In a world where the best game streaming apps are exploding, it's important to find a controller that can keep up. Thanks in part to the rise in popularity of services like Xbox Game Pass (xCloud) and Google Stadia, finding the right controller for your needs has never been more frustrating. But I mean frustrating in a good way due to the sheer number of great controllers that are available.
One company that has been steadily releasing new controllers and game accessories is 8Bitdo. Over the years, there have been fantastic options like the SF30 Pro and SN30 Pro, along with others like the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+. Fast forward to earlier this year, and 8Bitdo released its latest controller in the 8Bitdo Pro 2.
So if 8Bitdo already made some of the best controllers for Android, Raspberry Pi, and xCloud, what else could it improve upon? Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.
8Bitdo Pro 2
Bottom line: The 8Bitdo Pro 2 has everything you could want in a gaming controller. Cross-device compatibility, customizable software, and excellent ergonomics help the Pro 2 pack a powerful punch.
- 8bitdo Ultimate Software offers custom button configurations and customization.
- The D-Pad is perfect for side-scrollers and retro games.
- Can quickly toggle between gaming modes.
- Long-lasting, rechargeable, and removable battery.
- Extremely comfortable to hold even for long gaming sessions.
- Best portability requires additional phone mount.
- Back buttons can take some getting used to.
8Bitdo Pro 2: Price and availability
The 8Bitdo Pro 2 launched in April of this year and is available in three different color options: Black, Gray, and G Pro (White). Pricing for the Pro 2 starts at $50, but if you want to make the most out of it, you'll need to grab 8Bitdo's Phone Clip to complete the ensemble. Both can be purchased from Amazon, but it still hasn't made its way into brick-and-mortar stores like its predecessor.
8Bitdo Pro 2: What you'll like
One of the biggest complaints about the previous "flagship" 8Bitdo controller was the inability to customize its buttons from your smartphone. Instead, you would have to plug it into a PC to use 8Bitdo's Ultimate Software customization tools, then hope the onboard memory would retain your choices. Alongside the Pro 2, 8Bitdo has released the same US app for both Android and iOS.
Simply put your Pro 2 into pairing mode, connect it to your phone, then fire up the Ultimate Software app. From there, you can change up the button assignments, which comes in handy if you plan on playing some Game Pass games. The default button configuration lines up with what you would expect from a Nintendo Switch controller. But with 8Bitdo's software, you can switch it up to make the buttons match an Xbox controller layout instead.
Having the ability to go from playing Gears 5 via Xbox Game Pass and then switching over to play Pokemon via an emulator without having to pair a different controller is incredibly useful. And then, of course, firing up Dead Cells (my current favorite game) doesn't really require any custom button layouts, but using one controller for all of the games that I want to play is just one of those quality-of-life improvements.
If you plan on playing games for long hours, the 8Bitdo Pro 2 has an ergonomic design that you'll appreciate. The controller matches the look of an SNES controller while adding longer grips for each hand to help your hands rest easier. Other 8Bitdo controllers with more classical designs tend to make your hands more cramped and claw-like over time.
What really helps the Pro 2 stand apart from the likes of the Razer Kishi or even the GameSir X2 is the Bluetooth 4.0 chip. It lets you pair the 8Bitdo Pro 2 with practically anything, from the Raspberry Pi to your laptop or even the Nintendo Switch. And this is arguably the next biggest step-up over the SN30 Pro+.
The 8Bitdo Pro 2 can be used with devices from your smartphone to the desktop or even the Nintendo Switch.
Another quirk of old 8Bitdo controllers was that you had to remember and press specific button combinations to switch between different console configurations like Xbox and Switch. With the Pro 2, there's a hardware switch on the back now. It will need to be configured, of course, but that's where the Ultimate Software app comes in. So now, you can go from playing some of the best Android games to jumping into some Breath of the Wild just with a flick of a switch.
There's really not too much that 8Bitdo Pro 2 can't handle, and it has become my go-to controller for practically any gaming that I want to do.
8Bitdo Pro 2: What you won't like
Our gripes when it comes to the 8Bitdo Pro 2 are few and far between. But they are still worth mentioning so you can get an idea of what to expect. The biggest issue, especially compared to other game controllers, is that you'll need to purchase either a phone stand or a gaming clip if you want to play games on the best Android phones.
This isn't a major problem, but I wish 8Bitdo would offer some type of bundle, including the Pro 2 and the company's new phone mount. Hey, maybe they could even throw in a protective case so you can rest easy, knowing your controller and clip won't get messed up once you start traveling again.
A new addition to the Pro series is its two new back buttons, which you can program or leave without any designation. Where the back buttons rest, you may find yourself pressing them by accident, especially if you're gripping the controller tightly in an intense Call of Duty match. But you shouldn't run into any issues if they aren't assigned a function.
Unlike other controllers, you'll need a phone mount to enjoy games on your phone properly.
Another issue that I had some problems with was actually keeping the Pro 2 connected to the Ultimate Software. When paired up with the OnePlus 9 Pro, the phone and software would recognize the controller, but any changes that were made seemed to be instantly forgotten. It felt like a bug in the firmware, but I also made sure to install the latest version after pairing for the first time.
Finally, you may find yourself a bit frustrated with the battery situation. 8Bitdo includes a rechargeable battery in the controller, and you can use the best USB-C cables to juice it up. But the company currently does not offer a replacement battery pack, leaving you to try and find one on your own. Or you can rely on those AA batteries that might be rattling around in a drawer somewhere.
8Bitdo Pro 2: Competition
There are so many different controllers up for consideration, but it all comes down to a few things. First, how large is your device (i.e., are you using the Z Fold 2)? Second, do you need a phone mount clip? Third, are you planning on using this with your Switch?
For most people, something like the GameSir X2 Bluetooth would be the perfect solution, as it's a more compact controller. In addition, it offers a telescopic design without requiring a phone mount of any kind. But the software is a little bit odd and has quirks of its own.
Another great telescopic option is the Razer Kishi, which held the top spot as the best gaming controller for Android for quite some time. Not to say that there's anything wrong with that controller, but if you own a larger device like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, then you won't be able to use it. Then again, you wouldn't be able to use a phone clip and the Z Fold 2 with the 8Bitdo Pro 2, but still.
There's also another 8Bitdo controller that is still considered one of the best, and that's the SN30 Pro. This controller is almost an exact replica of the SNES controller from the good ole days. But it's not nearly as ergonomic, despite featuring the same buttons and excellent D-Pad as the 8Bitdo Pro 2.
8Bitdo Pro 2: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You want the best controller for practically all of your devices.
- You want a controller with customizable macros and configurable buttons.
- You don't want a telescopic controller.
You shouldn't buy this if ...
- You want a controller that can connect directly to your phone via USB-C.
- You don't want to deal with using a phone mount or stand all of the time.
Simply put, unless you're someone who doesn't want to (or can't) deal with a phone mount, the 8Bitdo Pro 2 is absolutely phenomenal. The closest competition is the GameSir X2 Bluetooth, but even the standard GameSir X2 with its USB-C connection might be the better bet if you want to reduce as much latency as possible.
The 8Bitdo Pro 2 is one of the best controllers that I've ever used, and I'm always searching for an excuse to use it. Even as someone who doesn't really need to change around the button configuration, playing the best emulators for Android with the right buttons is a godsend.
It also helps that 8Bitdo has done a fantastic job hitting on the nostalgia bone with its lineup of controllers. While the Pro 2 doesn't sport the same design as classic Nintendo controllers, that's a good thing. It's important for your hands and wrists to be comfortable while gaming and the Pro 2 delivers.
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