Accessory Review: KontrolFreek Grips, Shields, and CleanFreek Asset Protection

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I have sung the praises of KontrolFreek’s analog stick extenders many times before, but lately the accessory manufacturer has been branching out into new forms of video game controller accessorization. Today, I would like to tell you about three different products that will complement your analog stick grips and help to further enhance your gaming experience.

Let’s start with KontrolFreek Shields, peel-and-stick decals that jazz up a PlayStation 3 / PlayStation 4 or Xbox 360 / Xbox One controller with a little decorative flair. Each shield comes on a sticker sheet, inside a clear package. The Xbox controller Shields appear to come primarily as one large decal, which I would imagine is fairly simple to apply, but for PS4, which is what I tested, a shield consists of six different pieces: one for each grip, one for each of the circular areas surrounding the d-pad and face buttons, one for the touch pad, and another batarang-shaped central sticker that fills in all the gaps between these areas and stretches up to just under the L1/R1 bumpers.

That piece in particular is a pain to apply since it is one oddly-shaped piece that needs to be finagled into a lot of tight crevices and around smaller buttons and corners. Just the way it’s cut makes it difficult because the narrower parts too easily fold in on themselves. So for example, while I was putting it on and smoothing one side down, the other side rolled up and got stuck together, like sometimes happens when you roll off too long a piece of Scotch tape and the tail doubles over and sticks to the other end.

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Fortunately, the stickers unpeel with relative ease, which also means if an air bubble gets trapped in a certain spot or you don’t get a decal aligned to your liking, you can carefully peel it off and reapply without worry. Over a long period of time I imagine there might be an adhesive degradation if removed too often, but I’ve taken different pieces off a few times, and they are holding strong after about two weeks of use so far.

The other benefit to having the multiple decals is the built-in option to mix up the configuration. In my case, I have KontrolFreek Grips (more on those in a bit) applied to my DualShock 4’s handles while the rest of the controller is adorned with the Shield stickers. Right now I have three KontrolFreek augmentations — FPS Freeks, Grips, and Shields — on my main PS4 controller at the same time. Now that’s product synergy, folks.

Again, these are for decoration only; Shields do not offer any form of improved performance like KontrolFreek’s other products. So the decision to spend $10.99 and up simply to give a controller a stick-on paintjob will come down to how much you value the cosmetics of your gaming gear. What I can tell you is that the designs are snazzy — seven options are currently available, including licensed Call of Duty themes based on Advanced Warfare and Black Ops III — and the sticker quality is excellent.

KontrolFreek Grips are the newest addition to the company’s growing arsenal of controller accessories. Available for PS4 and Xbox One, these adhesive grips wrap around each controller handle, cushioning the solid plastic surface with a thin layer of foam padding coated by a honeycombed outer layer that helps to alleviate moisture buildup from sweaty palms so you can maintain a non-slip grasp at all times. Think of it as the equivalent of a Nike Dri-FIT shirt, only applied to a gaming controller. Needless to say, they feel great–soft and smooth to the touch, with just the right amount of grip texture and a good balance of cushioning to increase comfort without having an overly squishy give.

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I don’t know what the “proprietary combination of high-tech materials” that the Grips are made of exactly, but whatever the materials are they have a very pungent out-of-the-box smell. Most objects have a delightful “new thing” smell when you buy them, whether it’s the first time sitting in a brand new car or inhaling the scent of fresh ink and paper wafting off the pages of a new book. KontrolFreek Grips smell more like burnt rubber when you first take them out of the cardboard pouch they come packaged in, and for two or three days the odor lingers and leeches into your palms, to the point that you’ll probably need to dunk your hands under the faucet to rinse the smell away. Fortunately, the smell dissipates over time and ultimately disappears. After about four days, the smell had faded and I no longer detected any odor transfer on my hands. So this isn’t something that should scare you away from a purchase. Just be aware up front that it’s not a good idea to put your nose to the box and take a big whiff right after opening it, and that your hands may smell a bit funky for the first couple of days.

The Grips are easy to line up and smoothly apply to the contours of the controller, but if you do happen to goof up the alignment or fail to even out an air bubble, the adhesive backing can be peeled off and reapplied without leaving behind a tacky residue. That resistance does seem to hold up over time as well. After a couple weeks of use, I peeled back an edge just to test out the sticky factor and didn’t see that any residual stickiness had been left behind on the surface of the controller, something that can’t be said for a competing grip product I had been using on my DualShock 4 for around six months before trying out the Shield and Grips. (I’m referring to SquidGrip, which is very similar and a fantastic product in its own right, but I would say that KontrolFreek’s Grips are just a tiny bit better overall.)

Much like KontrolFreek’s analog stick enhancers, once you slap a pair of Grips on your controller of choice you won’t want to use another gamepad without them. They feel so much more comfortable than skin directly on hard plastic, and they really do cut down on sweaty palm slippage during long play sessions. Pick up a pair now for $12.99, or if you don’t have a set of analog stick grips, get them bundled with the FPS Freek CQC Signature Edition for $23.99.

CleanFreek

Finally, for controller cleanliness and general tech upkeep, KontrolFreek offers “Pure Asset Protection” in the form of CleanFreek, a foam cleaner that quickly and easily wipes away grimy buildup from dust and oily fingers and Lord knows what else might be on your hands. For $9.99, you get a 2.4 fluid ounce bottle of cleaner and a 10″ x 10″ microfiber cloth. A small dab of foam on the cloth is all it takes to give your controller a shiny, sanitized finish.

CleanFreek has many other applications as well. It can be used on glasses, headsets, smartphones, and tablets. I’ve used it to spruce up my grungy PC mouse, and to give my PlayStation Vita screen a fingerprint-free sheen it hasn’t had in years. Having other grips on my controller before trying the KontrolFreek Grips and Shields also proved to be the perfect experiment, because when I removed them the old grips had left behind a horrible adhesive residue that needed to be removed before applying anything else. It took a few minutes of elbow grease, but eventually the foam cut through the sticky goo and left the controller looking good as new. Having a clean surface is important for optimal adhesion, so if you plan on getting the Grips or Shields you might as well pick up a bottle of CleanFreek. Once you have it, you’ll no doubt find many other long neglected devices to polish up.

According to the packaging, CleanFreek is antibacterial, alcohol and ammonia free, and non-abrasive, and the active ingredients are propanaminium, sodium propoxycarbonylphenoxide, hydroxides, and inner salts. I’m not a chemist so I don’t know what any of that crap is, but it sure does clean stuff real good.

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Disclosure: Product samples were provided to VGBlogger.com for review by KontrolFreek.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!