It’s been a real treat to watch from the sidelines as gaming peripheral company 8BitDo reinvented and rebranded itself. Having gotten its start producing controllers meant to emulate NES and SNES pads, it’s gone from a niche distributor to a juggernaut in the world of third-party gaming solutions. In the last year, they’ve rounded out their line of products, partnered with Analogue to create a line of controllers for their FPGA-powered consoles, and have even forayed into the world of PC and mobile gaming.
Not content with resting on their laurels, the team at 8BitDo have outdone themselves again with the SN30 Pro+, a fully decked out, wireless controller that works on PCs, Macs, Android, Rasberry Pi, and the Nintendo Switch. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is — the SN30 and SN30 Pro came before it, though in comparison, the SN30 Pro+ blows its predecessors out of the water, with a handful of brand new features all tied together by a rather slick companion app.
But before we dig into that, let’s dive into the controller’s design. The original SN30 attempted to emulate Nintendo’s SNES pad, while the SN30 Pro went one step further by slapping on a pair of analog sticks and a set of bumpers. The SN30 Pro+ jumps into the modern realm, conforming to the two-pronged, wing-grip design that just about every other controller on the market uses. This brings 8BitDo’s newest offering more in line with the official Switch Pro Controller, though it lacks an NFC reader and HD rumble. Don’t fret though — there’s still plain ol’ rumble (even if it feels slightly pared back) and proper gyro support for all you Splatoon 2 players out there.
On the front, the SN30 Pro+ looks quite similar to its older counterparts, with the same four face buttons, a rock-solid D-Pad (8BitDo seems to have corrected the oversensitive diagonal inputs that plagued their older products), and an inline pair of analog sticks — a noticeable deviation over Nintendo’s Pro Controller. This might bother some Switch owners, but as someone who spends a good chunk of his time with a DualShock 4 in hand, it’s a welcome addition in my eyes, especially since it puts the D-Pad opposite the face buttons; a must-have anyone who plays a lot of 2D platformers.
Since it supports Bluetooth, the SN30 Pro+ will also work on PCs and Macs, and you can even use the included USB to USB-C cable for a stable, super-low latency wired connection — to be fair, the input lag when using the controller wirelessly is so low, most gamers won’t even notice it. 8BitDo is even selling a $10 clip to attach an Android phone to play on the go, and you can also go the wired route on mobile devices should you want to. On the back, the SN30 Pro+ offers a pair of analog triggers along with the standard digital bumpers. You won’t be able to take advantage of these on the Switch, but they will work on other devices.
8BitDo has opted for a removable battery pack this time around. We aren’t sure if they plan to sell replacements down the line, but you can also throw in a pair of AA batteries, which should extend the lifespan of the controller, even if you can’t get your hands on another battery pack once the stock one (eventually) dies. This gives it a leg up over some of its competitors — most notably, the DualShock 4 and Switch Pro Controller. The SN30 Pro+ seems to offer a similar battery life as its predecessor, coming in at around 18-20 hours.
There’s plenty of hardware changes which are sure to appeal to most gamers, but 8BitDo has gone one step further by developing a new application to provide a wide range of customization. The aptly-named 8BitDo Ultimate Software (which is only out on PC, we’ve heard that a Mac version is in the works) is a fully-featured app that offers up a bevy of settings that are just waiting to be tweaked.
You can remap buttons to your liking, adjust the dead zones of the analog sticks and triggers, ramp up or tone down the rumble, and even create macros, allowing you to pull off combos and precise inputs with the tap of a single button. This might anger fighting game purists, but it’s sure to prove useful to more than a few struggling gamers. If you’re the type who prefers different layouts and settings for each game, you can even save and name profiles, and swap them in a matter of seconds — the ability to toggle profiles on the controller itself would have been nice, but I imagine it would have raised the price tag.
Honestly, the SN30 Pro+ comes mighty close to perfection — I had to do some deep digging to come up with only a handful of minor flaws. While I got used to the idea of having to plug my controller into my laptop in order to change a few settings, I was a little surprised that the Ultimate Software doesn’t actually provide any sort of number to tell you how you’ve adjusted your controller.
For example, if you want to change the dead zone on your analog sticks to 20 percent, you’ll have to do it by eye, which can be a bit annoying if you’re trying to dial in the same, fine-tuned settings for both the left and right stick. In this regard, the entire process of tweaking and testing out settings is much more fluid on a PC as opposed to the Switch, which requires you to go from your console to your computer and back to test out and make adjustments in order to nail things down perfectly.
Speaking of the Switch, it’s a bit odd that the SN30 Pro+ doesn’t work when connecting it via USB. Granted, only a small minority will care about this sort of thing, but it’s worth mentioning for the hardcore Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players who haven’t opted for GameCube controllers. Lastly — and I promise this is the most first-world gamer problem out there — the SN30 Pro+, much like its predecessors, can’t turn on a Switch from sleep mode. That being said, since I usually game for at least 30 minutes at a time, the short walk from my couch to the console and back would do me some good.
Save for a few nitpicks, the SN30 Pro+ stands as one of the best gaming controllers on the market. The exceptional build quality won’t come as a surprise for longtime 8BitDo customers, but the ability to customize and tweak the experience to your liking puts it well above the competition. Coming in at $50, you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to pick one of these up. It’s hard to say where 8BitDo will take things from here, but for the time being, I think I’ve found my new go-to for third-party controllers.
This review is based on a retail unit of the SN30 Pro+ controller, which was provided to us by 8BitDo.
Exceptional build quality, a bevy of features, support for multiple platforms, all at an affordable price. 8BitDo's SN30 Pro+ controller is a solid buy for any PC gamer and the best-third party controller for the Switch.