For an unconventional product, an
inconventional review. It's not often that I review controller hardware -
especially not modifications to the hardware itself. But the folks from
Geltabz were nice enough to send a couple of their sets my way, and I
couldn't really say no. As it turns out, they're an interesting modification.
If you're looking for a short review bit
on them, here it is: Geltabz do everything they say they do.
That is to say, they make a controller easier to use and more
thumb-friendly. For six bucks, it's a worthwhile upgrade.
Geltabz, as the name implies, are "Tabs"
of a gel-like material that slip onto a controller, replacing or sitting on
top of the covering. The idea is that the plastic/rubber on existing
controllers aren't too thumb-friendly for marathon sessions, as well as
reacting poorly to sweaty hands. In this, the designers of Geltabz are right
- sit in a warm room, or just be one of those people who naturally have
sweaty hands, and you're likely to find your thumbs sliding off of a
controller after a marathon session of Halo.
The testing of the Geltabz was actually
rather straightforward. Test #1 involved spending 12 hours playing Call of
Duty 2, half with a normal Xbox360 controller, and half with the Geltabz on.
The verdict without Geltabz? Sweaty fingers, and sore spots on the thumb.
Geltabz are just squishy enough to eliminate the sore spots, and the
material holds its grip despite sweat. The repeat test was for the
Playstation, using a more twitchy title - the fighting game Soul Calibur 3.
Thankfully, the results were the same.
Applying the Geltabz, alas, is not quite
as easy as it might seem. Xbox players and Xbox360 players can be consoled
that their Geltabz are a completely reversible upgrade; that is to say, if
you find yourself not liking them, you can simply take them off again. For
these users, the application process involves (according to Geltabz)
"inverting" the tabz (pulling the back material around so that the tab will
fit over the control stick), pushing them against the control stick, and
then letting the rubber snap back, grabbing onto the stick. In practice,
expect to try this 4-5 times before getting it right, because the material
has to be very tight in order to maintain its place on the control stick.
Playstation2 users aren't so lucky - the Playstation2 controller's twin
sticks already have a rubber coating on them, with four little loops in the
plastic post to hold it in place. In order to get the Geltabz put onto the
controller, these rubber covers have to be removed, a process involving
stretching, cutting (either with box cutters or scissors), and generally
destroying the original rubber covers. Only after this is "removed" can the
PS2 owner move on to the same steps listed above for the Xbox360/Xbox
controller. A modified Playstation2 controller is
forever modified, with the only option for change being the purchase of (A)
a new Playstation2 controller or (B) a different-colored Geltabz piece.
Total elapsed time to apply an Xbox or
Xbox360 set? About 10 minutes. Total time to apply a set to a PS2
controller? Expect a half hour, or 20 minutes if you're good.
After applying the tabs, expect to spend
a short while (about 1/2 hour) fiddling with them to get them lined up.
Geltabz aren't flat on the top - there's a series of three small bumps in
each of the eight standard directions, to help players orient
up/down/left/right. If the tabz aren't lined up straight (and they won't be,
after the initial application) this gets confusing. Unfortunately, the only
way to truly test this is to bring up a game, push the stick, and work it
out from there.
The second slight annoyance I had with
the Geltabz was the coloration scheme. I recognize that Geltabz are a new
product, and that new colors will come out as the line improves, but there
you have it - the Xbox360's is a bright yellow/green called "Zellow," Xbox
has a darker green known as "X Green" meant to match the green components on
the control itself, and the PS2 has a relatively nice "PS Blue" which
matches the lettering on the PS2 box and looks good on the black plastic of
the PS2 controller. The just-released Gamecube edition is "Purple Haze." The next color (available for all three consoles) will
be a neon pink, called "Pinky." As of this article, their site
poll indicates that Black may be the color to follow Pinky.
Switching colors between controllers is
possible, depending on what color you want. The Xbox and Xbox360 "S"
controllers use the same size sticks, so those two are interchangeable -
your Xbox360 can either have "Zellow" or "X Green". The PS2's stick is sized just
differently enough that its tabs didn't fit the Xbox controllers properly.
As for players with large hands who prefer the old Xbox controllers, sadly,
you are completely out of luck - there are no Geltabz for your controller.
There's also a small amount of learning
time with the tabs in place - because they're meant to be a cushiony
surface, they raise the height of the stick a few millimeters, which means
players will have to adjust slightly. The first time I tried them out, even
though I knew the stick had barely been changed, it "felt" like something
large had just been added, similar to trying on new shoes.
Overall, I'd recommend Geltabz to anyone.
Even after the effort putting them on the PS2 controller, they're a welcome
upgrade and feel better to a thumb than the PS2's rubber/plastic caps. With
any luck, they'll soon be found in the controller section of some stores in
addition to being orderable online.