The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and 8BitDo Ultimate are your best options if you’re looking for a new pad for your handheld hybrid console. On one side is Nintendo’s official option, while at the other end is a quality console from a manufacturer with an excellent reputation.
The Nintendo Switch Pro controller will be the default choice for most gamers since it’s the official one. But, this premium Nintendo Switch console has competition in 8BitDo Ultimate. This third-party offering has features absent from the Pro console, which arguably fits the bill for a “Pro” console more effectively than Nintendo’s pad.
We’re comparing two of the best Nintendo Switch accessories to help you figure out which one to buy. Whether you’re after Nintendo’s penchant for quality, or you’re looking for something new from 8BitDo, you should seriously consider these gamepads.
Nintendo Switch Pro console
The Nintendo Switch Pro controller will be the first port of call for many looking to upgrade their Joy-Con controllers.
- Incredible battery life
- Comfortable grip
- High quality sticks
- NFC function included
- shallow triggers
- Relatively pricey
8BitDo Ultimate Controller
8BitDo Ultimate is the best third-party Nintendo Switch controller, with amazing build quality and great buttons.
- Excellent look and feel
- Charging base included
- Reasonably priced for its feature set
- The central buttons are crowded
- There is no NFC
Price and availability
The Nintendo Switch Pro console is the more expensive of the two options, coming in at $69.99 / £59.99 / (about AU$103). It is available to purchase from Online Nintendo Store (Opens in a new tab)And Amazon (Opens in a new tab) and other online retailers.
8BitDo Ultimate matches the price of the Pro Controller, but offers better value for money thanks to its additional features. You can check it out on the official 8BitDo store page (Opens in a new tab).
In terms of design, the consoles look noticeably different; The Nintendo Switch Pro controller has a semi-transparent black finish, while the 8BitDo Ultimate is available in solid white or black.
Both pads have a textured grip, though the impact is more subtle on the Pro Controller due to its concave grooves. The 8BitDo Ultimate grip feels more textured, featuring convex ridges. It offers a subtle roughness that provides grip without irritating your hands. Both styles come down to preference, and each pillow feels great to hold in its own way.
Button placement on both controllers is pretty much identical. But the face buttons themselves offer a stark contrast. The Pro Controller’s face buttons feature a slightly wider surface area and softer – almost soft – pressure. We feel 8BitDo Ultimate has the edge here; Its face buttons feel sturdier and more responsive, and it has a glossy finish to boot.
The 8BitDo Ultimate’s D-pad really shines, too, thanks to the concave design and textured grooves. You can really slide this thing around your thumb, which makes it great for games that primarily feature digital motion input, like Nintendo Switch Online’s libraries of older games. In comparison, the Pro Controller’s D-pad has a less interesting basic design with no texture.
There is no clear winner when it comes to analog sticks and triggers. Pad sticks offer a largely identical design and feel. Triggers, meanwhile, will come down to preference. The Pro Controller has fairly wide triggers and shoulder buttons with very little travel time, which feels compact and responsive as a result. The 8BitDo Ultimate’s triggers are thinner, but they have a travel time not unlike the DualSense or DualShock 4, which requires you to depress to depress them completely.
Where the Pro Controller has a definite advantage is in the center of the board. The four central buttons (Plus, Minus, Home, and Sharing) are well spaced on either side, making them easy to press with both thumbs. In 8BitDo Ultimate, these buttons are pressed close to each other, which makes it very easy to hit multiple buttons at once.
It might be called the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, but that’s honestly a bit of a misnomer, as it lacks many of the features that make other “Pro” controllers worth buying. But that doesn’t mean it’s without dedicated features of its own, as it boasts Nintendo’s excellent gyro aiming and NFC (Near Field Communication), letting you scan amiibo numbers and cards for in-game rewards.
8BitDo Ultimate lacks NFC, but it does at least feature gyroscopic aiming, which makes it perfect for games that make heavy use of the controller like Splatoon 3. On top of that, Ultimate takes things to a higher level with the 8BitDo Ultimate Software app, available on iOS and Android devices .
Pairing the controller with the app allows you to completely remap the buttons to your liking, as well as map the two back paddle buttons that aren’t on the Pro controller. You can even set profiles if, for example, you’re flipping through the best Nintendo Switch games and prefer a specific control scheme for each. The app also allows you to adjust the wand and trigger sensitivity, which is a nice bonus.
The Nintendo Switch’s controller settings at least let you remap the button layout of a pro controller, so it’s not entirely devoid of that kind of support. However, in terms of features next to ‘Pro’, 8BitDo Ultimate definitely excels.
When it comes to how long you can power these gamepads between recharges, Nintendo’s Pro Controller is the clear winner. On average, you’ll get a whopping 40 hours out of a Nintendo pad, before needing to recharge. That’s enough to beat most games, or about half of Xenoblade Chronicles 3.
By comparison, the 8BitDo manages a 20-hour charge, give or take. This is still decent, however, and the relatively short battery life is somewhat offset by the included charging dock that will get you back up fully in just a couple of hours.
Which console should you buy?
Choosing between a Nintendo Switch Pro console vs. an 8BitDo Ultimate will come down to preference when it comes to feel. But we’d say the 8BitDo Ultimate edges up thanks to its advanced features, slightly better build quality, and because it matches the Pro controller for the price.
If you prefer great battery life and NFC functionality, the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will suit you better. Either way, you’re getting a great console and you can’t go wrong no matter which board you choose. But we like those rear paddles and custom button profiles.