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ups: Truly enhances grippiness, comfort, and responsiveness of analog joysticks; hip drug-like name.
downs: Not enough colors available, casual gamers won't get it.

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GelTabz Review
game: GelTabz
four star
posted by: Shawn Rider
publisher: GelTabz
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date posted: 11:39 AM Mon Jan 2nd, 2006
last revision: 11:37 AM Mon Jan 2nd, 2006

Click to read.Lots of gaming peripherals are gimmicks: A chainsaw controller to commemorate Resident Evil; a dragon-shaped controller with faux jewels instead of traditional buttons. Sometimes ideas are ahead of their time and don\'t work correctly when they are released: Many wireless controller experiments before the present generation were awful experiences, but it was clear from the earliest efforts that wireless controllers would dominate the future once they worked well. This is the spectrum that videogame peripherals inhabit ? the must-haves to the tag-alongs. Much of the industry is dominated by products that look very much like other products and which are still, generally, inferior to first-party peripherals in most ways. Of course, there are the exceptions.

Sometimes a new development in gaming peripherals comes along that makes us scratch our heads and say, \"Why hasn\'t anyone thought of that?\" These are often small improvements that greatly enhance the gaming experience. Why did it take until Xbox for a company to put a longer cord on the controller? In all of the meetings about which style of Turbo button to add on to a controller, nobody ever said, \"Hey, let\'s put a longer cord on the thing\"? Seriously?

Like so many of those small developments in gaming peripherals, my latest discovery was made in doubt. When my pal Rob emailed me and said I needed to try out these GelTabz, I responded as I generally do: \"Sure, I\'ll try anything that comes in gel tab form.\" Hell, that\'s a mark of professionalism in my book. When I realized he was talking about little gelly toppers for your analog control sticks, I became skeptical. Gel on the seat of my bicycle is obviously a benefit. Gel in my shoes makes for comfy sneakers. But gel on my game controller? I game a lot, and my callouses generally do a fine job of protecting me. How good could little gelly toppers for my analog control sticks be?

The answer shocked me. The GelTabz comes in little paper-backed press-out packaging. If I were in charge of product design, I\'d ramp up the pharmacological packaging styles. Foil push-out packs would be much more allusive. I popped out the GelTabz and popped one pair on my Xbox controller and the other on my PS2 analog sticks. Application was easy, and from the moment I put the GelTabz on the controllers, I could tell my gaming world had officially been rocked.

It\'s the little things that make me marvel the most. GelTabz greatly, significantly, increase the grippiness of your controller\'s analog joysticks. The GelTabz have two textures: The top is a bit more firm and studded with gripping dots, and the side of the GelTab is soft, sticky gel rubber. In general, I found the side grip much more significant: I instantly gained much more fine control over the position of the sticks. Playing first-person shooters like PDZ and Half-Life 2, this increased level of precision and stability due to the extra grip provided by the GelTabz truly made a difference.

I couldn\'t believe I liked these things so much right out of the box. So I took them off and tried replaying the same levels. At first I found there was a slight decrease in the grip on the control sticks as they were originally made. I thought I had just gotten exuberant about the tweaky colors and all the different drug-reference jokes I could write in a review. But after a solid while playing without the GelTabz I noticed the old issues of slippy controllers coming back. In intense areas my thumb would slip and shift on the controller to bungle a shot, or on tense walkways I would screw up by letting the controller spring back to center at just the wrong time.

Still not totally convinced, I tried the controllers with one GelTab on, and the other off. The difference was very noticeable between the two thumbs: GelTabz really, truly enhance your grip on the analog thumbstick. It is a small change, but a significant one, and a change that I believe many game enthusiasts will appreciate. Some games benefit more than others: Obviously a game that doesn\'t use the analog sticks much, or only uses the left stick for movement, might not be as enhanced by the GelTabz, although once you get used to the feeling of the GelTabz, it\'s hard to go without.

The extra grip on the GelTabz means that it takes less effort to move the thumbsticks, too. That helps prevent the hand cramps that accompany real marathon sessions, which is probably a real concern for only a small number of gamers. But the pleasure of using the GelTabz is undeniable, and it\'s definitely something I can see catching on for many gamers. I see the GelTabz as being very close to a batting or golf glove: You can use a bat without one, but who does?

Of course, nobody is going to try the GelTabz if they cost too much, which is why I\'m glad to see that they are retailing for a suggested $5.99 per pair. At six bucks, the GelTabz are not a major cash layout, and definitely worth giving a shot. They can easily be moved between sticks, and we\'ve actually had a lot of luck using the PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360 GelTabz interchangeably. It\'s obviously a more perfect fit to use the GelTabz on the controller it is designed for, but right now GelTabz are available in only one color for each platform. However, we wanted to use our GelTabz to help tell our many (identical) first-party controllers apart, and using the different colored GelTabz was a good way to quickly identify controllers.

I don\'t really have any beef with GelTabz-they work exactly like they should, and do no damage to anything if you decide you don\'t like them. However, I would love to see a grippy topper for my PSP analog stick, which is such a pain to use. I would also like to see other styles-- obviously it is possible to put other designs in the top of the GelTabz, and many more colors and color combos could be explored. More styles would make GelTabz more appealing as a decorative as well as functional enhancement.

The price is right to give GelTabz a shot. I think most gamers will appreciate the enhanced precision and comfort GelTabz afford. I wouldn\'t make such a whole-hearted recommendation if I didn\'t think that these really have a place on any serious gamer\'s equipment. Don\'t be surprised to see this kind of gel technology incorporated into future new controller designs. Check out GelTabz.com to order GelTabz and keep an eye out for them to appear at your local game retailer in the coming months.

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