The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s $70 price tag is a lot to ask for a gamepad, especially considering that Nintendo’s option, while good, doesn’t completely stack up to the competition from Microsoft and Sony. Sure, that high price gets you HD Rumble technology, NFC, a rechargeable battery and wireless connectivity, but not everyone has $70 to spare just to let another player in on the fun.
Fortunately, PowerA has an alternative that’s nearly as good as Nintendo’s offering, and for $20 less.
Design and Feel
Picking up the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller, I couldn’t help but notice how light it is. It doesn’t feel cheap, as the plastics are smooth and solid, but compared with a Switch Pro Controller, it feels like something’s missing. The handles conform nicely to the palms, but given its top weight, I noticed my wrists slanting forward, resting the controller atop my legs rather than holding it upright.
The buttons feel solid and smooth to the press and there’s uniformity in bounce along the face buttons.
The analog sticks deserve praise. They’re much smoother than those of the Switch Pro Controller, which opts for more resistance, and that could mean moving your gun faster in a game. And if you’re not a fan of Nintendo’s opaque plastic scheme with nonmatching handles, then PowerA’s more uniform color options, in either black/red, white/red, or red with a Mario silhouette, will look gorgeous sitting on your coffee table.
Speaking to professional Splatoon 2 players at E3 earlier this year, I was surprised to learn about the number of gripes they have with the current Switch Pro Controller. They tend to go through a few Pro Controllers before they can find one that works for them. There’s a definite inconsistency on Nintendo’s side, according to pro players. And there are other odd quirks, like wired play presenting more lag than wireless.
I’m nowhere near competitive enough in Splatoon 2 to address the nuances that top players feel between controllers. But as a semi-competitive player, I put PowerA’s controller to the test to see how it holds up for Nintendo’s popular online shooter.
Jumping into Splatoon 2, I noticed a definite uptick in performance when compared with the standard Joy-Cons. I also tested the Switch Pro Controller and the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller back-and-forth between games. I couldn’t feel a perceptible drop or increase in performance as I jumped between both input options.
On the backside of the controller are two remappable inputs that PowerA calls its Advanced Gaming Buttons (AGB). For example, in a shooter, it’s possible to make these buttons the input for a grenade throw or melee attack, ensuring your thumbs never leave the sticks. The AGB buttons feel a bit tacked-on as the inputs are clicky and the buttons can wiggle. But it’s an optional feature and doesn’t take away from the overall quality of the device.
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Most of the Switch’s competitive games don’t require hyper-fast precision, like Splatoon 2 or Mario Kart. But games like Rocket League, Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe felt fine. As for Fortnite, neither the PowerA nor Switch pro controllers made me a better player, but being able to build via the AGB’s saved my fingers from the usual digital theatrics.
Let’s Talk Motion and Rumble
We gave big praise to the wired version of PowerA’s controller earlier this year, but it had one glaring omission: motion controls. Fortunately, the wireless version of the pad has full motion support.
The Enhanced Wireless Controller’s motion controls worked well and were very precise. The controller picked up even the smallest movements, which should give hard-core Splatoon 2 and Fortnite players the finesse they desire.
Unfortunately, when playing Rocket League, it was odd not feeling the controller rumble as I boosted past opponents to flick the ball into the goal. The lack of rumble is also why the controller probably feels so much lighter. On the other hand, when testing the PowerA Enhanced Xbox Controller, we noticed that the rumble was far too strong, and actually caused discomfort.
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Also, Amiibo fans should know that this controller doesn’t have NFC support for scanning in Nintendo’s interactive toys.
It’s easy to dismiss third-party controllers as lesser imitations of official devices. But Nintendo’s controllers can sometimes lack the tact you’ll find from other first-party pads.
This leaves a gap for PowerA to come in and offer similar performance for a lower price. If you’re in the market for a more hard-core Switch controller and particularly do not care for rumble then the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller deserves your consideration. And it comes in some fancy color schemes, too, which can’t be said for Nintendo’s Frankenstein hodgepodge of materials, colors and textures.