller with its thumb stick sensor, plugged into one of the PS3's USB ports; unlike the Sony-branded controller that only requires a single synchronization. Also, while it’s possible to turn the console on and off via the PS Button on the DS3, you’ll have to be more active with the Zero as you have to use the console’s Reset button for powering on the hardware; though, once on and synced, you can turn off the console via the third-party controller.
A few other, minor, discrepancies between the two rumble-enabled controllers are with vibration settings, sensor ranges and analog sensitivity. While playing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, there was a noticeable difference in the amount of vibration coming from the two controllers during acceleration. Ultimately, the DualShock 3 seems to have more discrete vibration levels, while the Zero tends to rumble more violently, more quickly.
Also, the analog functionality of the face buttons is much more fluid with the DualShock 3. Sticking with GT5 Prologue, locking up your breaks with the Zero was much easier as the buttons have less range in their analog abilities, and feel more like the clickers on a 360 controller.
Finally, the last differences between the two are ones which won’t affect your gaming, unless the distance between your TV and couch is larger than a bowling lane. The DS3 has a larger controller range as it played smoothly nearly 40 feet away from the console, while the Zero could only handle about 30 feet.
However, Sony’s controller is only boxed with the controller by itself; you’ll have to either use the USB charger that came with the console, or buy a new one. If you choose the former, you’re going to be stuck with a ridiculously short option for charging while you play. On the other hand, the Zero comes packed with a cable that is about twice as long as Sony’s, making for a more comfortable time when charging while you play; but, you can always opt to use the replaceable battery pack that uses AA batteries if you happen to run out of juice at an inopportune time with the Zero.
When it comes down to it, you’re going to want to ditch the old SIXAXIS, sans rumble, to feel feedback from your character’s actions on-screen, no matter what. Although both controllers are priced at about the same as a game ($59.99 for the Zero, and $54.99 for the DualShock 3), they each have their pluses and minuses; you’ll just have a more dynamic, fluid experience with the Sony-branded option.