There are few companies operating in the video game accessory space which have quite the same cachet as 8BitDo.
From its somewhat humble origins in creating SNES-style pads focused on emulation, the company has come on leaps and bounds in recent years, producing premium pads and accessories which are in a class of their own – but it has lofty ambitions for its latest pad, optimistically dubbed the 'Ultimate' controller.
Unlike many of its other pads, this isn't aimed at console users but is instead intended to cater for computer and smartphone players primarily (but Switch owners aren't left out). Does it justify the steep price tag, or is the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller one to avoid? Let's find out...
8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: Design
8BitDo made a name for itself by slavishly copying the design language of some of gaming's most iconic controllers – its NES and SNES controllers were so close to the originals the only thing missing was the Nintendo logo.
While those days are arguably behind it, the firm isn't above looking towards the more established players in the games industry for inspiration. The 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller takes many of its design cues from the Xbox One / Xbox Series X pad; the basic shape is very similar, and 8BitDo has used the same asymmetric layout for the analogue sticks, placing the left one high up the pad and the right stick lower down.
The D-pad – placed close to the middle of the controller's body – looks and feels very much like the one on the iconic SNES pad, and that's no bad thing at all. It's comfortable to use, as well – we'd argue it's far superior to the one seen on the Xbox controller. The four face buttons are dome-shaped and quite glossy; they feel nice to press and are very responsive. Slap-bang in the middle of the pad, you've got the Home button (complete with 8BitDo logo and illuminated LED ring) with three buttons (View, Star and Menu) below that. A trio of LEDs are situated between the D-pad and the right analogue stick, and these are used to denote the pad's current custom profile (more on that in a second).
On the top, we've got four shoulder inputs – two digital shoulder buttons (LB and RB) and two analogue triggers (LT and RT). There's also a USB-C port for when you want to play the pad in wired mode. On the back, there's a pair of buttons which can be mapped for in-game commands to give you that extra level of input control, as well as a switch which toggles between input modes. Finally, you'll also find the three charging pins here, which connect with the bundled dock.
The rear of the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller has a textured pattern to improve grip, while the front is made of smooth, matte plastic. All in all, it's a pretty nice design, even if it does shamelessly crib from Xbox's design playbook.
8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: Performance
Because it uses a 2.4G connection rather than Bluetooth, the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller offers low-latency performance – it's honestly hard to tell you're not playing via a wired connection. If you're a real stickler when it comes to input lag, you also have the option to play via a wired connection.
8BitDo only lists Windows and Android support on the packaging, but it will also work on Mac and even with your Steam Deck via the wired connection. You can also use it with your Nintendo Switch, but the packaging doesn't mention this.
Using 8BitDo's 'Ultimate' application (currently only available on PC), you can customise how the pad works even further. It's possible to set up three individual profiles using this app, and you can switch between them using the button above the three profile LEDs on the front of the pad.
The Ultimate app doesn't just permit you to configure different button mappings; you can also adjust the sensitivity of the analogue sticks and triggers, tinker with the pad's vibration intensity and create unique button combinations.
8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: Dock And Battery Life
The 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller comes bundled with its own charging dock, which means you've got somewhere to rest the pad when it's not in use. This connects to a power source via a bundled USB-C-to-USB-A cable, but there's no power brick in the box. Because the pad uses a low-latency 2.4G signal, there's a USB dongle hidden way in a compartment on the bottom of the dock; you'll need to plug this into your PC to use it.
The 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller has a 480mAh battery which is good for around 15 hours of use and fully charges in about two hours. Because you can dock the pad when you're not using it, it's unlikely that you'll ever find yourself having no juice the next time you pick it up.
8BitDo Ultimate C Controller - A Wired Alternative?
As well as the 2.4G and Bluetooth versions of the Ultimate Controller, 8BitDo has also released a wired variant known as the Ultimate C. There's no wireless connectivity whatsoever with this model, so it's predictably a bit cheaper than its siblings.
However, it boasts the same general design, minus the rear 'paddle' buttons and support for button mapping via the Ultimate app. It's worth a look if you're planning on playing exclusively in wired mode and don't mind missing out on the advanced customisation.
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8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: How To Use With Nintendo Switch
A quick glance at the specs for the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller would have you believe it isn't compatible with the Nintendo Switch – indeed, the first version of this review we published stated just that. However, thanks to eagle-eyed Time Extension member Yarrdave, we now know that it does indeed work with Switch – although it requires a little bit of tinkering.
To get the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller to work with Switch, you'll need to follow these steps:
- Go to System Settings > Controller and Sensors, and turn on 'Pro Controller Wired Communication'.
- Plug the 2.4g receiver into the Switch dock's USB-A port
- Turn on the controller (it doesn't matter which mode the pad is in, it can be D or X) and then press and hold the Minus and LB buttons for 5 seconds. The controller will briefly vibrate to denote that it has entered Nintendo Switch mode
One thing to note is that you won't be able to use amiibo with this pad, as NFC support is not included (it's disabled in Pro Controller Wired Communication mode anyway). Motion control also isn't supported as the controller lacks gyro, and HD Rumble is also disabled. You'll also have to keep in mind that the face button layout is different – the positions of X and Y are switched, as is the case with A and B. This takes a bit of getting used to, but it's not an insurmountable problem.
If you're looking to use the pad wirelessly with your Switch with slightly less messing about, then you'll might want to opt for the Bluetooth variant of the controller, which is slightly more expensive (that model also has Hall Effect sticks and gyro control). The input lag is noticeably higher than the 2.4G version, however.
8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: Where To Buy
8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller Review: Conclusion
With its robust design, low-latency performance and long battery life, the 8BitDo Ultimate Controller really does feel like the apex of the company's output thus far. Twinned with the excellent 'Ultimate' app, the pad offers a welcome degree of customisation.
The fact that 8BitDo has released two variants – Bluetooth and 2.4G – is a little confusing. Despite not mentioning it in its promotional material, the 2.4G pad does support Nintendo Switch. The Bluetooth model has the added benefit of Hall Effect sensors on its analogue sticks, offers motion controls and also packs a larger battery. However, it cannot be used with Android devices, so it really does boil down to what you want to use the pad for.
The 2.4G model we're talking about here is aimed more at computer and Android players, perhaps those with a particular fondness for emulation. Sure, there are some missing features when compared to the Bluetooth model, but the input latency is less, and we like the 'plug and play' nature of the 2.4G connection; as long as your platform supports it, you simply plug in the 2.4G dongle and the pad connections immediately.
If you're looking for the ideal controller for your PC-based gaming and emulation – and also own a Switch – then you really can't go wrong with the 8BitDo 2.4G Ultimate Controller.
Thanks to 8BitDo for supplying the unit used in this review.