Since 2011, Scuf Gaming has made a name for itself by producing some of the highest quality third-party console controllers and owning a ridiculous number of controller patents. The Scuf Instinct and Instinct Pro are the company’s first stabs at creating an elite-level controller for the Xbox Series X/S consoles, and it pretty much nailed it.
We’ve been writing about Scuf controllers at Kotaku for years now, testing both its PlayStation 4 controllers and its answer to the original Xbox Elite Wireless controller. We also covered its patent infringement case against Valve and its Steam controller, in which Valve was ordered to pay Scuf four million dollars.
Scuf Gaming is an Atlanta-based peripheral maker founded in 2011 that does two things. One, it makes highly-configurable, usually quite expensive controllers for Xbox and PlayStation consoles. Two, it collects gaming patents like they were baseball cards. The company owns more than 100 patents, including rear buttons or paddles on game controllers, side “sax” buttons, and trigger stops, which limit the distance a controller’s triggers need to move in order to activate. The company has an entire page of its website dedicated to its patents. You know the Xbox Elite Controller from Microsoft? Most of the tech that makes it so elite was licensed from Scuf.
Scuf was purchased by Corsair Components in 2019, making it an integral part of Corsair’s evil gaming hardware empire, which also includes Origin PC and streaming device maker Elgato.
The Scuf Instinct Pro is a combination wired and wireless controller designed for the PC and Xbox Series X/S consoles. It’s Scuf’s latest take on making its own Xbox Elite Wireless controller. There are actually two models of Instinct. There’s the $200 Instinct Pro, which comes with trigger stops and textured grips, and the $170 non-pro Instinct, which lacks those two features.
Both Instinct models feature four buttons on the back of the controller. Those are Scuf’s beloved patent babies. They used to be long metal paddles, but now they’re cute little buttons easily activated by your middle fingers. Beneath the battery compartment—yes, the Instinct Pro uses batteries instead of a rechargeable battery pack—there’s a button for quickly switching between three different button configuration profiles. The little silver switches beside the battery bay lock the controller’s triggers so they don’t have to travel to activate, which is nice for shooters.
The front of the Scuf Instinct Pro looks a lot like your standard Xbox Series X/S controller, down to the share button and the one-piece directional disc. There’s an additional dedicated mute button for headset users, which is lovely.
What really sets the Scuf Instinct Pro apart from the standard Xbox Series X/S controllers is the removable faceplate. Not only does it allow for you to switch up the look of the controller with different covers and analog stick rings, you can also swap the analog sticks for different sizes and shapes. There are a couple of convex sticks included in the package, which I immediately threw away because convex sticks are garbage.
Aside from those groovy little back buttons, the Scuf Instinct Pro controller feels like an official Xbox controller with a textured grip. The form factor is pretty much the same as my standard Xbox Series X/S game pads. Despite its modular design, the Instinct Pro has a nice, solid feel to it. The weight is nice.
I was worried the little buttons on the back wouldn’t be as satisfying as the metal paddles from older Scuf models or Microsoft’s Elite Wireless Controller, but they’re actually decent and unobtrusive. You can feel them there, but they don’t feel like they’re in the way.
If you’re looking for extra features, more buttons, and customization options, the Instinct Pro has the original Xbox Series X/S controller beat hands down. If you don’t need any of those things, the standard controller should do you just fine.
This is a much tougher call. For one, Microsoft’s Elite Wireless 2 costs $20 less than the $200 Instinct Pro. The Elite Wireless 2 has multiple hair trigger stops as opposed to the Instinct Pro’s, which are either on or off. And the Elite Wireless 2 has adjustable analog stick tension, which the Instinct Pro does not.
That said, I do prefer the little nubby buttons on the back of the Instinct Pro, and my custom faceplate is so much prettier than the Elite Wireless 2. If you want to make a statement with your controller, the Instinct Pro is the way to go.
Look folks, I am not going to tell you what to do with your money. If it were up to me you’d be spending it all on transforming robots from Japan shipped directly to my front door. What I will say is that if you drop $200 on Scuf’s fancy new Xbox Series X/S and/or PC controller, I do not think you will be disappointed. It’s a solid pro-grade controller that feels like something Microsoft might make, and not just because Scuf owns most of the patents on what Microsoft makes anyway.