The QRD Spark N5 is one of many alternatives to the official PlayStation controllers, and one immediate upside here is that it's compatible with both PS4 and PS5, so if you need a single controller for both models (as well as your PC), the Spark N5 is going to catch your attention.
What will also catch attention here are claims of 'no stick drift' thanks to the Hall Effect joysticks (which use magnets and electrical conductors to measure their position, distance, and movement when in use, instead of relying on any physical contact with the sensors) on the kit. As a big fan of recent GameSir controllers (including the T4 Kaleid and the G7), both of which have Hall Effect joysticks, I was intrigued to see how QRD would fare with this sub-£/$50 controller. I got a sample in for testing over several weeks on my PlayStation and my PC to see how it stacked up.
And while the headline feature does come out really well, other weaknesses or compromises did affect the overall experience of the QRD Spark N5 somewhat, but is that enough to limit its claim among the best PS5 controllers?
QRD Spark N5 review: Key specs
QRD Spark N5 review: Design and build
The general shape of the QRD Spark N5 is in the main almost identical to the official PS4 controller, apart from the fact that the symbols on the four right-side buttons have been jazzed up, the PS logo on the power button has been replaced by a stylised Q, and there are macro triggers on the backside here. The Spark N5 comes in a single colour, black, so there will be no choice anxiety here when it comes to styling.
There's a nice overall weightiness to the unit, but the plastic covers, buttons and joysticks are clearly made on a budget, as there's an overall lack of texture and feel across the controller, apart from the backside macro triggers.
This is particularly felt on the shoulder and trigger buttons (RB/LB most so), where there is very little resistance when pressing the RB/LB buttons, and after only a few days, I had instances where I wasn't even fully sure whether I had pressed those buttons or not. This lack of responsiveness and weak feel isn't great for action-oriented games where you need complete trust that your inputs are being picked up instantly.
The Spark N5 comes with some nifty lighting features, though, as the edges along the buttons and sticks light up in a rotating selection of 9 RGB colours. These are big and bright, and although the formatting is fairly basic, it does lend it a bit of colour.
Features and performance
The QRD Spark N5 works with a range of gaming platforms, including PS4, PS5, PC and Android, and in my testing it paired and functioned effortlessly with both my PS4, my desktop PC and an Android phone I tested it on.
Battery life is also very decent, and in my experience comes very close to the 8 hours claimed by the maker, before needing to be plugged in. Unfortunately, due to the different front build, I couldn't use the charging dock I have for my official PS controllers, but thankfully it comes with easy, and easily available, USB-C connectivity for charging (and wired gaming if so desired).
The macro buttons on the back are also a nice inclusion, and are one of the best-performing and most reliable buttons on the controller, in terms of feel, resistance and touch.
The Hall Effect joysticks also work well, and in my gaming sessions I didn't notice any stick drift, which is exactly the thing QRD claims this controller will eliminate, so consider that promise kept.
The performance is therefor mostly pleasant and more than meets expectations for an affordable controller such as this, apart from the trigger and shoulder buttons on the front, as mentioned above. I got very little feel and feedback from the shoulder buttons in particular, and the overall build makes me a little apprehensive about how it will feel two, three years from now, as there is a little wobble in the main 'symbol' buttons on the right and the shoulder buttons already feel like they're losing the little resistance they had at the start. The joysticks have remained reassuringly firm throughout, though.
At the time of writing, the QRD Spark N5 retails for $49.99 in the US and £39.27 in the UK, which makes it one of the more affordable Hall Effect multi-platform controllers around. QRD is also known for some generous discounts during trading events like Black Friday and the like, so do keep your eyes peeled for that.
Should I buy the QRD Spark N5?
If you're concerned about budget above a premium controller experience, especially if you're looking for a single controller to use across several different platforms, the QRD Spark N5 should be in the conversation. However, there are clear compromises here, when compared to not just the official PS offerings but also other makers that offer controllers that aren't much more expensive than this, such as GameSir. It's not a premium controller, due to its plasticky feel and subpar shoulder buttons, but they're far from the worst thing you can get for around £40/$50 in this market.