The Nintendo Switch is fantastic, but it does have some drawbacks. For example, the Joy-Con controllers have tiny thumbsticks that feel less like quality Nintendo sticks and more like the miniscule ones on the PlayStation Vita.
Nintendo knew this was going to be an issue for some gamers, so it released the wireless Pro Controller as an option. But $69.99 is a lot to throw down after purchasing a brand-new Switch and a few games. And limited-edition iterations of the Switch Pro Controller, like the pink-and-green Splatoon 2 variant, cost a premium. Luckily, third-party manufacturer PowerA has stepped up with a line of wired Switch controllers that are much cheaper and feel just as good.
Design and Feel
The PowerA Wired Controller felt natural and comfortable immediately. The grips snuggled into my palms, much like an Xbox One controller does. The thumb grips on the sticks are wide and, much like those of the PS4 controller, have a ring around the perimeter for greater feel and accuracy. Both sticks are smooth and glide with ease.
The face buttons feel sprightly, but not overly so. In my testing, the buttons never got stuck. The buttons feel like those of an official Nintendo controller, which is saying a lot.
After the GameCube, Nintendo abandoned analog shoulder buttons and opted instead for digital ones. Since then, shoulder buttons have never felt quite as good. Unfortunately, it’s no different with PowerA’s Wired Controller. The shoulder buttons feel like the ones on the Wii U and Switch Pro controllers: stiff and kind of odd. The lack of travel makes shoulder-button hits feel abrupt, especially when you’re jumping from the shooter and racing-oriented shoulder buttons on the PS4 or Xbox One.
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The D-pad on the PowerA wired controller is excellent. It feels accurate and has a comfortable placement. The squishy style of D-pad, like the one found on the Wii and Wii U pads, is a welcome reprieve from the odd four-button layout on the Switch Joy-Cons.
In an odd omission, the PowerA controllers don’t have rumble or NFC functionality. Both of those omissions, while not deal breakers, probably explain the lower price.
Jumping from the standard Joy-Cons to the PowerA ]controller provided a massive improvement in performance when I played Splatoon 2. The split-second accuracy required to take out a roller made the PowerA the perfect tool to splat my enemies all the way to a neon-inky grave.
The PowerA excels at more than just shooting; it’s also great at helping you drift through tight corners in Mario Kart 8. Playing online, I could tell that the most hard-core players were using Nintendo’s Pro Controllers, as they carved the track like they would a plump Thanksgiving turkey. While I was nowhere near as good as some of these players, I felt I had the tool necessary to get to that level.
A key selling point for a lot of Nintendo fans opting to buy PowerA’s controller is the vibrant and lively artwork. The PowerA wired controller comes in Mario, Link, Splatoon, Donkey Kong, Bowser and Yoshi designs.
Each controller has a unique visual pop and flair, making these controllers genuine pieces of Nintendo memorabilia. The D-pads have a glossy metallic finish, which gives the controllers some added flair and texture. Clearly, the team at PowerA put a lot of time into making each controller look snazzy.
My personal favorite is the Splatoon variant, but the Donkey Kong and Bowser iterations also seem to be popular picks. The artwork on each controller is also great, with all, minus the Splatoon version, having an underlayer silhouetted with franchise markers.
PowerA’s controller uses an 8-foot microUSB cable, which, while a little outdated, is not its glaring flaw. Rather, it’s the input itself. For whatever reason, possibly for in-line stability, there’s an indentation inside the tunnel where the USB cable is inserted. This means that if your cable doesn’t have a groove that can accommodate that indentation, you’re out of luck.
The micro-USB cable that comes with the PowerA controller is excellent, and because the indentation acts as a guide for the cable, it’s incredibly easy to plug in. But what if you lose your cable, like I did? Well, you run into one frustration after another while trying to find a microUSB cable to fit. Surprisingly, all of the microUSB cables in my backlog were unusable.
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While browsing PowerA’s website, I couldn’t find any replacement cables, nor did Google yield any results. That means that if you lose or break your micro-USB cable and you can’t find another one, your controller is essentially useless.
It’s hard to see much wrong with the PowerA wired controller. It feels comfortable, plays great and looks dazzling. Jumping from my standard Joy-Cons, I noticed an immediate improvement in my Splatoon play. I would not be surprised if a few players opted to switch to the PowerA wired controller later this year, when the new Super Smash Bros. hits. Plus, this controller costs only $24.99, half the price of an official Switch Pro Controller.
Although wired controllers have their downsides, the overall quality and value of the PowerA controller make it a must-buy. It feels so good, you’d be making a mistake handing it off to your younger sibling while playing Mario Kart. Just don’t lose that cable.