8BitDo now makes the best Switch pro controller

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Nintendo’s official Pro Controller for the Switch is generally a pretty useful accessory, but it has its problems: the D-pad is unreliable and doesn’t really offer any “pro-level” functionality. The latest controller from 8BitDo corrects both of these issues while coming in at a lower price.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is an improved version of the SN30Pro Plus, already a well-known Switch controller. It uses Bluetooth and also works with PCs and mobile devices; there is a physical control to switch between Switch, X input, D input and Mac. You can also use it as a wired controller with a USB-C cable. I’ve tried using it with my PC, but I feel like it makes more sense on the Switch because of the Japanese style button layout with B on the bottom and A on the right. Or maybe I’m just too used to using Xbox controllers on the PC.

Aesthetically, it looks like a cross between a SNES pad and a PlayStation controller, with a diamond-shaped body, two handles and symmetrically aligned analog sticks. The unit I have is decked out in a PlayStation-inspired gray livery, but there’s also an all-black option and a beige model that’s reminiscent of the original Game Boy.

It’s not a huge controller, but it feels comfortable in my big hands, with easy access to all buttons and triggers. Just as important to me is that the D-pad is good. It feels more or less like a SNES pad, and its placement above the left analog stick makes it more suitable for games where it’s a primary input option. I’d much rather use the Pro 2 than Nintendo’s Pro Controller for just about any 2D game on the Switch.

The main feature of the Pro 2 over its predecessor is the customizable buttons on the back that you can press with your middle finger. These are a common element of enthusiast-minded controllers today, from Microsoft’s Elite controllers to third-party offerings like the Astro C40 for the PS4. Sony has also released an attachment that offers similar functionality to the DualShock 4.

These buttons are useful because they allow you to enter commands without taking your thumbs off the stick. For example, most first-person shooters assign jumping to a face button, which means it can be tricky to trigger while aiming at the same time. Controllers like the Pro 2 allow you to set up a back button to work in the same way as a particular face button, allowing you to design more flexible control schedules. The Pro 2 makes it much easier to put the camera in the middle of one Monster Hunter Rise struggle, which could be worth the asking price alone.

The back buttons on the Pro 2 respond and click, and are activated with a light push. You can assign them through 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software app, which is now available for the Pro 2 on iOS and Android, as well as PCs. It’s not as simple as some professional controller setups that allow you to remap the buttons directly on the controller itself, but it does support multiple profiles and works well enough. In addition to button assignments, the app can also be used to adjust the vibration strength and stick sensitivity of the controller.

You miss some of the features of the Switch Pro Controller with the 8BitDo Pro 2. While the rumble is solid, it doesn’t feel as accurate as Nintendo’s HD Rumble in supported games. The Pro 2 also doesn’t have an NFC reader, so it won’t work with Amiibo figures. And it cannot be used to power on the Switch, which is common for most third-party controllers on different platforms.

However, at $ 49.99, those omissions are understandable. That’s $ 20 less than Nintendo’s equivalent option, let alone the professional controllers you’d find for the Xbox or PlayStation in the $ 180- $ 200 range. And all things considered, I’d say the 8BitDo Pro 2 take over the official Nintendo controller most days of the week.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 ships on April 12.