Much was made of the Nintendo Switch’s detachable Joy-Con controllers at the super-popular console’s launch, but, as any owner of the console can attest to, those tiny controllers could get a little uncomfortable over extended play sessions. Sure, they’re an ingenious design for on-the-go, transformable play, but they’re not best suited to bigger hands or extended play sessions. Even sliding them into one of the optional Grip accessories, turning the Joy-Con halves into a more traditional single unit, left many wanting.
Enter then the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, a perfect match for the PS4’s DualShock 4 and the Xbox One’s pad, too. In fact, in many respects, it may even best those pads, even if it is one of the pricier offerings.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller doesn’t break the mould when it comes to design. Where the split nun-chuck look of the Joy-Cons takes some getting used to, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is instead your standard two-analogue stick, handle-gripped pad.
It feels very much like an Xbox 360 controller, if a little curvier in the hand. Nicely weighted for balanced play, it has a slightly translucent finish to its plastic casing, with a circuit board-style pattern delicately etched into its surface.
If you found the Joy-Con buttons a little fiddly, the Pro Controller is far beefier, with larger A, B, X and Y buttons sat in the traditional diamond formation on the right hand side, backed by two triggers and offset analogue sticks.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller feels a little chunkier than its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts, but that could be down to its class-leading battery life. Where you’ll get around six or seven hours from a DualShock 4, for instance, you’ll get a whopping average of 40 from the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. That’s a hell of a lot of play time, so a little top up now and then means you’ll probably never see it totally wiped out.
It’s a forward thinking pad too. It features a USB-C reversible charging port, meaning you won’t have to fiddle around to get it to plug in, while there’s also NFC built in for connecting up your Amiibo collectible figurines.
As innovative as they are, the Joy-Con pads can be an act in perfecting hand contortion when used singularly, and the optional Grip pads still don’t quite make up the difference with the competition.
The Switch Pro Controller is much better however. Its sticks have a great level of resistance and are comfortably offset, and the face buttons have a perfect amount of depth too. When it comes to the D-Pad, Nintendo’s has unarguably had the best one since the days of the NES, allowing for pinpoint accuracy in 2D sidescrollers.
It’s still present and correct with the Pro Controller here, and really shows up just how lacking the split-button D-Pad attempt on the right-hand side of the Joy-Con (when used in a singular set up) is.
If there’s one point of contention, it’d be with the rear triggers, which don’t have quite the depth we’ve come to expect from triggers on other pads. They’re far closer to additional shoulder buttons than deep triggers. That’s not an issue with many games, but can be a bit jarring with shooters or racing titles.
The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is an excellent pad. It’s a must-have if you primarily use your Nintendo Switch at home, but is great for tabletop mode too. However, it is also one of the more expensive pads on the market compared to those paired with rival consoles at £59.99 / $69.99 – but none offers its NFC capabilities, or capacious built in battery capabilities. It’s a premium addition to your Switch set up, but we’d say it’s an essential one, too.