Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
The Turtle Beach Atom Controller is unlike any other gamepad we have reviewed so far. Instead, this is meant to hold onto the side of your Android device and thus resembles a Nintendo Joy-Con. These two sides are symmetrical in shape, but not in button layout. As such, you can see the left side has a thumbstick and a D-pad underneath, while the right one has ABXY face buttons and a thumbstick under. We also have one more circle button at the top of each, with a View button on the left and a Menu button on the right. The only other button at the front is the Xbox button on the left side. The Atom Controller we have today comes in a black and yellow color scheme. The yellow accents are primarily for outlining buttons such as the arrows on the D-pad or the letters for the buttons, as well as adding some styling at the bottom of the Atom. There is some Turtle Beach branding on the left controller too. Other than black and yellow, the Turtle Beach Atom Controller also comes in black-teal and red-black color combinations.
As for dimensions, each side of the Turtle Beach Atom Controller measures 80mm in width, 102mm in height, and 42mm in thickness. Compared to the aforementioned Joy-Con controllers, these are notably bigger in almost all dimensions. This is primarily because the Atom Controller is thicker and more bulbous at the back, as you will see later. Together, the two sides tip the scales at around 184g, which is pretty light in the hands. The Atom Controller is made up of plastic all around, which explains its lower mass. Overall, the build quality is decent with a bit of creaking in the moving parts such as the phone clips. The soft-plastic touch on each side feels good in the hands and grips well, but it also reveals any greasy marks from handling the Atom Controller over time.
As for the buttons and joysticks at the front, these provide an average feel and movement. As they are situated on a smaller body than what you might see from a typical Xbox controller, both the D-pad and the primary buttons are smaller and closer together. They do not offer the same audible feedback and they feel a bit squishier or spongier than I would have liked. This is much more apparent in the D-pad, as pressing these buttons felt unsatisfying. The primary ABXY buttons also have a bit of a wobble. On the positive side, the two thumbsticks are grippy around the edges with a concave middle so users can rest their thumbs comfortably here. The movement is also smooth and does not have any creaking noise when pressed. We will see how this translates into gaming performance later on.
At the backside of the Turtle Beach Atom Controller, we have a pair of shoulder and trigger buttons on each side. The buttons are bright yellow, which is the same as the accent color, and are finished with a speckled pattern to help identify the triggers. The back buttons are marked with LB/RB and LT/RT for buttons and triggers, respectively. The two shoulder buttons are push buttons and they produce a high-pitched click when pressed. They also have a bit more give and sponge-like feel when pressed down. The triggers are analog and actuate in a range of how far you have pressed down. The action is smooth and feels good when pressed.
At the bottom of the left side, we have one more area to note. Here you can see a USB Type-C input for charging the whole device. Turtle Beach has not given us the battery size inside the Atom Controller, but instead provides estimates of approximately 20 hours of gaming per charge. Next, we have a small pin hole LED light, which can be found on both sides. You can see one more LED light above the Xbox button on this left controller. These indicate the power and connectivity status. When powered on, the front-facing LED will blink white until it is connected via Bluetooth to your Android device. The LED on the bottom will blink blue until both of the sides are powered on and connected to each other. Once this happens, the bottom LEDs on both sides will change to white. According to Turtle Beach, the Atom Controller provides two different connections; one between the controllers and one with your device for a low-latency feel overall.
As the Atom Controller is intended for a mobile device, you can see each side has a large clamp in between. This is where you would clamp your Android device. From our measurements, the clamp can extend out so that it can hold phones that are between 67 and 90mm in width and up to 10mm thick. While most modern devices nowadays should fit into this category, the limited thickness could be an issue if you have a case on your phone. Otherwise, the clamp is covered with rubber grips to hold the phone securely in place while ensuring the Atom Controller does not scratch or damage it. You can see there is a magnet and three pogo contacts on the inner top edge of the left controller. This aligns with the bottom edge of the right controller and secures the whole unit together for portability. You will also need to charge the unit together like this.
One complaint many people have had against the Nintendo Joy-Cons is their unergonomic shape, especially when they were attached to the side of the Switch. Turtle Beach addressed this problem by adding a relatively large protrusion on the backside, which should make it easier to hold in your hands. Otherwise, Turtle Beach has taken this area as a place to put their certification labels on one side and the Atom name on the other. Turtle Beach logos can also be found on both sides of the Atom Controller.
Turtle Beach has mentioned there is an Atom Android app for software modifications and firmware updates. As such, I downloaded the 56MB app to my Google Pixel 3a XL from the Play Store. On startup, the screen shows an overview page to show any configured changes you may have made. In the hamburger menu, you can navigate to different menus to configure the dead zones and response curves of the thumbsticks. There are also dedicated menus to find new games to play that are compatible with the Turtle Beach Atom Controller, see the power levels of each side of the Atom, and update the firmware. I did update my firmware and the app walked through the steps in order to do so. However, the process to update the firmware was riddled with issues and I needed to redo the steps multiple times before it finally installed. In addition, my phone kept telling me the app was crashing. This is a pretty basic utility software, but there were a handful of issues while using it.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
3. Subjective Performance Tests