The 8BitDo Ultimate controller for Nintendo Switch proves that third-party pads can match and even exceed the official options. This controller is the full package; it feels great to use and packs extra features, such as programmable back buttons and a charging dock. Bespoke features like gyro aiming are also supported, and all this at a price that beats the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
Excellent look and feel
Charging dock included
Central buttons feel crowded
No NFC for amiibo
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It’s rare for a third-party controller to almost completely outclass what’s offered by manufacturers like Nintendo – which is what makes the 8BitDo Ultimate controller for Nintendo Switch so noteworthy.
First impressions of the 8BitDo Ultimate are strong before you’ve even loaded up a game. The packaging is pleasingly compact, containing the pad, its charging dock, and a USB-C cable, and upon holding the controller for the first time its quality is immediately apparent.
The 8BitDo Ultimate is ergonomically sound, thanks to the rounded design that rests easily in your grip. The textured grips ensure that you’ll have a firm grasp on the controller at all times, even when your palms get sweaty in the heat of battle. Button and stick quality is fantastic across the board, too, offering a tactile experience that’s an improvement over the already excellent Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.
It’s also a top choice if you’re after a level of customizability not afforded by the Pro Controller. This can be configured using the 8BitDo’s app, which allows for full button mapping, trigger and stick sensitivity settings, and support for button combination macros.
Battery life is adequate for a controller of its kind, even if it can’t quite match the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller’s stunning 40 hours of charge. Thankfully, this is largely alleviated by the included charging dock, boasting a short 2-3 hours of charge time.
Overall, the 8BitDo Ultimate is a top choice if you’re looking to graduate from Nintendo’s own Joy-Con controllers. Additional features such as rear paddle buttons, profile customization app, and a charging dock make it an excellent value proposition, especially as it matches or beats the price of other options like the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and the PowerA Fusion Pro.
Price and availability
The 8BitDo Ultimate controller for Nintendo Switch comes in at $69.99 / £59.99 (around AU$104), including the controller and its charging dock. It’s purchasable in the US and UK via 8BitDo’s official store page.
The controller’s available in white and black colorways, and while its primary use is for the Nintendo Switch, it also works on Windows PCs, as well as Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth connectivity.
The 8BitDo Ultimate controller for Nintendo Switch sets a very strong first impression, thanks to its stellar build quality and high level of comfort brought on by its form-fitting design and firm textured grips. It presents an effortless experience during longer gaming sessions, and said grips feature just the right amount of roughness to provide stability without irritating your hands.
Buttons and sticks are also a step up above the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. The analog sticks, triggers, and shoulder buttons are raised ever so slightly higher than on Nintendo’s pad, which we found to be an overall benefit to the comfort factor. ABXY face buttons are tactile, offering an improvement over the softer feel on the official Nintendo Switch pad.
Special mention has to go to the D-pad, too. It has a subtle concave design with slightly depressed grooves. As a result, it’s more textured than the Pro Controller’s flat design, and consequently more satisfying to use to play games made with digital input in mind such as Nintendo Switch Online’s various retro game libraries.
Design-wise, then, the 8BitDo Ultimate is remarkably close to perfection. The only flaw we can point to is that the central buttons (Plus, Minus, Home, sharing, and profile switch buttons) are all a bit too close together. This makes it easy to hit multiple buttons by accident. This becomes less of an issue once you’ve gotten a feel for it, but we wish these buttons were slightly more spread out. This would also alleviate the awkwardness of reaching your thumb over the right analog stick to hit the Plus button.
The 8BitDo Ultimate nails the design aspects, but it sticks to the landing when it comes to performance, too. First off, pairing the controller to Nintendo Switch via Bluetooth is effortless, achieved by simply holding the pad’s pairing button while in the console’s controller order menu.
The controller remained responsive when testing a variety of games. We primarily used it for Bayonetta 3 for its fast-paced combat that requires long sequences of button combos, as well as Splatoon 3 for its gyro aiming support. In both cases, the 8BitDo Ultimate was more than up to the task, never exhibiting noticeable input lag through its Bluetooth connection.
Battery life also fares well, as you’ll get roughly 20 - 22 hours on a full charge. It’s true that that’s about half of what the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller offers, but still more than enough for a handful of long gaming sessions. And thanks to the included charging dock, you’ll be back up to full after just a couple of hours, three at most from our experience. Charge your pad overnight and you’ll likely never run out of juice during the day.
And if you’re after more than what the default options present, the 8BitDo Ultimate Software app is available on Android and iOS devices. By pairing your controller to your phone, you’re able to completely remap your button layout. That includes the controller’s rear buttons in case you’d like a secondary mapping for a particular action. Macro creation is also supported, allowing you to bind multiple button inputs to a single one. It’s a robust app that also lets you tweak stick and trigger sensitivity for an experience that’s all yours.
Should I buy the 8BitDo Ultimate controller?
Buy it if...
You want a true ‘Pro’ controller for Nintendo Switch
The extra options afforded to players here outclass the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, with greater options for customizability.
You’re after a multiplatform pad
Nintendo Switch is the primary console for the Ultimate, but it’ll also work on Windows PCs, iOS, and Android devices.
You’re on a budget
The 8BitDo Ultimate matches the price of Nintendo’s official gamepad and offers more options and overall higher build quality.
Don't buy it if...
You need a PS5 or Xbox Series X|S controller
The 8BitDo Ultimate may work on the platforms listed above, but owners of the competing consoles will need to look elsewhere.
You like in-game amiibo benefits
The controller doesn’t support NFC, so amiibo figures can’t be scanned for in-game bonuses.
You’re not after a ‘Pro’ controller
It’s about as affordable as ‘Pro’ pads get, but the 8BitDo Ultimate is still pricier than more basic options from the likes of PowerA, YCCTeam, and other third parties.
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.