Astro C40 TR Review: The Elite PS4 Controller Players Deserve

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After becoming synonymous with high-end gaming audio over the past decade, Astro is now entering a new arena: pro gaming controllers. The Astro C40 TR is tailor-made for professional PS4 and PC gamers, sporting a sturdy design that you can customize to your play style, thanks to a variety of swappable components and a dizzying array of software customization options.

While the device has some minor quirks, the Astro C40 TR is one of the best high-end game pads we've gotten our hands on, and it's proof that Astro can do more than make great gaming headsets.

Design: Sturdy and Sleek

The Astro C40 TR has the premium looks and satisfyingly hefty feel of a tournament-grade controller, with a comfortable, soft-touch exterior whose slick all-black design is accentuated only by small dashes of red on the buttons and switches. Almost everything about Astro's 11-ounce game pad feels great the moment you pick it up, from the lightly textured rear grips and metal analog sticks that glide around like butter, to the meaty-but-surprisingly-snappy face buttons.

The C40 has all of the buttons, sticks and triggers you'd expect from a standard PS4 controller (including a fully functional touchpad), plus two rear-facing inputs that you can program to mimic any standard button you choose. Other pro-minded features include trigger stops that give you shorter, snappier travel on the rear triggers as well as dedicated switches for changing onboard profiles and swapping between wireless and wired mode.

Astro's premium controller offers a ton of customization options before you even dive into its robust software. Programming its two rear inputs is as easy as holding down a button in the back, tapping the rear button you want to map and then pressing the face button you'd like it to mimic. Better yet, you can remove the controller's front plate to change out the placement of the D-pad and analog sticks, allowing you to create, for example, an offset stick layout that's more akin to that of an Xbox controller.

Having to bust out a tool to customize the C40 seemed like an arduous extra step at first, especially since Microsoft's Xbox Elite Wireless Controller lets you simply pop components on and off its peripheral. However, the C40's setup allows you to change up the pad's layout, and Astro says the screwed-in design will help reduce the wear and tear that comes with constantly removing and attaching sticks and D-pads.

Plus, if you just want to change the thumbstick caps or D-pad (Astro includes a variety of convex and concave options with different heights, as well as a smoother D-pad option), you can do that by simply snapping them off each stick.

Like most high-end gaming controllers, the C40 includes a sturdy travel case, which stores the game pad and a 6.5-foot micro USB cable, all while neatly holding the included thumbsticks, screwdriver and wireless adapter in place.

Pro-Worthy Performance

I ran the C40 through a variety of genres on PS4 and PC (with a focus on competitive games), and the pro-minded pad satisfied on nearly every front.

The extra features of Astro's game pad stood out especially well during the battle royale action of Apex Legends. The two rear buttons allowed me to jump and slide without having to take my thumbs off the sticks, and the trigger stops let me pump shotgun rounds into my opponents more rapidly than normal.

I had a similarly good time with The Division 2, where the rear buttons once again proved key for taking cover and hopping over ledges without having to scrabble around with my thumbs. The triggers felt satisfying as I fired a variety of rifles and shotguns in both normal and trigger-stopped mode, and the snappy D-pad proved responsive as I lobbed grenades and healed.

But while the clicky D-pad is reliable for secondary functions, it was a bit too stiff for my liking when playing fighting games. Eventually, I was able to pull off my usual combos in games like Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X, but I dropped more inputs than I normally would and found myself yearning for the DualShock 4's more flexible D-pad.

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The C40 also worked perfectly well when I switched from PS4 to PC, where the controller let me wreak havoc in games like Hitman and Shadow of the Tomb Raider with precision. The pad's 3.5-millimeter audio jack was consistently reliable, allowing me to chat with friends and get fully immersed in The Division 2's war-torn Washington, D.C.

However, I did run into two recurring issues during my time with Astro's controller. I found myself accidentally pressing the rear buttons more often than I'd have liked, particularly during intense action games like Devil May Cry 5. You can avoid this problem by simply programming the buttons to do nothing, but then you'd be losing out on one of the C40's best features.

Also, the C40 feels just a bit too wide for me. I don't have particularly small hands, and yet I found myself wanting to take a short break from the controller after playing for more than an hour or so. I passed off the game pad to a few co-workers, who agreed that it feels a little too big. This might not be an issue if you have larger hands, but it's worth noting that the C40 is notably chunkier than a standard PS4 pad.

Crazy Customization

While you can swap out modules and program the C40's rear inputs right out of the box, that's just scratching the surface of how truly customizable the controller is. The Astro C40 TR Configuration Software for PC and Mac is incredibly robust, allowing you to remap every single button on the controller and save an infinite number of profiles (although you can only load two onto the C40 at a time).

If you really want to fine-tune things, you can adjust the sensitivity of the thumbsticks and triggers to an insanely granular degree. You can even test your sensitivity options right in the app, allowing you to see exactly how your stick and trigger pressure will register in the game.

Other neat features include a meaty audio menu with a full equalizer and options for adjusting mic output, side tone and the pad's built-in speaker volume. You can also adjust the intensity of the pad's rumble on both the left and right sides, and change the brightness of the pad's front-facing LED light.

The Competition

The C40 TR enters a growing arena of high-end gaming controllers. Scuf Gaming's Vantage PS4 pad ($169 wired, $199 wireless) has more swappable parts overall, including rumble modules, faceplates and analog stick rings, but we weren't a big fan of its somewhat chintzy feel when we reviewed it. Plus, it works only with the PS4.

MORE: Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller Review: Perfect for Pros

Razer's $149 Raiju Tournament Edition for PS4 and PC is a solid option that has four remappable extra inputs, a handy companion app and Bluetooth support, although it doesn't offer any swappable parts. Microsoft's $149 Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is still our overall favorite premium pad, thanks to its superb comfort and rich customization options, but it works only on Xbox One and PC.

It's worth noting that the C40 is the only game pad of the bunch to let you freely swap between a PS4-style parallel thumbstick layout and an Xbox-style offset layout; all of the others are offset only.

Bottom Line

The $199 Astro C40 TR is both an excellent controller debut from Astro and the best overall premium game pad we've used yet for PS4. Its hefty design feels comfortable and durable, and its many physical and digital customization options allow it to adapt to all kinds of preferences and play styles.

The C40 does have a few kinks, however, including rear buttons that are easy to hit accidentally and a rather wide design that might not be ideal for smaller hands. If your main focus is PC, Microsoft's Xbox Elite Controller is $50 cheaper and is still the king when it comes to overall comfort. But if you're a PS4 player looking for the most customizable, feature-rich pro pad out there, the Astro C40 TR satisfies in a big way.

Credit: Tom's Guide

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.