Here’s why the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is so special

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
(Image credit: Future)

If you’ve spent any amount of time on gaming Twitter this week, you probably ran into posts discussing the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. Particularly this tweet here, which, in no uncertain terms, praised the gamepad’s absurd battery life.

And it’s true; the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s battery life is impressive, capable of clocking anywhere between 40 to 60 hours on a full charge. This alone would make most of the best Nintendo Switch controllers worth buying. But Nintendo’s first-party gamepad offers so much more than astounding longevity.

This is why I believe the near-seven-year-old controller is enjoying a moment in the sun on social media. It’s the battery life, along with its exceptional features, that make it the go-to controller for so many Nintendo Switch owners. 

More than the sum of its parts

Close up of the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

(Image credit: Shutterstock/MatJC)

The Kyoto-based manufacturer pulled out all the stops when designing the Nintendo Switch’s Pro controller. Simply holding the controller feels right, with its comfortable textured grips providing excellent feel and stability while playing the best Nintendo Switch games. It’s got quite the striking design as well; its semi-translucent shell and all-black finish stand out among its competitors.

Furthermore, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller supports all the features you’d find in the console’s handheld-first Joy-Con controllers. That includes HD Rumble and NFC support for collectible amiibo figures and their in-game bonuses and features. You also get full motion controls, making the controller an excellent choice for Splatoon 3 and other fantastic games that make use of gyro aiming, like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and Metroid Prime Remastered.

I also find the Pro Controller’s asymmetric design and button layout to be absolutely spot on. The face buttons (A, B, X, and Y) are relatively large and responsive, and the shallow trigger depth is something I prefer over the longer presses required on the Xbox Wireless Controller and the PS5’s DualSense. Even the Pro Controller’s central Start, Select, Home, and screen capture buttons are perfectly spaced out.

Better still, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is also compatible with PCs via a USB-C connection. So, if you’re after an alternative to the best PC controllers, it’s a fine choice, especially for games that support the display of the Switch’s button layout.

Honestly, while I think there are plenty of things the Nintendo Switch 2 needs to get right, very little needs to be changed for a Pro Controller revision. The only real change I’d like to see is the usage of Hall effect thumbsticks, which would practically eliminate the risk of stick drift that has plagued Nintendo’s controllers throughout this console generation.

Flying battery

Nintendo Switch Pro Controller

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Circling back to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s battery life, it’s worth noting that Nintendo is vastly outperforming other first-party hardware on this front. The Xbox Wireless Controller comes at a distant second with a still-impressive 20-30 hours of life. But the DualSense and DualSense Edge are nowhere to be seen. In fact, you’re lucky if you’re getting double digits here in terms of hours. Even the DualSense’s revised V2 model, which has appeared at some retailers, seems to be maxing out at a pretty middling 12 hours.

Overall, battery life has been something Nintendo has typically excelled at, at least when it comes to controllers. Remember the Wii U Pro controller? That thing could last up to a dizzying 80 hours on a single charge. That’s an entire Xenoblade Chronicles’ worth of battery life. Going even further back, the Gamecube’s iconic wireless Wavebird controller - as IGN noted in its original review - could clock in around 100 hours on a pair of AA batteries. 

Even the Joy-Con controllers put in a very respectable 15-20 hours on average. The fact is that whenever Nintendo develops a wireless controller, it typically ensures that it’ll go the distance on a single charge.

That now leaves us looking towards the future, then, and what’s likely to be an inevitable Pro Controller revision when Nintendo’s next-generation hardware launches. As mentioned, the version of the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller we have now is already excellent. So it’s possible Nintendo keeps changes to a minimum; perhaps some tweaks to mechanics under the hood, its ergonomics, or somehow even further improved battery life. Whatever the case may be, I’m excited to see what any revision brings to the table.

Controllers aside, it’s also worth looking into some of the best Nintendo Switch accessories and best Nintendo Switch headsets if you’re considering upgrading your play time with the console. 

Rhys Wood
Hardware Editor

Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.