Logitech / Speedlink Wired Gamepads

Update (Dec-2021):

  • Added Speedlink Strike NX, Thunderstrike and Rait controllers
  • Added information about old and new revisions of Logitech Dual Action
  • Added Logitech F310 repair story
  • Minor rewrites, corrections, general cleanup


The general discussion on keyboards vs gamepads has been split to a separate page.

All the controllers in this round-up are wired USB pads, because I bought them mostly for testing of interfaces and compatibility, where parameters like wireless range and battery life are irrelevant, so why spend the extra money? Many of the controllers have similar cordless variants, likely with similar properties. I will mention these where appropriate.

General Characteristics

Most PC gamepads these days are very similar in shape, size and features. The designs are usually lifted directly from PlayStation / Xbox consoles. There are a few things to consider when choosing one:

D-Pad versus Left Analog Stick placement

PlayStation controllers place both analog sticks at the bottom of the controller’s face, opposite each other, with the D-Pad above the left stick, opposite the face buttons. The Xbox controllers have the left analog stick and the D-Pad switched – the former on top, opposite the buttons, the latter – below, opposite the right analog stick. Some PC controllers adopt the PlayStation layout, some the Xbox layout. Which one you prefer may depend on the way you grip your gamepad, on which games you play, and whether you mostly rely on the D-Pad or on the left stick for movement. Some games let you use the stick and the pad interchangeably (or simultaneously), and certain controllers have a hardware mode switch that swaps the left stick with the D-Pad; this, of course, means that you lose the analog precision, but it adds some flexibility.

DirectInput vs XInput

Most Windows games nowadays use either the original DirectInput API or the new XInput API, which Microsoft introduced for its Xbox 360 console, and also implemented in Windows. DirectInput is more versatile and flexible, but requires more work to implement and use, both for pad makers and for game programmers; XInput is simpler, because it gives you exactly the features of the original Xbox 360 controller – no more no less, and the API just maps the pre-determined inputs to commands. It’s easier for developers and users (less configuration) at the cost of flexibility, which was mostly unused in games anyways. New games are XInput-oriented (if DirectInput is supported, it may be as an afterthought, and not entirely plug-n-play). Older PC games (pre-2006, and some post-2006 as well) only use DirectInput.

Any XInput controller can be used as a DirectInput device (but not vice versa), so older games will recognize it. An XInput device driver is needed first, though – which is built into Windows starting from XP (past a certain service pack). Older versions of Windows and other OSes have custom drivers. One downside is that with an XInput controller in DirectInput mode, the left and right triggers are treated as a single Z axis, not as separate controls, so some configurability is lost. This can be easily seen, when testing an XInput pad in the Windows Game Controllers applet (joy.cpl), which is DirectInput-based.

The Xbox 360 controllers, and many of their newer clones, when used in Windows, support XInput only; older controllers (think pre-2006) only work with DirectInput. Software wrappers have been written to convert one to other. Some vendors implement dual modes in their controllers, allowing switching between DirectInput and XInput modes on-the-fly, by means of a hardware switch or a mode-toggle button. This is advantageous, as it provides hardware-level compatibility, independent of any wrappers/converters.

Dead Zones for the Analog Sticks

The analog sticks are designed to be very sensitive, so in order to prevent tiny motions from causing controller jerks (or even micro-movements from just holding a shaky thumb on the stick), “dead zones” are usually implemented in the center, which causes motion to register only after a certain level of deviation from the stick’s rest position. There is some disagreement among players whether it should be implemented in the controller’s hardware, firmware, software, or maybe even by each game individually, but it is firmly established that for most situations, zero dead zone = bad, too much dead zone = bad, and some dead zone = good. Most games have a “sensitivity” option in the analog control configuration, which can achieve similar effects to a “dead zone”, so many players would prefer the manufacturer-imposed dead zones to be minimal, or at least configurable.

The Controllers

For my first controller, I settled on the Logitech Gamepad F310, which was available and affordable, and stroke a good balance of comfort, compatibility and feature set. It has hardware switches both for DirectInput/XInput and D-Pad/Left Stick swap. The D-Pad was getting favorable reviews (at least compared to the original Xbox 360 Controller). The controller has no rumble motor.

The main complaint about the F310 (and all of Logitech’s F-series gamepads) is about the large, non-configurable dead zones of the analog sticks. After reading a massive amount of discussions on the topic, I still could not deduce whether the issue was real, whether it was acknowledged as a flaw or as expected behavior, and whether it’s truly a hardware issue, or something software-related. There wasn’t even agreement on how serious and detrimental it actually is. Not having come to a definite conclusion, I decided to hunt for a Logitech Dual Action – the DirectInput-only predecessor of the F310, frequently mentioned as having no dead zones whatsoever.

Having found the controllers agreeable, I also got a Logitech Gamepad F510, to try out the rumble feature, and a Logitech Precision Gamepad. The Precision is a smaller pad, kind of like the Dual Action without the analog sticks, and otherwise identical button placement. It resembles the layout of the original (pre-DualShock) PlayStation controller.

After Logitech, another manufacturer – Speedlink – caught my eye, offering elegant and comfortable-looking gamepads, with hardware DirectInput/XInput mode switching, and quite affordable too. I purchased and tested the Xeox Pro, which closely mimics the Xbox 360 Controller in shape and layout, and the Strike FXwhich similarly mimics the original Sony DualShock. After a long hiatus, I obtained two more Speedlink pads – the Strike NX (spiritual successor of the FX) and the Thundertsrikea simple, no-frills, entry-level pad.

Below, I will summarize my observations on each controller, pluses and minuses. To refresh my impressions of how they actually compare in different types of games, I took out each controller and did one playthrough of Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, one playthrough of Street Fighter Alpha (using MAME), one 15-track continuous game of Outrun 2006: Coast to Coast, a few levels of Rayman Revolution (using PCSX2) and a few levels in Rayman Legends.

Logitech Dual Action

The Logitech Dual Action exterior is mostly plastic, but there is rubbery texture on the side panels for a pleasant grip. The top color is a dark blue, and the bottom is black, as are all the buttons. Each button is clearly marked with a number from 1 to 10. The controller is similar to the original Sony DualShock in layout and in name, but rather far from it in shape. It is thicker and more rounded. The controller sits quite comfortably in my hands when I primarily use the D-Pad, but in a game focused on the analog joysticks, I end up having to hold it in a “claw grip” of sort, which is tiring during long play sessions.

The “Mode” button (bottom left of the small center buttons, under “9”) switches the function of the D-Pad and the left analog stick; when the modes are switched, a red LED is lit next to the button. This can come handy in games that insist on using only the primary analog stick for motion, even if they do not really need the analog precision, because you can switch to the D-Pad and the more comfortable grip. The switch button is hardware-only, it is not visible to software and cannot be remapped.

The D-Pad itself has the shape of a circle with an embossed plus; it is a floating D-Pad, with four individual buttons under it, corresponding to each of the cardinal directions – pressing two of them at the same time generates a diagonal. You can actually press all four at the same time by forcing the entire D-Pad down, although I can’t imagine why. The D-Pad has some freedom to spin, so sometimes it looks crooked; the issue is present on all Logitech controllers that use this style of D-Pad, but causes no issues with functionality or durability. All directions generally respond well, including quarter-turns (such as D-DF-F or D-DB-B) and half-turns, but Z-type moves (F-D-DF) like the Shoryuken in Street Fighter can be quite difficult to pull off.

All face and shoulder buttons are comfortable and responsive. The order of the primary four buttons 1-2-3-4 is left-bottom-right-top. There are two buttons on each shoulder (5-6-7-8, corresponding to PlayStation L1-R1-L2-R2), face buttons 9-10 (Select-Start) and the analog sticks themselves can be pushed inward to function as buttons 11-12 (L3-R3).

The analog sticks are very responsive, and indeed have no dead zones at all. Using the joy.cpl applet even the tiniest wiggles of the sticks register on the screen. They are so sensitive, that it is impossible to press down on the sticks to trigger L3/R3, without also registering some motion. The amount of motion is very small, and I had no problems in actual play, possibly because of software-imposed dead zones. The sticks are convex, and have a slightly coarse leathery texture. It looks like it will wear out with time, which might affect how well your thumbs stay on them, but I haven’t got to that point yet.

There are two revisions of the Logitech Dual Action. Reviewed here is the second revision (P/N 863247-0010, M/N G-UF13A). The first revision (P/N 863227-0000, M/N G-UD8) has a different-shaped D-Pad, which I haven’t seen on any other Logitech pad – it is recessed and uses a pivot mechanism. I found the floating D-Pad better. Other differences include slightly lower weight, a “Dual Action” label on the front face, engraved instead of white-painted numbers on the face buttons, no rubberized side grips, and no D-Pad/Left Analog mode swap button. The swap can be done via the Logitech software, but it is often handy to be able to switch on-the-fly. All around, I think the second version of the controller is preferred (it is also more common these days).

Logitech F310

The Logitech Gamepad F310 is like the Dual Action after minor cosmetic surgery. Body shape and materials are mostly identical; regrettably, the rubbery texture of the side panels is gone, and these are now plain plastic, like the rest of the body. The most obvious change is the face buttons, whose labels and colors changed to match the Xbox scheme – A, B, X, Y in Green, Red, Blue, Yellow, respectively. Generic button numbers are gone everywhere, replaced with the Xbox nomenclature – Back and Start, LB/RB for the shoulder buttons and LT/RT for the shoulder triggers. Replacing buttons 7 and 8 from the Dual Action with analog triggers is the main mechanical change in the controller. The shoulder buttons are also narrower now.

The D-Pad looks and feels the same, as do the analog sticks. Their sockets have been changed from square to rounded; as a result their diagonal range is just a bit shorter, although it’s probably meaningless, especially after calibration.

Another change is that the Logitech logo on the face is now a button, which, in XInput mode, brings up the “Games for Windows Live” overlay / Steam overlay / Game Bar / whatever software the OS has to fill that niche. Some software may remap it to something else, but I have not tried. It is non-functional in DirectInput mode.

In DirectInput mode, the F310 presents itself to software as the Dual Action with the same USB PID, so most software will not tell them apart. The triggers act as buttons 7 and 8, and the right stick controls Z axis and Z rotation, just like on the Dual Action. In XInput mode, the controller performs in XInput-aware software exactly like the Xbox 360 Controller, with each button/trigger action corresponding to its label. DirectInput-only software will see it instead as a 10-button gamepad (as opposed to 12), with the triggers controlling Z axis, and the right analog stick controlling X rotation and Y rotation (apparently, nothing controls Z rotation in this mode).

One subtle difference is that the order of the 4 primary face buttons (1-2-3-4) is different in the two modes: Left-Bottom-Right-Top in DirectInput and Bottom-Right-Left-Top (corresponding to A-B-X-Y) in XInput. Because the XInput button arrangement is fixed, Logitech had to choose between consistent button order in both modes versus consistent button order between the F310 and the Dual Action, and chose the latter.

The DirectInput/XInput switch is located at the bottom of the controller, above the label; it is a simple two-mode switch which is instantaneous. The OS will see a USB unplug, following by the plug of a different device. Games that only poll for USB controllers during startup will require a restart to recognize the gamepad after a switch. The hardware D-Pad/analog swap button is still there (the LED is now green).

The dead zones of the analog sticks are clearly present (in both D and X modes). Compared to the Dual Action, tiny wiggles no longer register motion (neither does pressing down on the sticks) – you need to move the stick a bit from its rest position to start seeing movement. They did not feel overly large, but might become so when compounded by software-imposed dead zone. I did not feel they were terrible: When playing Outrun 2006, I could feel that the controller responds slightly differently, but had no problems adjusting, and overall my racing ability did not seem affected.

A different phenomenon I observed, while testing with joy.cpl, was not so much that there was a dead zone, but that as soon as you moved out of it, the controller immediately “jumped” far from the center, registering a large movement at once. This would be a bigger problem that the dead zone itself, and I saw it happen occasionally on either stick. It seems that some sort of auto-calibration on the hardware level takes care of that, because simply rotating the a few 360-degree circles around the extreme points resolved it every time, at least until the next time the controller is unplugged and re-plugged. Perhaps some of the people complaining about the dead zones were, in fact, suffering from this issue? I don’t know.

To me, the biggest problem with the Logitech Gamepad F310 is the stiff triggers. Compared to the original Xbox 360 Controller, these require a much higher force to activate and to hold down, and your fingers will tire faster. However, if you find yourself activating the triggers too easily on other pads, you may like the ones on the F310.

Update (Oct-2021): After using the pad lightly for a few years, two problems developed: (1) the rubbery texture of the left stick has worn off considerably. I imagine this will affect all Logitech pads of this design, but the problem is fairly minor. The right stick was much less affected, as it sees less use. (2) the bigger issue is that the right trigger would get stuck and registers input when there is none. Maybe the controller fell one too many times, or it may be just wear-and-tear.

I disassembled the gamepad and swapped the left and right analog sticks to balance the wear on them. The right trigger issue was apparently caused by the spring shifting slightly around the base that holds it; after realigning it and reassembling the controller, I can no longer reproduce the problem. The excellent video here covers the disassembly and reassembly process.

Logitech F510

The Logitech Gamepad F510 can be seen as the bigger brother of the F310, or as the next generation of the Rumblepad 2. Essentially, Logitech took its existing gamepad line and updated it with XInput support and the changes that come with it (which were described in the F310 section above). These are the original controllers and their equivalents:

Old Controller (D only) New Controller (X/D) Properties
Dual Action Gamepad F310
Wired, No Rumble
Rumblepad 2
Gamepad F510
Wired, Rumble
Cordless Rumblepad 2
Gamepad F710
Wireless, Rumble

In DirectInput mode, each F-series pad presents itself to software as the equivalent old version, so the F510 identifies as a Rumblepad 2. Both old and new use the same coloring scheme, with a lighter shade of blue on the top face compared to the Dual Action / F310. Compared to the F310, the F510 adds dual vibration motors, and there is a new button to control their operation. Long vibration after pressing it means you activated the rumble, short one means you deactivated it (some persistent indicator light would have been preferred). The rumble works as expected, and its strength can be adjusted in software.

Logitech attempted to position the Gamepad F510 as a higher-end product than the F310, so the bottom is now covered in rubbery paint rather than being plain plastic. Unfortunately, as it ages, tends to get dirty and sticky. Mine has gotten to this point and was rather unpleasant to hold, until I spent 30-40 minutes thoroughly removing the gross sticky coating from the bottom of the controller, using alcohol-soaked paper towels and wet wipes. It was a bit tedious getting into all the nooks, but the end result is marvelous – all the gunk is gone, and the bottom surface is now smooth polished plastic, a lot like F310, and just as pleasant. Fortunately, the side panels of the F510 (just like on the Dual Action) are actual rubber, and are not affected by the grossness.

In terms of performance – F510 is equivalent to the F310, down to the dead zones of the analog sticks. Somehow the D-Pad felt less precise, even though it should be exactly the same part – I found half-circle moves in fighting games noticeably more difficult to pull off.

For reasons unknown, Logitech discontinued the Gamepad F510 shortly after introducing it, so there are very few of them around, often offered for stupid prices. The wireless F710, new, will set you back less.

Logitech Precision

The Logitech Precision GamePad is that like the Dual Action, minus the analog sticks, and with the “mode” flip switch permanently on, so the D-Pad acts as the left stick, minus the analog sensitivity. This was done because many games only respond to directional inputs from the analog axes, not the D-Pad / “Hat switch”. Released around the same time as the Dual Action, the Precision GamePad is to the original PlayStation controller like the Dual Action is to the DualShock, in terms of buttons and their layout. There were two versions of the Precision – one black, and one semi-translucent blue (like mine); I don’t know of any functional differences between them. The buttons are black in both variants.

The controller is very comfortable in general,. The elimination of the analog sticks makes it lighter and also slightly smaller, but not by much. The grips are a bit narrower than on the Dual Action / F310, but if you use the “mode” switch on either of those two, and ignore the analog sticks completely, you end up holding the controllers pretty much in the same way. Someone who finds the Precision comfortable, would not generally be turned away by the Dual Action, unless weight is critical. For games that require no high degree of analog precision (fighting games, for instance), and games that do not generally have a lot of inputs, the Precision is a good match. However, in games that have fine degrees of character motion, turning, and camera control, you might feel a bit cramped without the analog sticks, because you will run out of controls to map actions to (I felt this limitation a bit in Rayman Revolution).

Next: Speedlink controllers


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