- Excellent construction that feels sturdy
- A must-have D-pad for retro gamers
- Refines the already excellent SN30 Pro+ in useful ways
- 8bitdo Ultimate Software comes to mobile for easier customization
- Still isn’t a fully-featured Pro Controller replacement for the Switch
I’ve used a handful of 8bitdo controllers over the years, and the SN30 Pro + has always stood out as one of the best for me. 8bitdo itself described the SN30 Pro + as the most advanced controller it has ever made, but now it has a successor: the 8bitdo Pro 2. You would be forgiven for thinking that the Pro 2 is the SN30 Pro + at first sight, because the two controllers are very similar. However, there are some important differences that Pro 2 brings to the table, and it is clear that it will be 8bitdo’s new main controller.
In fact, if someone were to compare the faces of both controllers side by side, they would certainly be right to question whether it was really necessary to launch an entirely new controller with an entirely new one. After all, the two controllers look almost the same, except for a button that has taken up residence between the Pro 2 buttons. This is the profile button and finally allows you to switch between three profiles that you can define in the 8bitdo’s Ultimate software.
This is a big deal for those who like to have granular control over their controller layouts or prefer to have specific layouts for different platforms. Although you could customize layouts on the SN30 Pro +, there was no way to store multiple profiles on board. For those who like to change it, this means that you will have to connect to Ultimate Software every time you want to change the button mapping, which can be time-consuming and annoying, depending on how often you want to change things.
With Pro 2, however, you can define three profiles only once through the Ultimate Software application, synchronize them with the controller, and then change them whenever you want using this button. If the goal is to have a controller that you can easily use between platforms, the presence of this button definitely brings us closer to achieving that goal.
The introduction of the profile button is great, but there are more changes when we turn our attention to the back of the controller, where there are two new buttons facing backwards, an input key and the battery compartment (which has been housing a rechargeable battery drums).
The rear buttons are self-explanatory – they are two extra buttons that you can map any way you want – but I want to note that I accidentally hit these buttons a shockingly low number of times. Usually with buttons facing backwards, I think I’m hitting them when I have no intention of doing so, perhaps as a result of holding the controller during tense segments of the game and forgetting that they are there. The rear buttons on the Pro 2 are placed high above the grip, so they do not get in the way and are not inadvertently activated as a result. With both hands on the controller and both index fingers on the triggers, my middle fingers fall perfectly on the rear buttons, so I would say that they are definitely well placed.
Although the profile button is very useful and the rear buttons appear not only to be well made, but also well positioned, it is this input key that I am most interested in. Like the SN30 Pro +, the Pro 2 comes with four different input modes: Key, macOS, X-input (Windows) and D-input (Android). On the SN30 Pro +, starting in one of these modes requires you to hold the start button in addition to a specific face button.
I started the SN30 Pro + in the wrong input mode enough times to be frustrating, but in Pro 2, it’s as simple as setting the switch to the mode you want, pressing start and then putting the controller in pairing (which is only necessary the first time you connect to a new device). The addition of this small switch makes pairing more consistent, so it’s good to have it with you while traveling.
8bitdo quotes 20 hours of battery life at full charge, and this is in line with what I experienced in my tests. This is the same battery life that we should expect from the SN30 Pro +, so if you’ve used one of these controllers before, you already have a good idea of how long the Pro 2 will last. In fact, it looks like 8bitdo includes the same 1,000 mAh battery with both controllers, so there’s really no surprise in the battery department.
It is worth mentioning that the battery is removable and, taking it out of the battery compartment, you can use two AA batteries instead. It is true that the scenarios in which you prefer to use AA batteries instead of the battery are probably very limited, but this flexibility is useful for times when you do not expect to be able to charge the battery consistently. A few years from now, when the battery starts to lose capacity after a ton of recharge cycles, it will be good for the controller to also support AA batteries.
Another major change that is being sent along with Pro 2 is the new functionality of the 8bitdo’s Ultimate software, which is now available for iOS and Android. The iOS and Android versions of Ultimate Software only work with Pro 2 (at least for now), but as far as I can tell, mobile implementations offer all the same features as Ultimate Software on Windows. You can create three profiles with unique button mapping, change the sensitivity of the handles and triggers, change the intensity of the Pro 2’s vibration, and even define macros.
We could do most of that with Ultimate Software and SN30 Pro +, but this is the first time that we have been able to do this on a smartphone. When used on the phone, the app connects to your controller via Bluetooth, allowing you to sync your changes wirelessly – whatever they are.
The mobile app seems to work very well, since I had no problems mapping the rear buttons of the controller or adjusting the sensitivity of the triggers and thumbsticks (which you can also invert or even change using Ultimate Software). With the SN30 Pro +, I didn’t think there was much use for macros, since you really didn’t have options to map them to buttons that weren’t yet spoken, but those buttons facing back in Pro 2 serve as perfect macro buttons this time. .
I don’t know exactly what it is, but the Pro 2 is a little better in my hands than the SN30 Pro +. I’m not sure if it’s the texture added on the back of the handles or if 8bitdo changed the curves of those handles slightly, but whatever it is, the Pro 2 is a very comfortable controller with an excellent and robust construction.
All the buttons feel great, and the D-Pad in particular is probably the best D-Pad I’ve used since the days of the SNES. If you are a fan of retro or 2D games and need a good D-Pad, the Pro 2 won’t disappoint – I bought the SN30 Pro + because of the D-Pad and I imagine people will buy the Pro 2 for the same reason . The drumsticks also look solid, so don’t think that my praise for the D-Pad means that this is just a good choice for retro players.
If I have a complaint about the layout of the controller, it is that the star and heart buttons are in somewhat awkward positions. I prefer them in a more central location, because they can be a little difficult to hit in the middle of the action, but like all controllers out there, the layout of these buttons just takes a little getting used to before everything is fine with the world again .
Verdict 8bitdo Pro 2
In addition to the rear buttons, the input key and the profile button, not much has changed since the SN30 Pro +. This is not a bad thing – there didn’t have to be much change because the SN30 Pro + is a good controller to start with. The Pro 2 maintains the good of the SN30 Pro + and updates it with new useful and focused features. This is what any good upgrade should do.
I think this is a good controller for retro and modern players. It can even potentially be used as a replacement for the Switch Pro controller – and for $ 50, it’s significantly cheaper than the Pro controller as well – but there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning to use it primarily for the switch.
The biggest consideration is the fact that you cannot use Pro 2 to turn on the switch as you would with Pro Controller, which is disappointing. Pro 2 also doesn’t come with support for NFC or HD rumble, which is not surprising, since all the third-party controllers I tested for the Switch also lack these features. Pro 2 supports motion controls, so if you like using them to aim at snipers, you can continue to do so with Pro 2.
Is it worth upgrading to Pro 2 if you already have an SN30 Pro +? This is an excellent question and I think it depends on how much you would use the rear buttons and the support for integrated profiles. For most casual gamers, I would probably say that if you already own an SN30 Pro +, there is no reason to rush out and buy a Pro 2, but for those who like to have that granular control over things like button layout and want to using the controller across multiple platforms, the fact that you can store three profiles integrated into Pro 2 makes a big difference.
If you don’t already have an SN30 Pro + and are looking for a solid third-party alternative to expensive original gamepads, Pro 2 is it. It is, without a doubt, the best third party controller I have ever used, and the only thing I am wondering now is where 8bitdo goes from here.