From the folks at 8Bitdo comes a Bluetooth controller that seeks to be better than any other controller out there, by creating designs that faithfully replicate existing controller designs. 8Bitdo focuses on high quality designs that feel very similar, if not identical, to the original product, generating some interest based on nostalgia.

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Internally, the FC30 Pro contains a 480 mAH battery that can last up to 18 hours (real world run time was 16 hours). The controller is 132 x 64 x 20 mm in dimensions, making it quite the small product with an ARM M3 Cortex CPU. The usage of the CPU allows the controller to reduce lag from inputting commands to controller and witnessing the action on-screen.

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Externally, the controller has two triggers on each side, labeled as L1 and L2/ R1 and R2 triggers. The controller contains a micro USB port, two buttons for power and synchronization on the bottom, and the standard directional pad, face buttons, a select and start button, and two analog sticks. The controller is made of hard plastic on the sides with a brushed metal plate front, with two rubber buttons for start and select, just like older retro controller designs. The button feedback is non-mushy and has solid travel, a huge upgrade to the NES30 review kit I received a number of years ago. The face buttons respond well without feeling overly mushy. Towards the bottom of the unit are two lighted areas that change colors depending on the settings used.

In performance tests, the unit performed admirably with zero lag during command input. Playing fighting games, where commands are crucial, there was no issues in the input and despite the small unit size, the controller played comfortably even during long hours. The Bluetooth connection took no time at all to sync and connect with my devices. When mapping buttons on Xcode (discussed a bit more below), however, the unit had slight latency issues and button response issues. In essence, button mapping works, but at an intermediate level.

Image provided by 8Bitdo in manuals
Image provided by 8Bitdo in manuals

The controller is interesting, because it features several different modes depending on the game play the player is seeking to experience. Using the software Xcade, buttons could be mapped for PC gaming. There was also a specific mode for gaming strictly on iOS, as well as the traditional gaming modes utilizing Bluetooth for Android and iOS. The controller also, usefully enough, can connect and emulate a Nintendo Wiimote, further diversifying the controller. The only glaring issue I had with it was that switching between the different modes required a few steps too many, with the controller needing to be unpaired and cleared from memory each time, in between modes.

One adult-sized hand for scale.
One adult-sized hand for scale.

Overall, having owned and operated the previous NES30 and FC30 models, the movement to a rounded controller is a much smarter move in the ergonomic department. The long battery life and excellent performance does come with a slight caveat at a $49.99 price tag; for a quality product, though, it pays for itself. It’s got a beautiful design to it in several different console skin flavors, and has glowing LED lights for the fans of blinking lights. Compared to a lot of the Bluetooth controllers I’ve used, this one does an excellent job and sits favorably high against the competition.

Thanks to 8Bitdo for the review unit, and for meeting Gamer Professionals on the show floor at E3 2016.