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Turtle Beach React-R review: "Stunning value for money"

(Image: © Future)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Turtle Beach React-R has flipped our idea of a cheap controller. This gamepad looks, feels, and plays as a far more premium product, aided by its excellent attention to detail, mappable paddle buttons, and comfortable design. Only a lack of chat mix on PC and slightly hollow bumpers edge this away from full marks.

Pros

  • +

    Grippy texture across shoulder buttons and paddles

  • +

    Well balanced and spaced

  • +

    On the fly paddle remapping

  • +

    Smooth, precise movement in-game

Cons

  • -

    No rubberized grip

  • -

    Bumpers feel slightly hollow

  • -

    No chat mix on PC

The Turtle Beach React-R is a wired controller for Xbox Series X, S, One, and PC, but with a budget $39.99 / £34.99 launch price it's certainly muscling into a competitive market. This isn't uncharted territory for the brand, though. The Turtle Beach Recon controller delighted in its first round of testing here at GamesRadar, and managed to squeeze a range of mid-range features into a surprising $59.99 / £49.99 price point. We were so impressed, that we placed it high on our list of the best Xbox Series X controllers and the best PC controllers alike. 

Now there's a younger model in town, with a $20 / £15 price reduction no less. That doesn't mean this is a stripped-back approach, though. The Turtle Beach React-R still manages to pack those classic audio features, back paddles (with on-the-fly macro programming), and a comfortable, well-balanced form factor. Yes, you're dropping a couple of Recon-only features (Pro-Aim Focus is gone, and there are no EQ preset options here), but all in all, the React-R offers stunning value for money, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long time. 

Turtle Beach React-R Key Specs
ConnectionWired (USB-C - USB-A)
Buttons23
Programmable buttons2 (back paddles)
Headset connection3.5mm
Cable length8ft / 2.5m
Weight0.6lbs / 271g

Design

(Image credit: Future)

The Turtle Beach React-R ships in either an all-black colorway (which we received) or a white and purple design. The former is fairly standard, aside from the small orange accents around the 'React-R' branding at the top, but still looks streamlined and premium sitting on a desk. Cheaper third-party controllers often carry a certain gaudiness about them, with strange proportions or reduced sizes. Turtle Beach has always managed to avoid this problem in its gamepads, and the React-R is no different, sitting well-balanced and with a standard grip size and button spacing. 

The grips, shoulder buttons, and back paddles are textured with a plastic grip surface that provides stability even under the most pressured of situations. We did particularly enjoy the rubberized grips on the Recon model, which are unfortunately dropped here - no doubt to keep that price as lean as possible. However, the textured plastic still holds its nerve well and never felt like a dramatic sacrifice. This texture is less pronounced on the triggers and bumpers, so never felt too coarse over longer sessions and still offered up a reliable grip. I don't see too many controllers offering this level of tactility on either shoulder buttons or back paddles, so it's excellent to see a budget gamepad paying such attention to detail. 

(Image credit: Future)

The front layout is exactly as you would expect for the most part - save for a selection of three buttons along the top of the face itself. Here, you'll find the Superhuman Hearing button, D-Pad shifter (to use secondary volume and chat mix functions mapped), and a mic mute. Underneath, there are the standard asymmetrical thumbsticks with a slight dip in the top, Xbox Series X-style concave D-Pad, glossy ABXY buttons with full coloring, and the regular Xbox Home, View, Share, and Menu buttons as well. A 3.5mm audio jack is also placed underneath the bottom of the gamepad. In other words, if you're used to an Xbox-style controller, you'll have no difficulty getting to grips with the Turtle Beach React-R - everything feels remarkably similar in spacing. 

(Image credit: Future)

Weighing in at 0.6lbs, the React-R is noticeably lighter than other, more premium, controllers. That does lend itself a little to feeling less premium but that's fair enough - it is significantly cheaper. Everything still feels secure in the hand, though, and - away from some minor rattling when shaken - there's nothing to suggest that durability will be a concern in our experience. The detachable wire also means your connection will stay safe during transit as well.

Features

The React-R separates itself from the rest of the cheap Xbox controller market with two features - its excellent use of back paddles and its audio offerings. That's not to say the Superhuman Hearing is going to change your life by any means, but the fact that it's there certainly differentiates Turtle Beach from standard $40 / £35 gamepads simply offering a suite of buttons to use. If you're unfamiliar, Superhuman Hearing is the brand's name for an EQ filter of sorts that Turtle Beach's gaming headsets and controllers use to amplify smaller sounds of footsteps, reloads, or distant vehicles through your cups when toggled. 

In reality, it can distort some of the audio quality and simply boosts the volume of certain ranges, compressing others. However, it's nice to have in certain competitive situations and is only designed to be used in short bursts at a time. I didn't rely on it too much in my daily play, but its presence is appreciated considering how easy it would be for Turtle Beach to pull the feature when aiming for a budget controller price point. 

(Image credit: Future)

The real gem of the Turtle Beach React R sits on its back. The two paddles are some of the best feeling clickers I've had my hands on - they're larger than those found on cheap Xbox controllers like the PowerA Spectra Infinite or Enhanced Wired models, and far easier (and more satisfying) to hit reliably as a result. Not only that, but you can also map different functions to these paddles in-game, on the fly - and the whole process is quick and simple. Double tap the D-Pad shifter button, click the paddle and then press the button you want to reassign and you're done.

That's the extent of the React-R's programmability (though any on-the-fly customizations certainly aren't to be taken for granted at this price point). If you're after more button personalization via software, you'll be searching higher up the price range. Similarly, there's no hair-trigger mode or adjustments to thumbstick or trigger travel here, as is expected considering the price. One sacrifice which was a little disappointing in our testing, though, was the inability to use the chat mix functionality on PC. 

Performance

While a little lighter than the controller I'm used to, the Turtle Beach React-R still felt like a reliable piece of kit under the hand. Yes, something like the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 is going to let you know that you spent a lot of cash on it in its robust weight and balancing - but for its $40 / £35, the React-R does an admirable job of feeling like a much more expensive gamepad when you're in the heat of battle. The thumbsticks have a solid tension behind them, tracking accurately across full rotation and directional movement before snapping straight back to their starting positions with a satisfying speed. Pressing the stick buttons is also crisp and satisfying, avoiding the mush that sometimes plagues this aspect of a cheaper controller.

(Image credit: Future)

Meanwhile, the face buttons feel particularly Xbox-esque. They're not particularly clicky and do have a soft landing, which means they require more actuation force compared to tactile switches used in the likes of the Razer Wolverine Ultimate. However, they feel largely similar to those used on official Xbox controllers - albeit with a little more pressure required. 

The D-Pad feels crisp but soft, with a slight tendency to err on the side of mush when on a diagonal push. This is easy to forgive - even premium controllers still swamp out a little when between angles, and overall diagonal inputs were handled well. I did notice a little extra sensitivity in the forward direction when testing diagonal movements in a D-Pad-only Fall Guys run, but I'm inclined to believe that's more down to my particular grip than the buttons themselves. 

All of these inputs converged to create fluid motion and precision

Up the top, the triggers have a slightly higher level of resistance behind them compared to the standard Xbox One controller that I've been using, which made for far more satisfying trigger pulls and extra precision on the battlefield as well. Travel is standard for a console trigger, but that extra tension manages to make them feel extra snappy as well. Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamoured with the shoulder buttons. These lighter clickers do feel somewhat hollow in their full press - they're perhaps the most noticeable expression of the React-R's low price. They're still responsive and sensitive to well-timed movements, but there's a drop in tactility here that is noticeable.

All of these inputs converged to create fluid motion and precision in my gameplay, never stuttering around repeated or simultaneous presses.

Should you buy the Turtle Beach React-R controller?

(Image credit: Future)

The Turtle Beach React-R certainly doesn't look or feel like a $40 / £35 controller. The solid design, well-balanced spacing, and paddle features in particular truly set this gamepad apart from its budget competition. You're getting everything you need here, and a little more, at a supremely competitive price point. That's not to say it's going to overtake the Recon, however. If you're interested in checking out Pro-Aim Focus Mode and playing with different EQ presets, the jump to $59.99 / £49.99 (opens in new tab) is still well worth it (you'll also feel an improvement in grip texture). 

We wouldn't recommend downgrading to a PDP or PowerA Enhanced Wired controller here - the prices are just too similar, and the React-R is offering far better value for money in its features and build. 

How we tested the Turtle Beach React-R Controller

I used the Turtle Beach React-R Controller over the course of three weeks, regularly using the gamepad on both Xbox and PC. During this time, I was testing in regular play of Shadow of the Tomb Raider and CS:GO on PC, and Halo Infinite Arena on Xbox, while stress testing the D-Pad in Fall Guys as well. For more information on how we test controllers, take a look at our full GamesRadar+ Hardware Policy

If you need something a little more heavy duty, we're also rounding up the best Xbox steering wheels and the best racing wheels for PC as well. Or, take a look at our selection of all the best Xbox Series X accessories available now. 

More info

Available platformsHardware, Xbox, PC
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Managing Editor - Hardware

Managing Editor of Hardware at GamesRadar+, I originally landed in hardware at our sister site TechRadar before moving over to GamesRadar. In between, I've written for Tom’s Guide, Wireframe, The Indie Game Website and That Video Game Blog, covering everything from the PS5 launch to the Apple Pencil. Now, i'm focused on Nintendo Switch, gaming laptops (and the keyboards and mice that come with them), and tracking everything that suggests VR is about to take over our lives.