The PDP REALMz Sonic controller for Nintendo Switch is an attractive bit of kit, but its incredible appearance is backed up by stellar performance. For both collectors and casual gamers, this is a budget-friendly offering worth checking out.
Sturdy build quality
Unique design sets it apart from other products on the market
Comfortable to use over long periods unlike the Joy-Con
No gyro aiming
Why you can trust TechRadar
The Nintendo Switch is no stranger when it comes to fun controllers and accessories, and PDP is usually the brand behind the majority of the eye-catching designs. With products like the PDP Rematch Glow boasting a beautiful Mario-inspired aesthetic, and the Rock Candy series offering translucent casings spotlighting some of your favorite characters, the company offers budget-friendly controllers that would work just as well as display pieces as they do practical hardware.
So it comes as no surprise that the PDP REALMz series follows in hot pursuit, offering the first look at a set of collectible clear controllers with tiny figures embedded in and layered, thematic designs inside. This gamepad is certainly a visual treat, and while the selling point for many will be the appearance, it’s hard to fault its performance, especially as a budget-friendly controller - and we've spent a lot of time with the best Nintendo Switch controllers. It’s responsive, simple to set up, and feels good to use with solid sticks and buttons, despite not boasting any fancy or 'pro' features.
But, with all budget-friendly products, it's important to remember that certain features - especially on the Nintendo Switch - have been ruled out. The PDP REALMz controller doesn’t have gyro controls, which could be pretty integral for someone who utilizes this ability in games like The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Splatoon 3. Nor does it host any rumble features which diminishes its feature set slightly for more casual players. But, generally, it’s still a surprisingly decent controller given how heavily it leans on the singular selling point of its excellent aesthetic.
Price and availability
The PDP REALMz Sonic controller is available for purchase right now for $39.99 / £34.99 from a variety of retailers. Players in the US will be able to purchase it through the official PDP store, or places like Target, Walmart, and Amazon. In the UK, it’s available to buy from popular online retailers like Argos and Amazon. Alongside the Sonic design, Knuckles and Tails are also in the Sonic range, and a leafy green Pikmin controller is also available.
Compared to other PDP controllers available, and alongside other competitors in the market such as PowerA, the REALMz controller is only slightly more expensive than its fellow budget-friendly alternatives. For example, a wired PowerA controller with a special design will usually cost around $27.99 / £20.99, but I’ve always found the designs to be a little too vivid and the decals scratch off fairly easily. The build quality alone is enough to set the PDP REALMz collection above other offerings. And, for its collectible nature and solid performance, it’s a fantastic controller to add to your bank of gamepads and makes for a great talking point if you’re an avid collector of all things Sonic.
Design and features
The main appeal of the PDP REALMz Sonic controller is its design. Boasting a clear shell with a multi-layered print of the iconic Green Hill Zone, it’s an impressive-looking piece of hardware. The print doesn’t feel as though it can be scratched off easily, which is helped by the multi-layered design being concealed behind the plastic shell.
The left grip contains a small Sonic figure which highlights the quirky collectible side of the series, which also goes for the other controllers containing Tails and Knuckles - so there is an incentive to collect them all. Even though it does lean on the gimmicky side with its appearance, it’s pretty enough to add to your collection.
When in use, the controller also features some white lights to help spotlight its design. The color of these lights can’t be changed, unlike controllers like the GameSir T4 Kaleid and the Gioteck SC3 Pro, but they’re effective in tying together the aesthetic. You can, however, increase or decrease the brightness with the use of the face buttons, but that’s it in terms of personalization.
Outside of its design, the features of the controller follow the routine of everything you’d expect from a budget pad. The build quality is decent, with the plastic shell offering a sturdy form factor. The bright red buttons and thumbsticks stand out nicely, too. Given its collectible gimmick, you’d expect quality to be sacrificed in favor of the design, but generally, the PDP REALMz controller offers an overall solid design.
There isn’t much to fault when it comes to the performance of the PDP REALMz controller either. It isn’t trying to usurp the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, so don’t expect a wealth of ancillary features, but that’s not to say its performance doesn’t meet our expectations for a PDP controller.
Its wired connection means you don’t have to worry about battery life when in use. The included cable is 6.5ft (2m), which is more than enough length for you to sit a comfortable distance away from your setup too.
Occasionally the all-plastic build does feel cheap, mostly felt through its face and directional buttons. But when in use you don’t think about the weight and feeling of the buttons since the overall quality of the controller is good enough. Generally, buttons feel responsive and satisfyingly clicky which is especially noticeable when you’re repeatedly pressing them.
The only real drawbacks I found with the controller are the lack of rumble, which isn’t essential but adds to a game’s immersion, and no gyro aiming. With that said a lot of third-party controllers lack both of these features for the Nintendo Switch, and the absence of them doesn't wreck the entire experience. So, even though it’s not offering groundbreaking performance, it’s perfectly solid given its price.
SHOULD I BUY THE PDP REALMZ SONIC NINTENDO SWITCH WIRED CONTROLLER?
Generally, if you’re looking for a controller to add to your setup that boasts an impressive design without breaking the bank or offering any excessive lighting and features, then the PDP REALMz is well worth considering. It’s not the cheapest controller for the system, but it is a fantastic choice for anyone with a love for Sonic and charming hardware. It makes a perfect gift for younger players, and a great conversation starter for collectors of all ages, but generally - it’s another hit from PDP even if it won’t be your primary controller for the console.
Buy it if...
You enjoy quirky hardware
The main appeal of this controller is its appearance, which is ideal for anyone who tends to collect anything Sonic-related or loves more eye-catching hardware in general. Whether in use or just on display, the PDP REALMz Sonic controller is a fun piece to have and is bound to strike a chord with fans of the series, or fans of unusual and fun hardware as a whole.
You’re looking for a great gift for a younger player
With its novel appearance and strong performance, the PDP REALMz controller makes a great gift for younger players. You won’t have to fork out the same amount as you would for a Pro-adjacent controller, yet this product looks high-quality thanks to its appearance.
Don't buy it if...
You prefer wireless controllers
A wired connection to your Nintendo Switch can feel like a tether to your system, making a wireless controller more desirable for some. Because of this, the wired connection of the PDP REALMz controller might be off-putting to someone who is used to using the Joy-Con or an alternative wireless controller.
How we tested the PDP REALMz Sonic controller
I tested the PDP REALMz Sonic wired controller with my Nintendo Switch OLED over a few weeks, using it for multiple games on the system including Key-We, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Bubble Bobble, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I'm used to using wireless controllers during play sessions with the Nintendo Switch, be it through the Joy-Con or third-party products like the Gioteck WX4 wireless controller, so it was a refreshing change of pace to not have to worry about the battery life, too. In addition to this, with my longest one-sitting session running about four hours, I can happily say the PDP REALMz controller never felt uncomfortable, unlike the Joy-Con usually would during a session this long.
For a more general guide to making the most out of your Nintendo Switch, you might want to check out our guide to the best Nintendo Switch accessories. However, if you find yourself constantly on the go, you might want to check out the best Nintendo Switch carry cases too.
Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.