If you've used a Xbox 360 controller a fair amount, then obviously you know what it is all about. But if you haven't - and if you're a hardcore PC gamer, just as ready to burn the controller at the stake as use it to blast baddies, then you probably haven't - let me fill you in.
The controller leaves a good first impression. The plastic body is thick and firm, and instantly communicates its quality to your finger-tips. Squeeze or shake the controller, and the 360 remains strong. The plastic does not creak or groan from the pressure, nor does it feel flimsy or thin, even when gripped by both ends and flexed. The shape of the controller is exceedingly well contoured, and will fit most hands very well. The only downside of to the controller's comfort is that the plastic feels a little slick to my hands, which can become annoying over time. That said, the initial build quality of the controller is impressive.
For the most part, the honeymoon isn't quick to fade. The controller's buttons are sensibly laid out, with the main joystick being controlled by the left thumb, while the secondary joystick is controlled by the right. The four face buttons are, well, there - they're positioned well, but they're still face buttons, and there isn't much to be said about them. The triggers, however, deserve a great deal of praise. They're analog, which is very useful in certain types of games (like racing sims), and they communicate well with your index fingers. The joysticks are also a bit better than average, providing good response and reasonable comfort, although they have the dubious distinction of being the only part of the controller that feels flimsy after prolonged use. The only real black sheep of this otherwise respectable family of buttons and joysticks is the directional pad, a poorly thought out control that communicates as well as a space alien. Thought you pressed left? Nope, you pressed up, sucker. Such are the hi-jinks of the directional pad.
Overall, however, the 360 controller scores well in comparison to other controllers available for the PC. The fact that it does so well is as surprising as it is obvious. On the one hand, this is a console controller, a breed of gaming device known for is oddities (N64, I'm looking at you). But on the other hand, this is a Microsoft product. As un-cool as Microsoft may seem, they've made some great gaming devices over the years. I'd donate a kidney to get my hands on a mid-90s Sidewinder joystick. It appears that heritage has paid off, because the 360 controller is firmly at the top of the pack, at least in terms of the quality of the controller itself.