The manufacturer 8Bitdo supplies adapters and gamepads. It stands out from the crowd with its good workmanship and very fair prices. TechStage is testing some of the products and introducing 8Bitdo in more detail.
The market for controllers from 3rd party manufacturers is one thing above all else: It is insanely extensive and confusing! If you do not want to use the original accessories from Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft, you will find an almost endless range on various online portals. The price range is wide, but the same applies to the quality: Many of the manufacturers have names that have never been heard of and will probably never be heard again in the future. One almost has the impression that there are a number of mailbox companies on the market that just throw a single, dodgy product on the market – only to then disappear again.
A positive counterexample is 8Bitdo. The company has built a solid reputation among retro gamers in particular. In this article, we want to highlight the company’s noteworthy products and show why you should keep an eye on the manufacturer.
Controller for current and retro consoles
The main business of 8Bitdo are controllers in retro design that work either on the switch or on classic consoles. In the case of a Super Nintendo or Mega Drive, they are connected via a 2.4g wireless adapter, while the Bluetooth function is used on the switch. The latter also makes it possible to use the controller on a PC and in many cases also with Android. With the SN30 Pro, for example, there is a detour for a controller for the Xbox One. There are no special pads for Playstation 4 or Xbox One.
In addition to the designs, which are mostly based on Nintendo models, the good workmanship and product maintenance that stand out at 8Bitdo. The controllers are not on the same level as an Xbox Elite controller, but since they only cost a fraction, there is little to complain about.
All the pads that we have held in our hands so far have felt robust. Nothing creaks when you enter it, you can’t bend the plastic and the pressure points of the buttons still feel good even after prolonged use. The pads are often available for between 17 and 30 euros, nothing comparable can be found in this price segment. In addition, 8Bitdo publishes firmware updates from time to time in order to increase compatibility or make small improvements.
Each pad can be connected to the PC via USB, which can be used for an update using a program from the official website. Unfortunately, 8Bitdo is not consistent here and does not always offer a Mac version in parallel. Mac users will therefore have to ask a Windows buddy for an update when in doubt.
The developers still seem to like home computers, because they offer a wireless mouse and a USB hub in a retro design as a little extra. The mouse in particular looks as if it was carved out of the remains of a pad from the Nintendo Entertainment System. On the left side there is even a digicross that you can use to scroll through pages. It works on both PC and Mac. If you want to set up your desk completely in retro style, you will even find a Bluetooth speaker in the 8Bitdo lineup that looks a bit like a cube from Super Mario.
As an aside, the arcade stick should be mentioned, of which a second revision will also appear in the next few weeks. It is specially designed for PCs and switches, works wirelessly and comes with programmable buttons. Unfortunately, the old version has long been sold out. Only a few copies can be found on the used market. The second revision is one of the most expensive products in the 8BitDo portfolio at around 80 euros. Since there are only a few arcade sticks that work via Bluetooth or 2.4G, the product stands out from the crowd.
Huge selection of niche adapters
Another focus is the numerous adapters. 8Bitdo has released its own converter for pretty much every important (mini) console, with which a number of wireless controllers can be used. In this way you can, for example, play with the DualShock 4 Pro (Playstation 4) on your Super Nintendo Classic Mini (test report). The adapters are usually also compatible with the in-house controllers. Switch Joy-Cons, Switch Pro Controller, Xbox Bluetooth Controller, DualShock 3, even the older Wii Pro Controller or the Wiimote can be used.
A special treat is the adapter for the Playstation Classic (test report): Since you connect the controller to the mini console via USB, you can theoretically use the adapter on any other USB connector. 8Bitdo officially supports Android TV boxes, PCs, Macs, the Nintendo Switch, the Retrofreak or the Raspberry Pi. The latter is ideal for self-made retro pies (advice and HowTo). If the compatibility is not high enough, the MAGIC-NS adapter from Mayflash can also be purchased. If you combine the products of both manufacturers, it is as if the Ghostsbusters were crossing the rays! Suddenly you can then use the 8Bitdo adapter on exotic devices, such as the Neo Geo Mini (test report).
Latency is an issue with wireless controllers, especially when it comes to competitive games like fighting games. In our tests, we could not find any long delays, although a few milliseconds must be expected for technical reasons. Tournament players use wired input devices and special monitors (if not even CRT TVs) anyway. At home, even ambitious gamers shouldn’t notice massive latencies with the 8Bitdo adapters. The company underlines this with the GBros. Wireless adapter that makes the Gamecube controller usable on the switch. To do this, you plug the pad into the small stick, which then transmits the signal wirelessly to the console. According to the name, the biggest use for it is Super Smash Bros Ultimate. The adapter is priced between a fair 15 to 25 euros.
Short test: 8Bitdo Lite
You can read it from the previous lines: We can recommend the controllers and adapters from 8Bitdo without reservation. Nevertheless, we want to highlight two products because they stand out due to their small form factor.
Let’s start with the 8Bitdo Lite, which was launched in parallel with the new Nintendo Switch Lite release. Accordingly, it comes in turquoise and yellow. Both color variants were available at the start of the Switch Lite. But it also works under Windows, is supported by Steam there, and runs on the Raspberry Pi. It can be connected via Bluetooth or USB-C, which can also be used to charge the battery. Incidentally, it lasts 18 hours, which is better than many of its competitors.
The controller is completely geared towards 2D games, there are no analog sticks. But that makes the pad very flat and hardly thicker than a smartphone in a protective case. The mirrored arrangement of buttons is unusual: Digi-crosses are on the left as well as on the right. There are also four buttons on each side, just inverted and mirrored. On the switch, both crosses take over the function of the original analog sticks, with which you can at least theoretically operate special functions in the game or 3D titles. We would not recommend the latter because the crosses only support digital inputs by nature. Of course, there are no intermediate steps between the cardinal points that an analog stick would make possible.
For everything else, this controller is downright terrific! Especially 2D fighting games, such as the Anime Fighter UNDER NIGHT IN-BIRTH Exe: Late[cl-r], so control themselves excellently. All entries are accepted without hesitation and without delay, the buttons give clear, but not too loud feedback – everything is correct here. Since the corners are rounded and the plastic has a slightly rough surface, the pad also feels good in the hand. However, since it is hardly larger than the Switch Lite’s screen, very large hands may have difficulty gripping it.
Short test: 8Bitdo Zero
The Zero, of which there is now a second revision, would, however, disappear even in the hands of an infant. With a total size of only 120 × 66 × 12.2 mm, this little thing can practically be used as a key ring. So it’s all the more practical that it supports Android in addition to PC, Mac, Switch and the Raspberry Pi. So you can play with the Zero on your smartphone on the go without having to take a switch with you. The pad is really so small that you can actually always keep it in your jacket pocket.
As cute as the small part is, the small shape has some disadvantages: There is only one shoulder button on each side, which means that not all Switch games can be played in full. Of course, a second digicross or another equivalent to the right analog stick is also missing. It can only be used for a selection of games. The battery is correspondingly smaller: the Zero lasts 8 hours before it has to be recharged.
The tricky usability is also not surprising: It takes a little practice to learn not to accidentally press two buttons. Sometimes you can even be more precise with your fingertips. However, these are weaknesses that were to be expected with such a tiny mini-particle and are tolerable. Otherwise, this pad is also robust and responds well to our inputs. Cool: In addition to turquoise and yellow, the Zero 2 is also available in pink.
Overall, our conclusion is positive: the controllers are stylish, well made and are kept alive longer with firmware updates. Above all, however, they feel good – if you ignore the Zero for now. The strong focus on Switch and Retro naturally leaves users of the Playstation 4 or Xbox One outside.
They already get good controllers with their respective home consoles anyway. The Switch Joycons are more unwieldy and suffer from the phenomenon of analog stick drift. On the mini consoles, all controllers are wired. 8Bitdo jumps into this niche and serves it with flying colors.
If you are now more interested in retro consoles, we recommend our list of the best of the official retro consoles. Our guide on how to build your own retro console based on a Raspberry Pi is also worth reading. Switch fans will find even more inspiration in the article “The best accessories for the Switch”.