While the design of games controllers has changed markedly since the days of the good old chunky Atari 2600 joystick, the problems that having a cabled controller presents have persisted to this day. Cables tangle with each other, become tripwires on living room floors and can lead to consoles being inadvertently pulled off shelves if someone snags the cord. This usually isn't that good for the console, as they're not normally built to survive too many crashes. While there have been plenty of wireless controller solutions on the market before, few have genuinely impressed - most suffering from a combination of poor controller design, awful battery life and dodgy reception. The only exception to this rule appeared to be Nintendo's excellent Wavebird controller - until the Logitech Cordless Action Controller landed in our office.
There's not much you can do with the basic Dualshock 2 design and still entice customers (and retain compatibility with the existing library of PS2 titles), and the Cordless Action Controller doesn't stray too far. It's a tad more rounded than the Dualshock, and owing to its inbuilt battery compartment, a tad fatter as well, although it's still not of the same size as an Xbox controller. Whether that's a good or bad thing depends entirely on your personal preferences. It's also a touch heavier than a Dualshock to hold in your hands. Aside from the normal array of PS2 buttons (Square, Circle, Triangle, X, L1-L3 and R1-R3) and the dual analog sticks and directional pad, the Cordless Action Controller also features two additional buttons. The first determines whether the controller's acting in digital or analog mode, as well as indicating a successful connection to the unit's receiver, and showing when the unit's batteries are low. The other button controls the unit's vibration function, one of the more interesting inclusions on the controller. The receiver for the controller is small and easy to plug into a PS2 - for what it's worth we tested with an older chunky PS2, not the new slimline PS2 model, but there's nothing to indicate that it shouldn't work with the newer model.
The Cordless Action Controller uses 2.4GHz frequencies to transmit its signals. That's both good and bad. It's good in that it makes it totally omnidirectional, and means that there's no lag at all between inputting a command and having it carried out by your onscreen gaming avatar. It's bad because it's the same frequency as existing wireless networking equipment, bringing up the possible spectre of network interference, either with an existing wireless network, or with the controller itself. Unlike Nintendo's Wavebird controller, there's no channel switch on the controller, so if you did hit a problem - and it's worth pointing out here that in our testing in a wireless network environment, we hit no problems whatsoever - you'd have to change the channel your network was using rather than the channel the controller used.
The other trick that the Cordless Action Controller pulls off is its vibration function. This is controlled via a button on the top right hand side of the controller's face. If you push it and get a short vibration, it's off; a longer vibration indicates that the vibration functionality is working. The vibration motor in the controller is a touch heavy, but the advantage with that is that it gives a solid range of vibration feedback. Naturally, it's a good idea to take breaks while gaming to give your constantly vibrating wrists a break.
Compared to a Dualshock 2, the main analog controllers feel a touch loose, but that's something we quickly adjusted to. Likewise, the shoulder buttons are a slightly different shape, but it doesn't take much play time before you accept this as normal. In our tests, the controller's signals got through quickly and well, with the only limiting factor to our success in various games being a lack of skill. It's as comfortable to use as the regular Dualshock 2 once you compensate for the slight design differences, although again we'd point out the advisability of regular breaks while gaming, wireless controller or not.
Logitech rates the battery life of the Cordless Action Controller (which uses two standard AA batteries) as up to 50 hours, although that figure will vary quite markedly depending on the exact make and chemical type of battery you use. There's no on/off switch on the cordless action controller, which puts itself to sleep after five minutes of inactivity. Two AA batteries are provided in the packaging, so it's easy to get gaming right away.
The advantages of a wireless controller are pretty obvious - you never have to worry about tangled cables, tripwires all over the living room floor or games being interrupted by someone tripping over the cable and inadvertently pulling a cable out. The Logitech Cordless Action Controller performs well, is comfortable to use and has a solid battery life. It comes highly recommended.