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Five cool control surfaces for gaming, streaming, and creativity

From customizable keypads to mix-and-match game controllers, we go beyond QWERTY to showcase some innovative and productivity-enhancing gadgets.

In this article, we'll dig through the Dell store and look at interesting controllers – ranging from game controllers to external programmable keypads – and show how these different add-on peripherals can improve work and play for business users, especially in creative apps like video editors and Photoshop.

Elgato Stream Deck

Let's kick off with one of my favorite productivity boosters, the Elgato Stream Deck. This is an external keyboard that connects to your PC via USB. What makes the Stream Deck special is that you can customize the image on every button, so you don't have to guess when you press.

The Stream Deck's software is smart enough to switch key sets based on what program you're running, and it also allows you to have multiple layers of keys, so you can drill deeper into functionality. That makes it an ideal companion for Twitch streaming, Photoshop, video editing, and so much more. I own two and they've saved me a ton of time.

3Dconnexion SpaceMouse Pro Wireless

I have the SpaceMouse and love it. This SpaceMouse Pro model adds a bunch of programmable buttons to the already valuable base functionality. The SpaceMouse is tailor-made for 3D design work. I use mine with Fusion 360 almost daily.

What it does is deceptively simple. It moves your model around in 3D space. You can push and tilt the mouse button in any direction, as well as lift it and press it. Doing so moves your model, scales your model, slides your model, and rotates your model – all with one simple hand motion. After a while, it almost seems like your creation is rotating, panning, and zooming in tune with your thoughts. The SpaceMouse does take a little time to get used to, but it's well worth the investment.

ThrustMaster eSwap X Pro

There are a ton of game controllers out there, but nothing like the Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro. This beast is a modular game controller that allows you to swap out components and customize your mini-sticks and D-pads, tweak the look, and program all its functions.

It works with most PC games, and if you've got Microsoft's PC Game Pass or Steam, you'll find many games compatible with this controller. It's smart enough to switch customizations dynamically when you switch games, so when you pivot from Halo Infinite to Forza Horizon 5, your control customizations can switch, as well.

Logitech Heavy Equipment Side Panel

When it comes to cool control surfaces, I had to show you the Logitech Heavy Equipment Side Panel. It's designed specifically to work with Microsoft Farming Simulator. If you're a farming sim fan, you're going to love how it makes you feel like you're driving a real tractor. If not, reports on the Internet claim you can use this with almost any game; you just have to reprogram the buttons. 

If you're playing a sim game, being able to customize all the buttons and having this very cool panel that clamps to your desk is just neat.

Logitech Saitek X56 Joystick and Throttle

The Logitech Saitek X56 is a pretty amazing joystick and throttle for flight games. If you're a flight game, VR, or space sim fan, this is a really impressive setup. It features analog thumb sticks, RGB lighting, 16-bit aileron and elevator axis, 189 programmable controls, and more. 

The stick has six degrees of freedom, allowing you to control pitch, roll, yaw, backward, forward, up, down, left, and right flight by feel. Then there's the independent twin throttles. If you want the visceral feel of going ballistic, this is the controller for you. It takes a bit of desk space, but it's a definite win.

Bonus listing: Razer Tartarus V2 USB Keypad

I've added the Razer Tartarus keypad as a bonus listing. I know a number of gamers who swear by it. It has an ergonomic wrist rest that lets your hand just settle over an array of keys, plus an eight-way directional thumb pad and a scroll wheel. And, should you be RGB-inclined, this unit allows you a whole lot of color customization with its RGB backlighting.

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