The transforming d-pad conversions are available exclusively at QuickdrawMods.com, and are available in three variants. Consumers can receive a full replacement shell with transforming d-pad for USD $26.99, get just the top and transforming d-pad for $19.99, or send in their controller for modification for $18.98. Conversions were provided for review purposes.
It’s no secret that amidst the great elements that together make the Xbox 360 controller there’s one gaping flaw. It’s a flaw that all the comfortable fit, intuitive layout and visual appeal can’t fix: the horrid d-pad. It’s utterly evil that such a thing of beauty can be brought down by such a completely flimsy design flaw. It’s rigid, it’s unresponsive, and it feels like there’s a gap the size of the grand canyon between the plastic and the circuit board.
Microsoft sought to clean that blemish on an otherwise perfect reputation during the holiday 2010 season with the transforming d-pad controller. It promised more precise controls by allowing players to have the standard 8-way “flat” design they were used to, or to raise the d-pad up into a 4-way “plus” position for tighter digital control. It worked. It’s not a perfect fix, but it addresses some of the precision issues players have with the controller. The problem is that there isn’t a lot of choice when it comes to these new controllers. It’s silver or a special edition Halo 4, Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3, or Fable 3 controller.
I bought one of the silver transforming d-pad shells on eBay. It was a pull from a working controller, but was apparently never actually in use. I quickly got to work installing it on one of my controllers, which aside from needing to purchase an inexpensive special screwdriver, was incredibly easy. I kept my original black Start and Back buttons, colored A, B, X, and Y buttons, and intalled black thumbsticks to finish it off. After just one night I was hooked. This new d-pad felt amazing. I wanted all my controllers to have it.
So I set to work hunting down YouTube do-it-yourself videos as I do when nearly anything in my house breaks or I want to customize something. I quickly realized that I’d much rather see if there was a professional alternative. I didn’t want to hack up my shell and have nothing to show for it but pieces in the end. I found only one company who provides a professional system for modifying the shells, QuickdrawMods. I contacted them and soon an agreement was made in which I would send my white, black, and red tops (above) in for modification.
Here’s what we liked:
Quality – After reassembling my three controllers I took each for a spin, comparing it to the response of my original silver transforming d-pad controller. Each felt indistinguishable from the stock setup, and each gave me a boost in overall accuracy. My scores in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD improved a good 10-20%, and when putting the trial for twitch platformer Super Meat Boy through its paces I found myself more confidently landing otherwise impossible (to me) jumps. But while the transforming d-pad itself brings better performance, be warned that it isn’t perfect. It will not bring brightest day from blackest night. But these conversions brought back the light in my gaming performance as did their Microsoft-produced brother. Significant improvement is the name of the game here.
Fit and style – Upon assembly each of the d-pads felt right at home. They moved no more and no less than the Microsoft version, and transformation from 8-way “flat” mode to 4-way “plus” mode was smooth as well. Those with big hands like myself may find it a tiny bit harder to perform the transformation in general, but again this matched the stock Microsoft pad. The chrome d-pad looks right at home in the white, red, and black controllers, and opting for chrome guide buttons to replace the painted original gave the controllers a subtly updated look.
The brag factor – Perhaps the greatest enjoyment to be had here isn’t actually in the d-pad itself, it’s in that jealous factor you’ll get from your gaming friends. Only moments after putting these three controllers into service at a LAN party I had a slew of questions that generally summed up to two basic inquiries: “Where did you get that?” and “How do I get one?” There’s something about having a toy nobody else does that boosts ego, and something as simple as this transformation makes you the popular guy at the party.
Service – I have since gone back and purchased additional products from QuickdrawMods. Service has always been prompt, the quality of the products top notch, and communication excellent. They have a strong selection of parts to modify your controller. Shell colors vary from new Microsoft stock colors such as black, white, light blue and lime green to third party red chrome and even translucent finishes. Rapid fire and LED mods are also available for those looking for something a bit more dramatic.
A tech refresh – The controller shells I had put under the knife were in good condition, but I was lucky. Some folks have super nasty shells with sticky buttons and grime in all the cracks, with that disgusting yellowing-of-the-thumbsticks disease. You know the kind, it’s the controller your friend hands you when you come to visit; it’s the kind that you want a baby wipe to clean off before touching. These kinds of controllers are the perfect candidates for things like this. You’d be surprised what picking up a new full shell (with transforming d-pad, of course) and a pair of new thumbsticks will do.
Here’s what we didn’t like:
A shocking unboxing factor – I found the package in the mailbox as we drove up in the family car. I parked in the garage and tossed (okay, placed) my kids and wife inside, grabbed my knife and popped the box open. As I inspected the three controller tops I noticed discoloration on the inside wall of the white shell. I knew that QuickdrawMods used a dremel specially made for them to perform the cut, so I quickly dismissed the discoloration as a minor burn from the tool. I found that once assembled I couldn’t see any of it as the d-pad covered any flaws from the cut. Only by shining a flashlight directly into the crevice and moving the d-pad to one side could I see the imperfection, and then only barely. Therefore I list this only as a precaution; some consumers might discount the service then and there. Be sure to reassemble your controller before making final judgment, and then if you’re still unhappy contact QuickdrawMods and work something out.
For a gamer a quality controller is every bit as important as a quality game. It needs to be dependable, accurate and free from nasty grime. A transforming d-pad tech refresh can do just that. It brings new life to your controller and provides better response in d-pad-heavy games. There’s also the cool factor to consider as well. Unless you want a limited edition or silver shell you just can’t buy these outright. Assembly is easy and takes all of 15 minutes and the purchase of a very inexpensive screwdriver, which can also be picked up on their site. This is perfect for the hardcore, those who want to make their controllers look new again, and even those who just want to one up their friends.
Score: Buy It
Editor’s note: Contrary to our usual style, this review is written from a first person perspective. This is done to address points that could only be accurately described in first person.