Review: PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Switch (Hardware)
Last year, I reviewed PowerA's wired controllers, and I found them to be great for their price. What appealed to me most, though, was the aesthetics—the designs are a treat to look at, and this was perhaps the only thing that really stood out. I was less impressed with the range of designs they had for their wireless controllers, though, with most being bland and uninteresting. This month, they're releasing a brand new Zelda design, and we were lucky enough to get one early to review. Overall, I'm impressed with the stunning look of this new variant, although I'm not the biggest fan of the chrome blue D-Pad.
PowerA VS Alternatives
The Switch's wealth of games makes me utilise a large pool of controllers. For example, I tend to use my Gamecube controllers for Super Smash Bros., but I use my Pro Controller for 3D games like Hyrule Warriors and Super Mario Odyssey. Meanwhile, with 2D games, I always go for my 8BitDo controller, as I feel like it's the best suited controller for that purpose. So, where does PowerA's controller fit in? It's essentially a jack of all trades. For most people, it's an adequate alternative for a Pro-Controller. The buttons feel fine, and it's comfortable to hold, but I personally prefer the overall feeling of the aforementioned Pro-Controller. That said, there is one thing that makes me want to use it over my first-party controller—the back buttons.
The back buttons on this controller seem pretty niche, and I haven't found a real use for them in many of my games. Rather fittingly, though, I found that my experience in Breath of the Wild was greatly enhanced using these buttons. You see, the Master Cycle's accelerate button is set to A on the controller, making camera control while driving difficult. With the back buttons, though, I can accelerate and turn my camera with ease, making it a far more pleasant experience. Best of all, you can bind the buttons quickly and easily, allowing you to customise your controls in any way you'd like. I could see it being useful in Splatoon 2, allowing you to jump with your thumb still on the right joystick.
The analogue sticks here are very small for a standard controller. They have a small grip, and the range on them doesn't feel as extensive as on most pads I've used. This makes it feel less accurate than the Pro Controller, and I find my thumbs slipping off of them occasionally. They're completely usable, but for most of my 3D games, I'll be sticking with something else. As is the case for most third-party controllers, though, the D-Pad here is better than what Nintendo have on offer. It's nothing stellar, but I'd certainly be comfortable playing my 2D games with it. There is no rumble whatsoever in these controllers, which is a little odd. I don't personally mind so much, but with a $50 controller, it's something I'd expect.
The biggest problem I have is the lack of a rechargeable battery. It's 2019, and many competitors have a far more convenient solution. I complained about this when I reviewed PowerA's Gamecube-style Switch controller, too, and to be honest, I haven't used that one since the batteries died. Sure, I could use rechargeable AA batteries, but that's still less convenient than just plugging the thing in. This is a huge blow for me.
Use on PC
This controller works flawlessly well on PC, and may very well become my go-to PC controller, rather than being used for my Switch. It syncs with Bluetooth just fine, allowing me to play my whole library of PC games with no hassle at all. It's detected as a Switch Pro-Controller in Steam, so even the motion controls work as intended. It also works perfectly in emulators, so you're free to use it to play a huge variety of games. There seems to be no built-in deadzone, so the control stick appears a little shaky in the Windows configuration tool, but this doesn't seem to have affected any of my games.
With PowerA's wired controllers, I figured that they'd be best as a secondary controller. In this case, however, I think they could adequately replace your need for a Pro-Controller, as they share most of the same features. It's comfortable, beautiful, and cheaper than Nintendo's alternative. Keep in mind though, you'll be missing out on rumble and NFC, and you'll have to deal with the whole AA battery thing. It's more similar to an Xbox One controller than a Pro-Controller, so if you're a big fan of those, maybe this'll be more comfortable for you.
+ Stunning Zelda design
+ Comfortable to hold
+ Useful programmable back buttons
- No rumble in a $50 controller
- Analogue sticks are a little small
- AA batteries
out of 10
Overall, I love the way it feels in the hand, and it's probably the most attractive controller in my ever-growing collection. If you're looking for a Pro-Controller alternative, this would be fine. I do think it's worth spending the extra money on a first-party Pro Controller if you don't already have one, though.