Review: PowerA Wired Switch Controller (Hardware)
These two controllers were sent by PowerA, but this has no bearing on the review or how I felt about the products.
For months now, I have been admiring the design of the PowerA Switch controllers in my local GAME. They come in several designs, featuring franchises such as Mario, Zelda, and even Crash Bandicoot. My first thought after receiving the two controllers was that they were both stand out from the competition. Both of the controllers sent to me had a wonderful pattern and a nicely detailed logo. Compared to Nintendo's bland Pro-Controllers, these are art. There are a few tacky chrome versions of the PowerA controller, but a majority of the designs are a sight to behold.
The controllers feel great in the hand. I'd even go as far as to say they feel as good as a Pro Controller; sturdy and durable, with no creaks or loose parts. The PowerA controllers are slightly lighter than the first-party controller, likely due to the omitted features. Your opinion on this may vary, but I would have preferred it just a little heavier. The slightly lower weight of the controllers is a nitpick, though, and they feel wonderful to hold nonetheless.
PowerA Wired Controller vs Nintendo Switch Pro Controller
One of the main draws of the PowerA controller is the far lower price point. Thanks to the omission of many features, PowerA's wired controllers come in at a low £30, compared to the Nintendo Pro controller's hefty price of £55. To save £25, you'll be giving up NFC, motion controls, and rumble. Depending on what your preferences are, and what games you play, your mileage may vary. For example, NFC is only needed to scan in Amiibo, and the motion controls aren't necessary in most Switch games. Playing Mario Kart 8 felt a little odd without rumble, but it's not an important feature, so I quickly got used to it.
A hot topic of contention for Nintendo's Pro Controller is the D-Pad. Many people, including myself, find it awkward and clumsy to use. The PowerA controller does a much better job here, with the D-Pad feeling more precise and comfortable than the official controller. I'd still recommend one of the 8BitDo controllers for 2D platformers, but this controller is a better choice if you want to play 3D games as well. I thoroughly enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros 3, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Mania using the D-Pad. I even managed to finish one of the pesky Blue Spheres level in Sonic Mania that had been troubling me for a while.
PowerA also has a Wired Controller PLUS model. This one is almost identical to the standard wired controllers, but features swappable analogue sticks and a rubber grip. I chose concave analogue sticks, but you can swap to convex ones, too. The two controller variants seem to retail for the same price, so if you want the extra feature, there's no reason not to go for it.
Both of these controllers work using MicroUSB instead of the standard USB-C used on Nintendo's controllers. This was disappointing, considering how often I have to purchase new MicroUSB cables. That said, the cables provided slot into the controllers through a rectangular hole that helps to support the connector. This makes me a lot more comfortable with them, and I believe that they're far less likely to break over time than other MicroUSB controllers. You may be wondering why the controller even has a detachable wire, considering they're not wireless. Well, the ability to detach the wire makes the controllers far easier to put away or transport, and they look a lot more aesthetically pleasing without the wire sticking out of the top. The provided wires are insanely long, so don't worry if you have a large living room.
To use the controller on the Nintendo Switch, you just plug it into any of the available USB ports on the Switch dock. This works perfectly, and there is no issue playing games. Unfortunately, you are unable to actually wake the Switch using the controller, so you'll have to get up and press the power button whenever you want to play. Once the Switch is on, though, the experience is seamless.
PowerA doesn't market their controllers as PC-compatible, but they worked wonderfully on my desktop computers. They are the most simple plug and play experience I've ever used, and it lets you play your PC games without fiddling around with drivers. In Steam, it is detected as a Switch Pro Controller, allowing you to play PC games to your hearts content. I've been playing A Hat in Time with mine, and the experience is just as good as using any of my other console pads. You can also use it in emulators, such as Dolphin or CEMU, with very little setup time. I will definitely be using one of these controllers from now on, instead of having to re-sync my Switch Pro controller every time.
Whilst I loved the experience I've had with these two beautiful controllers, I'm not sure I could recommend them over a Nintendo Switch Pro controller. Sure, they're cheaper, but games like Splatoon 2 and Breath of the Wild just weren't as pleasant without motion controls. That said, I'd wholeheartedly recommend them as a secondary controller, given you already own a Pro Controller. There aren't many Switch games that have split-screen motion controls anyway, and I don't think the second player would be at a disadvantage at all. I'd also recommend them if you need a PC controller, because damn, they are amazingly simple to use with Steam.
+ D-Pad is far better than the Pro-Controller
+ Comes in a range of amazingly pretty designs
+ Analogue Sticks are hot-swappable, if you're into that sort of thing
+ Incredibly low-priced at only £30/$25
+ Well-built and extremely comfortable
- The lighter weight of the controller makes it feel less sturdy
- Many features are omitted for the sake of the price point, most notably the motion controls
- Uses Micro-USB
out of 10
PowerA's wired controllers are a great value. While I still recommend a Pro Controller if you don't already have one, they're a great choice for secondary controllers for your friends to use. They're far more pretty than the Nintendo controllers, too. They also work remarkably well on PC.