8BitDo Pro 2 review: The best 'Pro' controller for $50
The Pro 2 is the sequel to 8BitDo’s SN30 Pro+—a full-sized controller designed with modern features and wrapped in classic gaming aesthetics. At first glance the new controller looks almost exactly like the old one, but it packs some welcome upgrades while keeping the cost at a very reasonable $50. These features make the Pro 2 worthy of the ‘Pro’ name and makes it an easy recommendation for any gamer looking for a powerful and versatile gaming option.
8bitDo Pro 2 Specifications
- Compatibility with Windows 7 and up, Android 4.0 and up, Nintendo Switch, macOS 10.10 and up, and Raspberry Pi 2B, 2B+, 3B, Zero
- Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity
- 2 additional back paddle buttons
- Custom profile switch that can toggle among the 3 profiles on the fly
- Mode switch toggle (Switch, macOS, D-input, X-input)
- 1000mAh Li-on rechargeable, replaceable battery that lasts 20 hours on a 4 hour charge over a USB-C connection
- Enhanced grip
- 6-axis motion sensor
- Fully configurable in Ultimate Software for PC and mobile
The Pro 2 builds upon the controller legacy that 8BitDo has laid down over the course of multiple years—so it’s important to review how we got to this point in case you haven’t been following. The company started out with a suite of products that was designed to bring modern features to classic controller designs, some of them primarily used for emulating classic games on current hardware.
Bottom to top: SN30, SN30 Pro, SN30 Pro+, Pro 2
Among one of the early releases was the SNES30 (later renamed to the SN30), which looked and felt just like a Super Nintendo controller. This allowed me to use one of my favorite controllers on my PC when playing A Link to the Past—and it was a real treat! Looking to expand its use, 8BitDo then released the SN30 Pro. It took the classic look and feel of the SN30 and added hardware features that rivaled controllers from the major console manufacturers and allowed for use with modern games. It’s still one of my favorite controllers to have around, thanks to its compact size.
The next logical place was to take the SN30 Pro and blow it up to full size, which brings us to the SN30 Pro+. Its larger scale made play feel better for those with bigger hands, and its new Ultimate Software allowed for a wide range of customization options. With this release it was obvious that 8BitDo wanted to play in the mainstream market, further moving away from catering to retro enthusiasts.
This brings us to the Pro 2. Gone are the naming and obvious color ties to the Super Nintendo—a move mostly likely done for legal reasons. It makes the naming transition a bit awkward if there is ever a sequel to the SN30 Pro, but these things are always a pain to deal with.
Pro 2 vs SN30 Pro+
The Pro 2 is similar to the SN30 Pro+ in almost every way—but it builds upon the already awesome frame with smart upgrades. From the size to the weight to the way it rests in the palm, the Pro 2 offers a very familiar feeling for those who used the older SN30 Pro+.
The first notable improvement is in a textured grip, which helps with handling. It’s a textured plastic so it’s not the same kind of grip you would find on a higher-priced controller, but it has a nice touch.
Top: SN30 Pro+, Bottom: Pro 2
The next upgrade is actually a pretty major one, and this is where the ‘Pro’ name really comes into play. The Pro 2 features two back paddles situated along the underside that are fully configurable in the newest version of the Ultimate Software (which I’ll cover later). The buttons offer plenty of tactile feedback, and sit flush enough with the handles that it’s actually a bit more comfortable to use than the raised paddles on other controllers like the Xbox Elite series. The switches feel identical to the face buttons and give a satisfying click when pressed. While I would have liked four paddles, two is still a welcome improvement over the SN30 Pro+. More control options are always better!
The next upgrade comes in the form of a hardware toggle along the backside between the paddles, for switching input profiles. With previous 8BitDo controllers the way you configured the input for use in different platforms was by holding down a face button while pressing the Start button to turn the unit on. Holding down X and pressing start would boot the controller into X-input mode for use on the PC, Y for use on the Nintendo Switch, and so on. While I ended up learning the various combinations the process was by no means user-friendly. The Pro 2 solves this by allowing you to toggle among the four options with an easy flick—and boy, is that 100 percent better. Sometimes it’s just the small things that offer huge benefits, especially for gamers like myself who often use the controller across multiple platforms.
Left: SN30 Pro+, Right: Pro 2
The next improvement to discuss is the addition of a Profile button situated between the two thumbsticks. Up to three different controller configurations can be assigned easily inside the Ultimate Software and be switched on the fly. With a press, the button will toggle among the profiles in order, with configurations loaded instantaneously. I found this useful for assigning different inputs onto the back paddles for use in different game styles. I did find the button to be hard to hit sometimes, because it was close to flush with the face of the controller.
The last notable difference between the two models is the slight shifting of some face buttons. To be honest it always bugged me a bit that the Start and Select buttons on the SN30 Pro+ weren’t situated evenly between the thumbsticks, but that was just a personal nitpick, not one that got in the way of using the device. For the Pro 2 those buttons have now shifted over to the symmetrical placement that I like. I’m not sure if that had a knock-on effect for the other face buttons, but those shifted slightly as well. The inner distance between the Y and A button went from 1.7mm on the SN30 Pro+ to 1.4mm on the Pro 2. This change is very minor, and I didn’t ruin my muscle memory while using it, but it’s still notable.
Top: SN30 Pro+, Bottom: Pro 2
When it comes to the design there are a few slight tweaks to cover before we move on. While the Black and G Classic options remain unchanged, the ‘SN Edition’ found on the SN30 Pro+ has been replaced with a more generic ‘Grey Edition.’ I was a huge fan of the Super Nintendo coloring on the SN Edition, and I don’t like the look of the Grey Edition. I can understand making the change to further distance 8BitDo from Nintendo stylings, but they still have the GameBoy design option in the G Classic, so I’m confused on top of being bummed. Of less importance is the loss of the circular styling around the face inputs. It was a nice design touch, but it does make the look of the controller more clean.
The same (mostly) great experience
Everything else about using the SN30 Pro+ applies to the Pro 2—and that’s a good thing! The controls are nice and tight, and they offer the right amount of feedback for even the most demanding games. The sticks and triggers offer good resistance, and the feel of each under my finger and thumbs is very comfortable. 8BitDo has always nailed the feel of the classic D-pad as well, so there’s no need to touch that winning formula!
As 8BitDo moves away from the classic stylings it’s focused on before, I do hope they move away from the flat face design. While it works for small controllers, I find myself reaching just a bit to hit up on the D-pad and the X button, more than I would on a more traditional controller shape. If you are more sensitive to joint pain in your thumbs you might want to consider that extra strain if you put in a lot of time on a controller.
When it comes to the Ultimate Software, it’s almost identical for the Pro 2—but it is a different download from the SN30 Pro+ option. Configuration options are still plentiful, including the ability to fine-tune thumbstick start and stop distances, and even swap trigger inputs. Other than the ability to map custom key presses on the PC, it’s got everything you’d need.
When the controller is first plugged into the PC, you are presented with options to have different mappings depending on which platform you want to use. This can be configured regardless of which input is currently enabled, which is very nice.
The only hang up I’ve encountered using the software is around custom mapping. The labeling on the face buttons features the Nintendo standard layout with Y on the left, B on bottom, X on top, and A on the right. This can be confusing if you are using it in X-input mode, which has X on the left, A on the bottom, Y on the top, and B on the right. So for example, if you are in X-input mode and go to map a face button to a back paddle, you want to make sure you are mapping the X-input input rather than what is printed on the face button. I had to do the mental hurdle of thinking, “the X input is mapped to the Y button on X-input mode, so I need to put X on P1.” After that initial confusion I was fine, but it is something to note.
Speaking of mapping the back paddles, I also got hung up by the fact that P1 and P2 are labeled left to right, according to how it’s viewed from the bottom. So when you are holding the controller normally, P2 is actually on the left and P1 is on the right. That also tripped me up when I went to configure the options.
Moving back to hardware experience, the Pro 2 ships with the same 1000mAh battery as the SN30 Pro+. No really, it’s the exact same battery! The unit I received contained a battery with a SN30 Pro+ label on it. Regardless of the naming scheme, I get great life out of it. The fact that it’s replaceable is a huge bonus in case its life diminishes over time. On top of that, the form factor allows for standard AA batteries if you need that option. It really is a win-win-win for users, considering most controllers lock you in with a non-replaceable battery or only have an option for AA use.
For we PC users, the Pro 2 can still be used wired in via the USB-C port. This is helpful for those who don’t have the option to use Bluetooth, or who want the lowest-latency connection possible.
All of the hardware upgrades make the Pro 2 a great improvement over the SN30 Pro+—which was already one of my favorite controllers out there. It’s especially better on the PC, where there is the option to use the controller via USB, and the ability to customize configurations quickly inside of the Ultimate Software. The Pro 2 adds up to being one of the best controllers out there. It’s just the cherry on top that it costs only $50 and yet offers so much.
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