(Note: This product was provided free of charge for us to review here at ESTNN.)
Whether they’re provided by Scuf, Razer, or even Microsoft, console controllers with buttons on the back (hereafter referred to as elite controllers) are all the rage these days. And for good reason - professional streamers and esports players use them all the time for that supposed edge they provide over the standard-issue controllers for consoles. Elite controllers are pretty much mandatory for the Call of Duty competitive scene. The pros who use elite controllers have indeed performed better than their less-equipped brethren for the most part, or so they claim, making these types of controllers in demand for anyone who wants to compete at the professional level in console games.
But there’s one barrier to entry into this elite controller club - the price of these controllers. A typical entry-level elite controller can cost upwards of $100, far more than the price of a standard controller. Higher-range elite controllers such as the Scuf Vantage can even break the $200 barrier. You can buy a Nintendo Switch Lite for that kind of money! These controllers are indeed pricey, but what if you could get similar performance out of your existing PS4 or Xbox controller? Furthermore, what if you could do it for a fraction of the cost?
Enter the Dawn Remap Kit, provided by a company called ExtremeRate based out of China. The Dawn Remap Kit is a kit that converts your existing PS4 controller into an elite-style controller and does it for the extremely low cost of around $35 US (before taxes and shipping of course). ExtremeRate has similar kits for Xbox controllers, but they were kind enough to provide their PlayStation version for us here to review at ESTNN.
How Does it Work?
The Dawn Remap Kit is essentially a controller modification kit for the default PlayStation 4 controller. (Please note that early generation PS4 controllers will not work with this kit - your default PS4 controller must have the model number of JDM-040/050/055 to be compatible.) What buyers do with it is take off the back shell of your PS4 controller, insert the new components of the Dawn Remap Kit, then replace the back shell of the controller with the one ordered with the kit, after which you can stick on the back buttons.
I know what you’re thinking - how is this possible without messing with the electronics of the controller itself with a soldering iron? Thankfully, I can report that a soldering iron is not absolutely necessary to get the Dawn Remap Kit to work. However, the full potential of the Dawn Remap Kit can only be unlocked if you have a soldering iron. Without a soldering iron, installing the kit will allow you to reassign the face buttons and shoulder buttons to the back buttons; if you have a soldering iron, after you’re done you can also assign the L3, R3, and touchpad buttons to the back buttons. So if you don’t have a soldering iron, you can still benefit from installing the kit - you just won’t be able to assign three of the default buttons, which is no huge loss depending on which games you want to play with the Dawn Remap Kit.
Soldering iron or not, however, the Dawn Remap Kit requires very steady hands to be able to install without complications. This writer’s hands aren’t the steadiest in the world, and the default PS4 controller is not meant to be disassembled. Therefore I had a hard time installing this kit, even without the use of a soldering iron. The written instructions that come with the kit aren’t the clearest in the world, having been directly translated from Chinese; thankfully, ExtremeRate provides a tutorial video for how to install the Dawn Remap Kit, both with and without a soldering iron. The tutorial video is a huge help and makes things very clear, but you still need very steady hands in order to install this kit without breaking your controller. This writer’s controller initially wouldn’t work properly after the kit was installed, but later it was discovered some debris snuck into the controller during the reassembly which prevented proper function, meaning the controller had to be taken apart again and the debris cleaned out before the controller and remap kit would work as intended. The point being, again, you really need a bare minimum of manual dexterity to make this kit work.
Does it Provide an Advantage?
Once the remap kit is installed, the back buttons pretty much work just like any elite style controller would. You can remap (almost) any button (again dependent on if you own a soldering iron) to the back buttons by holding down a certain combination of buttons to enter remap mode, and then pushing the corresponding button with the back button you want to assign it to. Only one button can be remapped at a time, however - remapping button combinations isn’t supported. That said, having the ability to push certain buttons on the back without taking your thumbs off the sticks is the advantage the remap kit provides. It does take some getting used to. This writer found it difficult to utilize the back buttons at first, but after a few hours of practice, it became more natural. Once this writer got used to it, pulling off actions that normally required taking my thumbs off the sticks were easier and more accurate. It’s certainly no substitute for lack of skill in the game being played, but it makes a good complement to already established skills.
All this said, there are still some features of elite controllers that this kit can’t replicate. For example, the Scuf controllers have adjustable trigger locks for the shoulder triggers, which this remap kit doesn’t provide. But honestly, what do you expect for $35? At the price, this is as close as us poor gamers can get to having elite style controllers without having to shell out at least one Benjamin. Of course you shouldn’t expect everything a Scuf can provide at this price point. But if you’re capable of DIY electronics, and can find a use in the games you play for extra button locations, the Dawn Remap Kit is as good as it gets for the money.