The Switch Pro Controller is a fantastic pad, and to date, arguably the best way to play Switch games on the big screen. It's also expensive, having launched at $70 and rarely selling for under $62 or so.
The Pro Controller's prohibitively high cost has forced many Switch owners to turn to the trusty old Joy-Con Grip to play when docked. But two Joy-Cons are still no replacement for a legitimate full-size pad. There is no shortage of alternative Switch controllers out there, though we've still yet to see anything worthy of taking on the Pro — until now.
Retro gaming-accessory specialist 8BitDo has put a new spin on its popular SN30 Pro controller, which combines SNES-inspired design with DualShock-esque analog sticks. The result, called the SN30 Pro+, costs just $50 yet includes all the same inputs as Nintendo's offering. It's designed to effortlessly work with other platforms and even comes with specialized software that allows you to customize the pad's inputs to your liking.
In fact, if you fancy saving $20 and would like to use the same controller for your Switch as you do for your PC and phone, the SN30 Pro+ appears to check all the boxes. But how does it compare to the Switch Pro Controller in real life? Our face-off delves into the differences.
Like all 8BitDo's controllers, the SN30 Pro+ natively supports Switch, Steam, Windows, Mac, Android and even Raspberry Pi. So if you're looking for a pad built to work with almost any platform you could possibly need to use it with (excluding Xbox One and PS4, of course), this is it.
Pairing the SN30 Pro+ with a Switch is almost as simple as pairing an ordinary Pro Controller. In fact, you don't even have to plug the controller in; just initiate the pairing process on the pad and follow the Switch's on-screen prompts. Pressing different button combinations moves you between the controller's different modes — from Switch, to PC, to Android and so on — making multiplatform use even more convenient.
The Switch Pro Controller, conversely, is explicitly designed only for Nintendo's console. However, as of 2018, Steam has been updated to support the Switch pad, too. The compatibility challenges arise when you try and use the Pro Controller with a PC or Mac title that doesn't live within Steam's cushy walls.
While Windows will recognize a Pro Controller connected over USB or Bluetooth, the larger issue is that the OS treats the Pro Controller as a DirectInput pad rather than an XInput one. Unfortunately DirectInput devices don't always play nice with modern games. Ironically, 8BitDo's $20 Bluetooth adapter will get around that problem, allowing your PC to process the Pro Controller as an XInput device.
Conversely, if you'd rather go the free route, you'll have to enlist the help of third-party software and put in a little elbow grease. For that reason, the SN30 Pro+ wins the compatibility bout.
Winner: 8BitDo SN30 Pro+
Design and comfort
Personally, I find the Switch Pro Controller to be one of the prettiest and best-designed controllers I've ever used. It is comfortable, feels solidly built, has practically all the inputs I'd ever need, comes equipped with HD Rumble, and looks positively sinister and classy in its smoked, translucent black shell.
Well, save for one small gripe: If the Pro Controller had actual triggers, it'd probably be my favorite gamepad ever. Because it doesn't, it's well out of its depth in racing games, which I happen to play a lot of.
The SN30 Pro+, on the other hand, does have legitimate triggers, which certainly came in handy tooling around the U.K. in Forza Horizon 4 on my PC. The controller is also built like a tank, so it doesn't flex or creak when I try to twist it in my palms.
From a design standpoint, though, the SN30 Pro+ is a bit of an odd duck. I assure you, it's more comfortable to hold than it looks. The hybrid SNES-meets-DualShock design, with those narrow, distant handles, actually feels pretty good in the hand. The D-pad is responsive yet not excessively stiff like the Pro Controller's; fighting game fans should feel right at home here.
However, the SN30 Pro+ is not without its faults. The start button is an awfully far reach for my thumb, and I suspect it will be for other thumbs, too. And I'm not convinced the wide, SNES-style layout for the face buttons makes a whole lot of sense for current games. It just feels so unlike Xbox One and PS4 pads, which huddle those keys closer together so you don't have to reposition your thumb much to trigger them.
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The SN30 Pro+ is rechargeable, though the pack can be removed and swapped out with two AA batteries if needed. And in keeping with 8BitDo's traditions, the pad is available in a few tasty colorways, including one pictured here that emulates the SNES's lavender-and-gray aesthetic. Another option is fully blacked out.
There's certainly much to like about the SN30 Pro+ in action. Yet the Switch Pro Controller is so reliable and well rounded that it remains the gold standard on the console, even if 8BitDo has struck awfully close here.
Winner: Switch Pro Controller
The Switch Pro Controller pretty much does what it says on the tin. It's a more refined controller that offers more precision than you'd get with a Joy-Con, but it offers little in the way of special features. (Though it does offer NFC connectivity for Amiibo support.)
The SN30 Pro+, on the other hand, features a dedicated desktop suite called 8BitDo Ultimate Software, which allows you to customize various aspects of the controller. You can adjust the range of the triggers and analog sticks, so these inputs won't require full presses or tilts to register 100%. You can remap buttons, set macros (so a single press will trigger a combination of inputs) and adjust the vibration strength.
8BitDo Ultimate Software is a powerful tool, though it's important to point out that the SN30 Pro+ lacks physical adjustability found in the Xbox Elite Controller or Scuf's pads for Xbox and PS4. There are no trigger locks or interchangeable thumbsticks and D-pad caps here. All the adjustments are performed via software, not hardware, which admittedly limits the appeal of the SN30 Pro+ as a professional-grade, personalized controller.
Unfortunately, we did run into some bugs with the Ultimate Software. We had no issues pushing a new profile to our SN30 Pro+ through the desktop app, though we couldn't return the controller to default settings. Additionally — though this has nothing to do with the software and concerns only the controller — the SN30 Pro+ would sometimes rumble without stopping until the battery was pulled. 8BitDo could fix these glitches with a firmware update, as the company has done in the past with many of its accessories, though it's worth being mindful of these issues nevertheless.
Winner: 8BitDo SN30 Pro+
The SN30 Pro+ costs $49, which is $20 cheaper than the Switch Pro Controller's MSRP. Nintendo's pad can be found for a bit less these days, but even so, you're guaranteed to save at least $10 by springing for the third-party option. Toss in 8BitDo's wider compatibility, and the SN30 Pro+ wins the value debate.
Winner: 8BitDo SN30 Pro+
Overall Winner: 8BitDo SN30 Pro+
If you're chiefly concerned with comfort and build, the Switch Pro Controller is still the benchmark. That's especially true if the only device you use for gaming is a Switch.
However, if you're looking to use the same pad across multiple platforms and are as concerned with compatibility and versatility as you are with comfort, the SN30 Pro+ wins out. It's also cheaper. Third-party controllers typically get a bad rap, but 8BitDo did the most in recent years to shake that reputation — and the SN30 Pro+ is no exception.