Steam Controller vs a Keyboard and Mouse

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Updated November 18, 2022

If you’re looking for a premium computer mouse, you might be curious about the Steam Controller vs. mouse and keyboard debate. Unlike modern console controllers, the Steam Controller features two trackpads and a single analog stick. The trackpads help simulate a top-tier gaming mouse, but is the Steam Controller better for video games like Rocket League or first-person shooters? Stick around to see if the Steam Controller vs. a keyboard and mouse is best for gaming.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Steam Controllers offer incredible customization to suit a wide variety of PC games and competitive titles.
  • Mouse and Keyboard are better for most scenarios, but players that are willing to practice with a Steam Controller might see some benefits.
  • Steam Controllers cost upwards of $150 for a new or open-box unit, so a mouse and keyboard set is the more budget-friendly choice.

The input method you choose will change from game to game, especially if you’re looking for a competitive advantage. Most people assume that a traditional mouse is better for unforgiving strategy games or adventure titles, but reading the War Thunder mouse vs. joystick discussion says otherwise.

Insider Tip

You can use a Steam Controller with some console games, but you need remote play software to stream them to the PC.

If you choose mouse-like controls, turn-based strategy games and adventure titles require an understanding of mouse CPI vs. DPI.

Steam Controller vs Mouse and Keyboard

Nearly everyone is familiar with using a mouse and keyboard for gaming. But a Steam Controller slightly complicates the keyboard and mouse vs. controller in FPS and action games debate. Traditional controllers feature right and left analog sticks, while Steam Controller only offers left ones.

Additionally, the Steam Controller offers mouse-like controls with left and right trackpads. The rest of the Steam Controller has a basic controller layout but offers the additional functionality of two grip buttons. This ambitious device was designed with Steam machines in mind, but it works with many PC and console titles.

Accuracy

Unless you dial in your personal controller settings on a Steam Controller, a mouse and keyboard will be more accurate for most players. Mouse navigation is natural for most PC users, especially for in-game menus and aiming crosshairs in shooters.

Comfort

Traditional controllers are more ergonomic than most mouse and keyboard setups, and the Steam Controller’s form factor is no different. The Steam Controller offers special configuration options from game to game so that users can find an efficient and comfortable gameplay experience. While a keyboard and mouse offer almost infinite customization options, they will not be as ergonomic as a gamepad.

Warning

A USB webcam provides an easier installation experience but won’t provide the same image quality as a digital camera.

Learning Curve

You will experience a learning curve in any game you play, especially while switching your control scheme or input method. It takes at least two weeks to adjust to a new control layout, especially while trying to bridge between controllers and keyboard mouse controls.

Cost

Steam Controllers are discontinued as of this writing, and new or open-box units go for about $100 to $200 on the secondhand market. For that price, you could have a top-end mouse and keyboard. Unless you’re desperate for an Xbox 360-style form factor with trackpads, you should save money by choosing a mouse and keyboard.

STAT: A 2018 Pew Research Center survey showed that 49% of American gamers play adventure games. (source)

Steam Controller vs. Keyboard Mouse FAQs

Can I use a Steam Controller for non-Steam games?

The Steam Controller should work for your entire library of PC games, whether they're on Steam, Epic, or GOG. While your Steam Library should work without issue, you might need to change your personal controller settings for some non-Steam games. That said, there shouldn't be a compatibility issue with any PC game inputs.

Can I use a Steam Controller on a console?

Console players cannot use a Steam Controller without convoluted workarounds and special adapters. Steam Controllers require a Steam config driver, and you cannot apply those on console gaming platforms. The haptic feedback and gamepad buttons will not work on PS4 or Xbox ONE, even with most adapters.

Can you play Dark Souls with a Steam Controller?

Dark Souls works with a wide variety of game inputs, but some players choose the Steam Controller for a competitive advantage. Steam Controllers offer custom controls and additional gamepad buttons that enable advanced game strategies in Dark Souls. That said, advanced gamepad players shouldn't expect to level up after switching to a Steam Controller.
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