Tech

8BitDo Pro 2 review — It’s still the best third-party controller

Video games are in a good place when it comes to controllers. The Xbox Series X/S, DualSense, and Switch Pro controllers are all mostly comfortable and capable. And that extends to third-party gamepads — like those from 8BitDo, which is launching the new 8BitDo Pro 2 controller day.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is $50, and it’s now available from Amazon. It works with Switch, PC, Mac, Android, Raspberry Pi, and more. It is also the followup to 8BitDo’s excellent SN30 Pro+ controller but with even more features.

This is a standard, full-featured controller that has all of the inputs you’d expect from an Xbox 360 controller. Additionally, it has two built-in back paddles that you can program using 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software, which is now available on iOS and Android as well as PC and Mac.

And like the SN30 Pro+, the Pro 2 is easy to recommend. It’s especially handy if you want a solid controller to take with you as you move from Switch to PC to Raspberry Pi and so on. And as with all of 8BitDo’s offerings, the Pro 2 is a must have if you prioritize gaming with a D-pad.

Classic design and smart functionality

With the SN30 Pro+, 8BitDo already nailed what most people want from a classic controller design. It had nice long handles that made it easy to grip and comfortable, easy-to-reach button placement. The Pro 2 adds to that with the back paddles while simultaneously maintaining every that’s great about the original controller. This D-pad is still fantastic, and if you want a gamepad that prioritizes a digital, directional input over analog, this is the go-to option.

But 8BitDo also did a lot to improve the usability of the controller. For one, it now has a hardware switch to select the Switch, Android, Dinput, and Xinput modes. On previous 8BitDo controllers, you selected the controller’s connectivity profile using a combination of buttons. The Pro 2 also now has a button to switch between three saved profiles, and you can set those profiles using your phone and the 8BitDo Ultimate Software app.

That Ultimate Software is finnicky on mobile. I would lose connection when the Pro 2 was in Switch mode, but I was able to set changes using Ultimate on Windows.

This is a wonderful controller that 8BitDo has only made better. And it has done so without raising the price. The paddles are especially nice. They fit nicely under my middle finger, but I haven’t found myself hitting them unless I mean to. When I do hit them, the action is responsive and clicky.

8BitDo Pro 2 still has symmetrical sticks and limited Switch capabilities

The drawbacks for the 8BitDo Pro 2 are the same as they were for the SN30 Pro+.

It uses symmetrical analog sticks like a DualShock, and that is only a negative depending on the game you’re playing. If you want to prioritize D-pad play, then the big directional pad on this controller is great. I gravitate toward this gamepad for retro games and anything 2D. For 3D games or shooters, I use an Xbox controller when I’m not using keyboard and mouse.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 also cannot wake up a docked Switch from sleep. This is frustrating because it means you’ll have to stand up and turn the Switch on before then controlling it with the Pro 2. It’s a minor inconvenience, but it’s still annoying.

I also used to have a difficult time connecting 8BitDo devices to the Switch. That’s easier now thanks to improvements on Nintendo’s side. But the Pro 2’s hardware profile selector also helps. Still, I wouldn’t describe the process as seamless. You might have to wait a minute for the controller to pair, and dialing between Switch to another mode can cause more connection problems.

Still the controller mostly just works. And once you have a connection, it won’t randomly disconnect or anything like that.

A great gamepad for $50

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is one of those controllers that makes me want to just keep playing. It aces all of the most important controller elements. It’s comfortable, responsive, and mostly easy to use. I wish it turned on the Switch, but that is a Nintendo issue and not one with 8BitDo. At $50, you’ll have a hard time doing better, and I prefer it over the Switch Pro controller.

The 8BitDo Pro 2 is available now for $50. The company provided GamesBeat with a sample unit for the purpose of this review.

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