Written by Dave Throop
While console controllers have been around for decades, add ons such as thumbstick extensions and grips are becoming ever more popular. While grips always seemed like an obvious solution to a problem I knew I had, I was never really sold on the idea of thumbsticks – until I tried them that is. Read more in our KontrolFreek Alpha Edge Thumb-sticks product review.
KontrolFreek has multiple versions of thumbstick extensions but for the purpose of this review we’ll stick to the two products I’ve tried, the Alpha and the FPS Freek Edge. They both work in the same way. They are clips that easily and quickly clip on to the thumbsticks that are already on your console controller. Putting them on takes literally 5 seconds, and in the weeks I’ve been using them I’ve yet to have any of them fall off or become misaligned.
It should also be quickly noted that I have tested the Xbox One version of these products.
KontrolFreek’s Gamerpack Alpha is definitely the more introductory version to the thumbstick extension family. The thumbstick clips are flat, so they don’t add much extra height to the standard thumbsticks. This makes transitioning to them very easy as it doesn’t force your hands into a new position, or make the controller feel much different.
Despite the very small difference in height, the difference in ease of movement is very noticeable. The tiny bit of extra height makes movement of the thumbstick feel more fluid and requires less effort from your thumbs. This was where I was most surprised, I couldn’t believe how different the controller felt to play with despite how familiar it felt to hold.
The Alpha comes with two distinct sets of the thumbsticks. The first set is concave with a dotted grip and is the set I prefer of the two. Your thumb sits naturally inside the curve quite comfortably and the dots provide extra traction, grip and control.
The other set has the KontrolFreek initials proudly bolded in the middle. While this set still provides the benefits of movement I find it doesn’t provide the same amount of extra grip and traction that the dots do.
Regardless of which you prefer, the two come in a pair and proved to be an excellent introductory set of thumbstick extensions. They opened my eyes to the impact a product like this could have on performance, and made me curious about what more serious versions of these extensions could do.
One of KontrolFreek’s newest versions of the extensions, the Freek Edge, has a clip for the right joystick that is significantly raised making it the product to test next. The difference from no extension to the Alpha was impressive, but from the Alpha to the Freek Edge the change in feel was even more significant.
This one definitely took a little bit of time to adjust to. The significantly raised right stick feels very different from the traditional controller thumbstick forcing you to adapt your grip slightly. Once you do though, the benefits are extraordinary.
The increase in height makes the thumbstick significantly easier to move and far more sensitive, allowing you to make micro adjustments in your aim that just didn’t seem possible before. As a result, the product really does give you an ability to comfortably raise the sensitivity you use in game.
The extensions have a large star pattern on them which add a surprising element of grip and traction control similar to concave dotted Alpha set. The star pattern has an additional benefit though of making it easier to move in diagonals. The pattern gives your thumb subtle texture cues that ensure you can replicate angled movements.
It is hard to understate how much easier aiming becomes with this extension. To demonstrate the effect these extensions had on my personal play, I decided to play significant amounts of competitive Overwatch heading into the final weeks of the season.
You can see here in the three weeks I used them, I gained approximately 500 SR, or a full skill division going from mid diamond to mid master tier. This was after a full season of playing quite actively – I’m definitely a believer.
With so many products aimed at improving gaming performance that come in at very high price ranges, the KontrolFreek thumb extensions are definitely one of, if not the, most cost effective method I’ve personally found of elevating your game. With the Alpha coming in at only $24.99 for the two sets, and the FPS Freek Edge only costing $14.99 they are significantly cheaper alternatives to the expensive customizable controllers. If you are serious about improving your performance in any console game, these are definitely a product you’re going to want to check out for yourself.
Dave Throop is a decade long esports fanatic from Toronto. Originating in console FPS and sports games he has since expanded to PC games and MOBAs to become a fan of nearly all major competitive titles across multiple platforms. His favourite titles include Halo, Overwatch and League of Legends.