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Dell's Concept Nyx gamepad sure is... something

It's like the Steam Controller 2.0, but worse.

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Last year Dell showed off Concept Nyx, its vision for a server that could let you play games on screens throughout your home. Perhaps you could start a game on your bedroom TV and then continue it in your living room — and if someone else was using that set, you could also share that larger screen. I'll admit, I was far from sold on the idea, especially after Engadget's Cherlynn Low and I were forced to go head-to-head in two separate Rocket League windows on a single TV screen. It looked more like the waste of a perfectly good 65-inch TV, instead of being the future of gaming.

Now Dell and Alienware have returned with another Concept Nyx accessory: A truly baffling PC gamepad. Like a cross between Valve's ambitious-yet-flawed Steam Controller, Sony's DualSense and the latest Xbox offering, it sports a trackpad of a directional pad, two analog sticks, the usual face and top buttons, and adaptive triggers. There are also two rear shift buttons, as well as dual scroll-wheels along the bottom to easily change your settings. And if that's not enough functionality for you, the two top buttons also have capacitive sensing, allowing you to slide your finger slowly across them for different affects.

I can trace my love of gadgets back to the first time I held an NES controller at the age of five, so I was initially intrigued by the Nyx controller. It's certainly leagues ahead of Dell's previous "UFO" pad, which resembled the Atari's failed Jaguar controller more than anything modern. The Nyx gamepad feels like a premium device Dell could actually sell, with sturdy build quality and a familiar Xbox-like feel.

The demo gods weren't in Dell's favor during our briefing, unfortunately, so we couldn't play any games with the Nyx controller. Just from holding it though, it felt somewhat incomplete. Perhaps I'm too used to the idea of directional pads, but I still find them essential, especially when playing Metroidvania games or anything that hearkens back to the classic 2D era. The Nyx's circular trackpad could be fine for some PC games, but I still prefer having the confidence of a real directional pad. If Valve can manage to shove two trackpads alongside a D-pad on the Steam Deck, surely Dell could find some more room for a trackpad.

Dell could be trying to one-up Valve's original Steam Controller, which took a huge risk by prominently featuring two circular trackpads to help replicate the feeling of mouse and keyboard controls. But while that device had its fans, I could never adapt to it. There's a reason why console controllers ultimately settled on a fairly standard design: It just works.