With the standard console controllers becoming more sophisticated through integrated haptics and better ergonomics, it’s harder than ever to justify picking up a third-party controller to use as your primary gaming tool. However, third-party accessory manufacturers have been clawing their way back by doubling down on customizable back buttons that are typically only found in the more expensive premium first-party controllers. The HyperX Clutch Gladiate RGB is a wired controller which not only features two rear buttons, but also customizable on-board RGB lighting that shines through its striking transparent design. It’s a good alternative to the standard Xbox controller, offering low-latency input in a lightweight package, but the lack of any meaningful grip makes it difficult to recommend over the original.
HyperX Clutch Gladiate RGB – Photos
HyperX Clutch Gladiate RGB – Design and Features
The Gladiate RGB features a completely transparent design, invoking some serious nostalgia for the electronics of the ‘90s and early 2000s era that we rarely see anymore. This unique design allows you to see all of the internal components, including the printed circuit board, rumble motors, and wiring. It’s a design that might not be for everyone since it can feel extremely busy to look at, but as someone who grew up with plenty of colorful, transparent electronics, I quite enjoy it.
Aside from the transparent design, the main difference between this and the standard Gladiate is the inclusion of bright, customizable RGB lights. Internally, there are six LED modules evenly spread below the controller’s face that feature three different lighting effects: static, breathing, and rainbow. The RGB mode can be easily enabled or disabled by way of the P1 button on the back of the controller. Additionally, you can adjust the lighting pattern, speed, and brightness using a combination of the D-pad and face buttons. I opted for the rainbow effect to really show off the full range of colors, although since the shell is completely transparent, the lighting can be very bright while playing – especially if you often play in a dark room. Thankfully, you can adjust the brightness or turn off the RGB lighting completely if you choose.
Similar to the standard Gladiate controller, the RGB version is officially licensed by Xbox and works with Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and Windows 10/11 computers. This ensures easy plug-and-play compatibility out of the box with no additional software required. It also features a wired design with a nearly 10-foot-long detachable USB-C cable for connectivity. While it’s not the longest cable compared to some other wired variants, it allows you to play comfortably at a desk near your console or computer.
On the front you’ll find two offset thumbsticks (as opposed to PlayStation’s symmetrical layout) with a texture around the edges that feels nearly identical to the standard Xbox controller. Its face buttons are slightly smaller in diameter, but feel very comparable to the standard controller, with nice, clicky presses and minimal wiggle. The Xbox button, view button, menu button, and share buttons are all located exactly where you’d expect, with the addition of a small, white power LED in the center that indicates when the controller is powered on, and also pulses when entering into the customization mode. While the Xbox button itself doesn’t illuminate, the bright RGB lighting throughout the rest of the controller more than makes up for it. Honestly, even if the Xbox button were to light up, it feels like it would get lost in the sea of colors surrounding it, so I didn’t really miss it here.
The D-pad has a more traditional shape, as opposed to the clicky, eight-way design on the current Xbox controllers. I much prefer this classic design compared to the standard Xbox offering as it’s easier to navigate 2D platforming games. It’s also raised a bit higher and has a satisfying press in all four directions. I much prefer this classic design compared to the standard Xbox offering as it’s easier to navigate 2D platforming games. There’s also a 3.5mm auxiliary port at the bottom of the controller to connect wired headphones while playing, which is a nice inclusion despite wired headsets falling by the wayside in recent years.
The rear of the controller features the aforementioned P1 button, which is used to enable or disable the RGB lighting, as well as assign inputs to the customizable P2 and P3 back buttons. These buttons can easily replicate any of the face buttons, D-Pad inputs, L3/R3, or any of the bumpers or triggers on the top of the controller. The back buttons have a nice, clicky feel, and are located in the center of the handles where your fingers rest naturally, making them easy to press. This is a standout feature for this controller as you can easily map the jump or dodge commands to the back buttons, while keeping your thumbs freed up for movement and camera controls in most FPS and action games. However, unlike most modern controllers, the Gladiate RGB doesn’t feature grips on the handles or triggers, making it a bit slippery to hold if your hands get even a little bit sweaty after some time playing.
Speaking of bumpers and triggers, the L1/R1 and L2/R2 buttons feature nearly the same shape as the standard Xbox controller, albeit without any textured grip on the triggers, instead opting for a smooth plastic finish. While the familiar shape is nice, the lack of grip again makes them extremely slippery after prolonged use. The bumpers have a bit cheaper, snappier-feeling press to them as compared to the official Xbox controller. Both triggers have smooth travel when pressed, and also feature optional trigger lock toggles for each one on the rear of the controller, allowing you to limit the amount of travel needed to register a press. This is especially useful in shooters as it allows you to aim down sights and fire more quickly.
Inside the base of each controller handle you’ll feel dual-rumble motors that provide vibration equivalent to the standard controller, and the triggers use Microsoft’s Impulse Trigger tech – a vibration technique that applies variable feedback, allowing you to feel the difference between shots of various guns, or the engines of different cars. While this vibration is good, it’s nowhere near the level of intricacy provided by the haptics of the stock Xbox controller or PlayStation’s DualSense.
Since the Gladiate RGB can only be used in wired mode, it’s a great option for competitive play as it offers virtually no latency when pressing buttons – which is a great option for competitive FPS or fighting games that demand quick reactions. Without the added heft of an internal rechargeable battery or a couple AA batteries, the controller is noticeably lighter than the standard Xbox controller, weighing just 210 grams as compared to 287 grams. Even without batteries, the standard Xbox controller weighs roughly 245 grams, so this is still a much lighter option to reduce fatigue while playing. The difference in weight is apparent upon first pickup, and I much prefer lighter controllers as my hands and wrists hurt less after playing for extended periods.
HyperX Clutch Gladiate RGB – Software
The Gladiate RGB doesn’t require any additional software to take advantage of its features. Everything is managed directly from the controller itself: Double-pressing the P1 button on the rear of the controller allows you to quickly adjust the RGB options, while pressing and holding P1 enables input mapping for the two back buttons. I generally prefer having a companion app to manage my settings as remembering the different button combinations for customization can be confusing when hopping between many different controllers, but if this is your primary controller it’s nice to be able to take it anywhere without needing to pair or customize it each time you plug it in.