Mon. Sep 26th, 2022
You can do a lot with this little man.
enlarge You can do a lot with this little man.

Jeff Dunn

Welcome to Ars Gaming Week 2019! As a staff of gamers and gaming enthusiasts, we’ll be hosting additional gaming reviews, tutorials, interviews, and other stories from August 19 to August 23.

The Nintendo Switch is one of the most inventive pieces of consumer technology in recent memory, but a few good accessories can make it more practical every day. And in preparation for Ars Gaming Week, we’ve spent the past few months researching and testing various controllers, chargers, adapters, and all sorts of extra gadgets to find out which of those accessories are worth buying.

Note that all testing was done on an original Switch console, not the newer model with improved battery life (and a few other major upgrades) or the upcoming Switch Lite, which has Joy-Con controllers that can’t be removed. We’ll be upgrading this guide in the future as more eye-catching accessories come out (I’m still waiting for a valuable Switch headset, for example), but here’s how you can optimize everyone’s favorite handheld right now.

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

The Nintendo Switch Pro controller.
enlarge The Nintendo Switch Pro controller.

Jeff Dunn

The Switch’s versatility is a big part of its appeal, but to meet its portable-meets-home console goals, Nintendo had to make very significant sacrifices with the hardware. One of the more obvious compromises is the “Joy-Con” controller, which splits in half and detaches from the base of the console itself.

Given the device’s goals, the Joy-Cons are probably as effective a compromise as Nintendo could produce. But compared to the more standard gamepads of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, they are decidedly less comfortable: the buttons are small and not as satisfying to press, everything is more packed together and some joysticks seem to have problems with long-term reliability. term .

If you mainly use the Switch as a super-sized Game Boy, there’s not much you can do about this. But if you’ve often plugged it into a TV or have it on a stand, Nintendo’s Switch Pro Controller is a worthwhile investment. If you have any experience playing with a PlayStation or, especially, an Xbox, it should feel right at home – there’s more room to grab, more room for the buttons, grippier handles and just the right amount of space between them all. elements of the controller . It is direct and considerably more comfortable. There’s also a true d-pad and the rechargeable battery lasts an excellent 35-40 hours per charge. Since the Pro Controller is supported on Steam, it can also double as a handy controller for PC gamers (although it requires a little extra setup to work outside of Valve’s client). It also doesn’t sacrifice any of Nintendo’s motion control or Amiibo scanning features.

Nintendo’s $70 asking price for the Pro Controller is undeniably steep, and having a built-in headphone jack like Sony’s and Microsoft’s respective controllers would have been appreciated. But if you often keep the Switch docked and playing for extended periods of time, the Pro Controller should be a pleasure to use.

Product image Nintendo Switch Pro controller

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

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8BitDo SN30 Pro

8BitDo's SN30 Pro finds the sweet spot between utility and SNES nostalgia.
enlarge 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro finds the sweet spot between utility and SNES nostalgia.

Jeff Dunn

One of the nicer perks of Nintendo’s Switch Online service is the library of classic NES games that come with the subscription. There are currently over 40 titles available, with more being added to the pseudo-virtual console every month. If you specifically use the NES app, or if you just play a lot of games that are after those retro-styled platformers and RPGs, 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro controller is worth a shout. It’s a clean reproduction of a Super Nintendo gamepad, but with PlayStation-style joysticks and dual trigger buttons that allow it to work with more modern games.

You have to like the SNES style for this to work – the SN30 Pro’s “dog bone” shape is virtually identical to the original SNES pad, so it’s significantly smaller than modern gamepads, and the lack of handles makes it less comfortable to hold over extended periods. But if you’re still well-established, 8BitDo has made this design as polished and responsive as it could possibly be. The trigger buttons are smaller than I’d like, but they’re clearly defined enough to make avoiding accidental presses easy. The four face buttons have just the right amount of movement, while the d-pad is neither too firm nor too mushy. The joysticks are clickable and can be turned smoothly. They don’t get in the way of traditional SNES style cues, even for those with bigger hands like me. The home and select buttons have helpful + and – symbols next to them to indicate their use on the Switch, and there are still Home and screenshot buttons onboard. Motion controls and basic rumble functionality are also supported. It gave me no latency or input lag issues. 8BitDo estimates the pad’s battery life at around 18 hours, which is consistent with my experience. Fortunately, it charges quickly via a USB-C port, although it won’t work when plugged into a Switch dock.

8BitDo sells a more faithful replica of the SNES gamepad, the SN30, but the lack of ZL and ZR buttons on that pad makes it difficult to use with the Switch’s interface, and the lack of joysticks makes it useless for most newer games. More recently, the company launched the SN30 Pro+, which has a more modern design with grippy handles, but at that point you’re close enough to the more comfortable Pro Controller that I’d recommend most Switch owners just buy. The SN30 Pro hits the right spot between usability and nostalgia – it gives that authentic retro-style gaming feel, and while it wouldn’t be my first choice for newer titles, it can still handle them. Rumor has it that Nintendo is working on its own SNES-style Switch pad, but the SN30 Pro has the advantage of running Windows, Mac, Android, and Raspberry Pi alongside the Switch.

8BitDo SN30 Pro product image

8BitDo SN30 Pro

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PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch

The PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch.  PowerA sent us this Pikachu-themed unit, but it's also available in more traditional colorways.
enlarge The PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch. PowerA sent us this Pikachu-themed unit, but it’s also available in more traditional colorways.

Let’s keep the nostalgic train rolling. If you still love, say, quirky layout of Nintendo’s old GameCube controller – or you’re just a Super Smash Bros. fanatic who thinks the series peaked with melee—PowerA’s GameCube-style wireless controller can make sense for longer play sessions.

Honestly, this gamepad isn’t as well made as the aforementioned Switch Pro Controller or the SN30 Pro. The hard plastic chassis feels cheaper, it lacks vibration and support for the Amiibo scanner, and pressing the ZR trigger button sends a hollow “echo” vibration through the rest of the controller. It also runs on AA batteries rather than a built-in rechargeable unit, though it gets a healthy 30 hours of battery life.

This controller has the usual Switch screenshot and menu buttons, but it’s wireless, supports motion controls and has no latency issues. Most importantly, it’s as close as possible to a modern GameCube controller facsimile. PersonalThat’s not a big selling point: The uneven face buttons, thinner grips, small d-pad, and stiff “C-stick” haven’t gotten any less clunky for me in the 18 years since the GameCube’s launch. But I can’t deny the many people who love the feel of the original GameCube pad – this controller delivers.

It is a particularly suitable choice if you are heavy Smash Bros. player. The octagonal ports around the left joystick make it easier to enter accurate inputs – top left, bottom right, etc. – than the smoother ports on the Switch Pro’s joysticks. And the shorter length of that stick, along with the proximity to the face buttons, are more conducive to entering inputs faster. So while I can’t recommend this gamepad as universally as the Switch Pro Controller, you could do worse for $45 if you just want that classic GameCube feel.

PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch product image

PowerA GameCube Style Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch

(Ars Technica may earn compensation through affiliate programs for sales of links on this post.)

By akfire1

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