Playing video games regularly might have introduced you to the irritation of stick drift. One moment, you’re focusing on an Apex Legends shot or viewing the landscape in Tears of the Kingdom, and the next moment, your cursor is mysteriously sliding aside on its own. This phenomenon, which can instantly disrupt your gaming experience, is frustrating, especially when it turns your top-notch $70 controller into a less efficient plastic piece.
Drift is a known issue with the Switch’s Joy-Cons, but controllers from PlayStation and Xbox aren’t exempt from this problem either. Recently though, there has been a slight increase in the popularity of controllers that utilize magnetic “Hall effect” sensors rather than traditional potentiometers in their joysticks. This reduces the susceptibility to wear over time. A few months ago, I decided to purchase 8BitDo’s Ultimate Bluetooth Controller, which not only has Hall effect sticks, but also costs $70 and is compatible with both Switch and PC.
To provide some context, most gaming controllers use analog joysticks with potentiometers. These are small electromechanical components that evaluate the joystick’s position by sliding a wiper against a sensor to measure resistance. This is generally accurate, but repeated physical contact with the resistor leads to eventual wear and tear, leading to unreliable readings. On the other hand, Hall effect setups use magnets and an electrical conductor, which don’t physically interact. As the magnet moves relative to the conductor, the voltage change produced by the magnetic field is transformed into positional data for the joystick.
While this isn’t a new technology, Hall effect sticks aren’t completely drift-proof. Every piece of equipment eventually breaks down, and there’s always a chance of receiving a faulty unit. However, if properly made, Hall effect joysticks should outlast their traditional counterparts by several years, with the added advantage of being less vulnerable to dust and grime.
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So, how does 8BitDo’s controller feel when actually used? It feels…normal, which is definitely a positive. There’s not much immediate difference between the sticks on the Ultimate Bluetooth Controller and those on a DualSense or Switch Pro Controller. The controller’s dead zone can be customized via 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software app to potentially cover eventual drift issues, but the default joysticks feel smooth and responsive. The real advantage here is their long-term durability. Although predicting the future is a tricky business, after a six-month test period, I’m satisfied with the performance.
There are other Hall effect controllers available, like those from NYXI and GuliKit, but 8BitDo has a track record of producing reliable accessories that we’ve endorsed over the years. The Ultimate Bluetooth Controller’s main selling point is indeed its Hall effect sticks, but its other features are also worth noting. As someone with a preference for asymmetrical joysticks, I appreciate that the overall design resembles an Xbox controller. Though a bit smaller than a Series X/S controller, it’s comfortable even for my relatively large hands. The face buttons are well-spaced and crisp, the bumpers are of a good size, and the analog triggers provide a satisfying travel distance.
The controller features two paddles at the back that sit nearly flush against the grips, right where my fingers naturally rest. As a racing game enthusiast, I value these back buttons, especially when I’m too lazy to set up my wheel. For instance, in F1 23, the ability to shift gears manually without removing my thumb from the steering input offers improved car control. The d-pad, though a bit stiff, has proven reliably accurate for fast-paced movement during my regular Tetris (or TETR.IO) sessions.
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Another feature I appreciate is the controller’s customizability. The Ultimate Software app from 8BitDo allows me to remap almost any button, assign macros, and create up to three settings profiles saved directly on the controller. The sensitivity of the vibration, joysticks, and triggers can also be adjusted. I don’t use these modifications constantly, as the default setup is satisfactory, but it’s comforting to know that if anything ever feels off, I have the tools to correct it.
Despite the many advantages, there are a few minor shortcomings. The controller’s battery life of around 20 hours, while decent, falls short when compared to the 40+ hours of the Switch Pro Controller. For PC usage, the Switch-style face button layout is inverted, making B usually “A.” Like most third-party Switch controllers, the 8BitDo pad lacks compatibility with the console’s “HD Rumble” feature and lacks an NFC reader for Amiibo scanning. However, it is one of the few non-Nintendo pads that can wake up the Switch from sleep mode — but to do so, you need to shake the controller, and this feature only works over Bluetooth. Additionally, the gyro controls are mostly reliable, but intense controller vibration can interfere.
However, these are not dealbreakers. I personally turn off most motion control features and have no intentions of starting an Amiibo collection anytime soon. So far, the Ultimate Bluetooth Controller has shown itself to be a comfortable and flexible pro-style pad that has longevity. After many hours of use, I am confident in calling it my final controller choice for both Switch and PC.
8Bitdo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller with Charging Dock
Available for $70 at Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller
What is the main feature of the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller?
The main feature of the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is its use of Hall effect sensors in its joysticks. These magnetic sensors are less prone to wear over time compared to traditional potentiometers, providing increased durability.
How is the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller different from regular controllers?
The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller differs from regular controllers in its use of Hall effect sensors, which offer superior longevity. The controller also stands out with its customizable features, including the ability to remap buttons, adjust sensitivity, and create user profiles.
What platforms is the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller compatible with?
The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is compatible with both the Nintendo Switch and PC.
What is the cost of the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller?
The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller costs $70, the same price as a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller or a PlayStation DualSense.
Does the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller have any drawbacks?
While the controller boasts numerous advantages, it does have a few drawbacks. These include a shorter battery life compared to the Switch Pro Controller, an inverted button layout for PC usage, and a lack of compatibility with the console’s “HD Rumble” feature and Amiibo scanning. However, these are considered minor issues that do not significantly affect the overall gaming experience.