I’m going to be fully honest with you all. I really don’t like the PlayStation 4’s stock controller. It feels cheap, small, barely has any feedback, and is possibly the least durable controller I’ve used since the Switch’s joycons.
When I was offered to review the QRD Spark N5, I was slightly weary at first, mostly because the controller is mainly marketed as a PlayStation device. However, as soon as I got my hands on it, it became quite clear that I wasn’t dealing with your average PlayStation controller.
The Spark N5 immediately felt really nice to hold, and the fact that it’s shaped closer to an Xbox One controller definitely earns some extra points with me. I think Microsoft really perfected what a controller’s shape should be, and QRD takes full advantage of that discovery.
QRD Spark N5
It’s not just the controller’s shape, though, it’s also that the Spark N5 also has a really premium feel to it. The body of the controller has this really nice finish that makes the plastic have a very smooth texture, which makes it feel quite nice to the touch.
Not only that, but the controller is quite ergonomic. Even with my big gorilla hands, the Spark N5 feels really nice to hold, as it seems to be just slightly taller than your average current-gen controller.
The Spark N5 mostly uses the same material for its entire body, meaning that it has no rubbery grips on the back. I think it’s really aesthetically pleasing that the controller has the same pattern throughout, and I feel like the paddles in the back help a lot with support, so grips aren’t exactly necessary.
The controller features two paddles in the back, labeled N1 and N2, which can be programmed as macros or just an alternate way to press a single button. It’s a feature that I think Final Fantasy XIV players would really enjoy having, since an extra shortcut is worth its weight in gold when it comes to console MMORPGS.
The way the paddles are positioned makes them a really comfortable place to rest your middle fingers while holding the controller, and the paddles are sturdy enough that you won’t press them by accident.
Most controllers with extra sets of buttons always struggle to place them in a way that doesn’t hinder the player, and QRD definitely seems to have realized that due to the fact that these switches have to be very deliberately pressed to trigger. It’s a fantastic implementation of extra buttons that makes the controller feel more ergonomic as a bonus.
The inclusion of RGB lights also makes the Spark N5 quite charming, as it features complete RGB customization. Both joysticks and face buttons can have their lights customized by pressing a button on the controller’s back.
The home button and touchpad also have lights, which are reserved for telling you what mode the controller is in, but they can also be changed. Something really nice is that the Spark N5 features both Xinput and Dinput modes.
One thing that does bother me is that the controller doesn’t automatically reconnect to the PC through Bluetooth, which is a bit cumbersome. It feels like a small oversight, as you have to remove the device and reconnect every time you want to use it.
Wireless mode also sadly doesn’t serve Xinput because the Spark N5 doesn’t feature a receiver, instead only connecting through Bluetooth. Thankfully, Steam has the option to emulate PlayStation controllers as Steam input, which makes this a non-issue for PC gamers.
Despite my primary PC usage, I did test out the controller on actual Sony hardware since that’s its main focus, and it worked flawlessly. The controller connects just fine to PlayStation consoles and gave me no trouble, be it wired or wireless.
Speaking of wireless, the Spark N5’s battery is also something that surprised me a lot, as I was initially worried that the RGB lights would make the controller lose charge really fast, but this definitely isn’t the case. The controller’s battery lasts a good 10 hours just fine and gains charge very quickly.
Another interesting feature is that the Spark N5 has gyro controls, after all, it is primarily a PlayStation controller, but this further extends its usage by allowing you to also dabble in emulation.
My personal benchmark for a controller usually comes from its performance in games with heavy mechanical execution, so I played through a few missions in Devil May Cry 5, as well as some ranked matches in Brawlhalla.
Devil May Cry 5 just told me what I already knew about the controller: that it’s really responsive and feels good to use, while Brawlhalla really solidified to me how good and responsive the controller’s d-pad really is.
All buttons on the controller have really nice feedback, except for L1 and R1, which have this really weak click to them. They aren’t bad by any means, but they definitely lack the feedback to be truly great. It doesn’t help that they stick out even more when compared to how good the triggers feel.
Further extending its usage, the Spark N5 also doubles as a mobile controller and even comes with a clip that you can attach your phone to. Connecting to a mobile device through Bluetooth is extremely simple and requires no software or setup; literally, all you have to do is pair the device, and you’re done.
The mobile clip has a decent range of movement and positions the phone in such a way that your controller and hands won’t be blocking the screen, which is quite nice. The phone clip is very sturdy, and the screen didn’t displace while I used it.
The phone clip is one of those things that wouldn’t be exactly necessary to include, but it goes to show the extra length that QRD has gone through to make this an all-in-one device.
Overall, the Spark N5 is extremely solid. It’s one of the most complete controllers out there, with customizable macros, multiple input modes, and almost universal compatibility. It’s really hard to find any problems with it, to the point where any “flaws” are really just minor nitpicks.
You can find the Spark N5 on QRD’s official store, and as a reward for sticking until the end of the review you can use the WNG10 coupon code for a discount.
The QRD Spark N5 was reviewed on Microsoft Windows and PlayStation, using a unit provided by QRD. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. The QRD Spark N5 can be found on QRD’s official site.