by Jennifer Allen on
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The Switch is an amazing console with a little flaw: If you want a more serious controller than the tiny ones that come with it, you’ll need to shell out a hefty chunk of money. Or you can use the 8Bitdo wireless Bluetooth adapter to open up a whole lot more controller possibilities.
The 8Bitdo Bluetooth adapter ($20) is a small USB stick that can pair with a wide variety of controllers including the company’s own wireless controllers, the official Switch Pro Controller, and even PS4 and PS3 controllers. It’s that last category that’s particularly interesting to us. While the Switch Pro Controller is still pretty expensive–and even 8Bitdo’s wireless controllers can be pricey–there’s a huge market of PS3 and PS4 controllers that could use a new job. (Unfortunately, the adapter does not work with Xbox One controllers, which is a bit of a bummer but not the worst flaw).
The 8Bitdo wireless adapter is a small USB stick sporting a brand-agnostic brown brick pattern that definitely doesn’t infringe any Nintendo trademarks. Frustratingly, the blocky body is just a hair too wide. When plugged into the side of the dock, the block sticks out far enough to make it difficult (if not impossible) to plug anything into the port next to it. If you try to plug it in the back of the Switch dock, there’s not quite enough room between the power and HDMI cables. I was able to get it to fit, but it forced the surrounding cables into an angled position. This is not good and I don’t recommend it unless our HDMI cable has a very small profile. You could also use a USB extension cable could to fix this problem (in either port), but it’s worth paying attention to what else you have plugged into your dock and how much space each cable takes up.
When I reviewed the N30 Pro Controller (also from 8Bitdo), I noted that it had some trouble pairing with the Switch the first time. Thankfully, pairing with the wireless adapter is much easier. Mostly. There’s a small button on the bottom of the adapter to enter pairing mode. If you’re using a PS4 controller like I was, you hold down the PS and Share buttons to put the controller in pairing mode. And that’s it! After a few seconds, the two gadgets will sync up.
After that point, the 8Bitdo is treated as a wired controller. You can plug it into a Windows PC, Mac, or in this case a Switch. The system will interpret it as a wired USB controller. This makes setting it up or swapping systems relatively painless. When I unplugged the adapter from my Switch dock and plugged it into my Windows laptop and the controller continued to work just fine. Since the controller is paired with the adapter and not the device you’re playing on, you can swap platforms as much as you want and never worry about re-pairing.
The downside of the adapter is that it can only pair with one device at a time. That’s great if you want to use a PlayStation controller with your Switch instead of Nintendo’s official Pro Controller. It’s less helpful if you want to host a Mario Kart tournament with your old collection of PS3 controllers. The excessively large blocky body of the adapter becomes even more problematic due to this. You could buy multiple adapters, but they’re too big to fit directly into the dock next to each other. This is a minor, annoying issue, but fortunately it’s not a deal breaker on its own.
Sony hasn’t changed their controller design much in the last couple decades and for good reason. It’s a refined and comfortable layout that players have gotten used through years of play. So, even though it’s not designed to be used with the Switch, it immediately feels familiar. It doesn’t hurt that, fundamentally, the Joy-Con layout is very similar to the PlayStation controller.
The traditional shape buttons on the right side map perfectly to the Joy-Con’s letter buttons. Likewise with the arrow buttons on the left side of the controller. The Options and Share buttons (or Start and Select, if you’re using a PS3 controller) map to the + and – buttons respectively. If you’re using the PS4 version, you can even take screenshots by clicking the touchpad in the center of the controller.
The only major issue I bumped into was with the control sticks. Now, I’ll preface this with the disclaimer that I’m usually a PC gamer and I’m terrible with a controller, so your mileage may vary. When using the PS4 controller in Super Mario Odyssey, the left control stick, used to control Mario’s movement felt particularly sensitive. This was fine for broad movements, but for puzzles that required precision, it felt difficult to control. This may be partially due to having bigger control sticks on the PS4 controller, which can make the input feel more exaggerated.
Or maybe I suck at Odyssey. Both are possible.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that there are other, generic Bluetooth adapters that you can get for less money. However, this seamless support is what makes the 8Bitdo adapter appealing. It’s specifically designed to work with wireless game controllers and pair easily. If you want to just plug it in and start playing, it’s hard to beat this.
If you have a wealth of spare PlayStation controllers sitting around, then it’s hard to say no to this little adapter. You can save yourself a lot of money on your Switch–or even your gaming PC–by using this to connect older, cheaper controllers rather than springing for Nintendo’s official full-size controller. If we could make one change, we’d like it if you could connect multiple controllers, but as-is it’s still a better deal than shelling out $70 just to get a controller slightly larger than a box of Tic-Tacs.
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