PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch Review
With rear mappable buttons, PowerA is going for the 'pro' Pro Controller.
For the most part, Nintendo Switch controllers haven't ventured into the realms of 'elite' controllers that come with back buttons or paddles. Sure, we have the Pro Controller and a whole bunch of third-party designs that build on it, but the movement to introduce the more hardcore Switch controller hasn't really managed to find any traction just yet. PowerA is looking to kickstart that trend however, by producing the Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch (the name is a bit of a mouthful), which is a device that comes with three rear buttons to elevate your gameplay that bit more.
The controller itself is essentially a run-of-the-mill Pro controller, except for the fact that it has the three extra buttons on its back. It still has two analogue sticks, a D-pad, the A, B, X, and Y buttons, as well as the +, -, Home, and Capture buttons, alongside the R, ZR, L, LR bumpers and triggers. So really, aside from the mappable rear buttons that are known as the "Advanced Gaming Buttons", it's absolutely the same as a Pro Controller. The controller does however come in a whole bunch of unique designs created by different artists, and for the sake of transparency, the controller I used was the Pikachu 025 variant that comes with a Pikachu printed on the controller itself.
What you get in the box isn't really that extensive either. You get the controller, a USB 2.0 to USB-C charging cable, and an instruction manual that comes in quite handy when learning how to remap the rear buttons. I will say as a final note here, the box itself is actually pretty cool as it comes with a moving front panel that shows the controller off in all of its glory, as well as providing a few neat facts on Pikachu as part of the Pikachu 025 themed design.
In regard to the core features of the controller, there really isn't much to report on besides the rear buttons that we'll cover shortly. The device is almost the same size and seems to be pretty much the same weight as a Pro Controller, the only noticeable differences are that it doesn't feature the same rubbery grips on the handles as Nintendo's official product, and it has a slightly bulkier frame. The bumpers are also a little smaller, and the triggers are quite aggressively pointed upwards at the ends, but other than those details, the pair are almost identical in a visual sense.
The rear or Advanced Gaming Buttons that I've mentioned frequently are plastered where the handles of the controller meet its body, and on the lower centre of the controller's body as well. There are only three buttons; one on each side, and the central one, and they each have unique functions. The side buttons are the ones that can be remapped to any input from the controller, whereas the central one is used in part of the remapping procedure. To do so, you simply need to press the central button, then the input you wish to map (i.e. A), then press either side button you want it assigned to, and this can be done whenever you like. It's part of the controller's software, and there's no third-party software to muck around with to get the job done, which is refreshing.
In general, the controller feels great to use when playing games on the Switch. The rear buttons can be a bit finicky in comparison to other elite controllers from say Scuf for Xbox and PlayStation, but they work well considering the relatively cheap $49.99 price tag. Similarly, if you decide to completely ignore the mappable buttons, the controller functions great as an alternative to a Pro Controller, which retails for around the same price tag. The catch is that there is no HD Rumble, IR or Amiibo support, unlike the Pro Controller, which is a little bit of a let down. You can however, use this controller when docked or undocked, and it does come with motion controls if that's your jam. It should also be noted that the Enhanced Wireless Controller does come with up to 30+ hours of charge, which is a pretty impressive amount in the grand scheme of things.
When I think about the Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch, I automatically start gauging it against the Pro Controller, as I have done over the course of this review. For the most part it is an equally competent device that should absolutely be considered when looking to buy a Switch controller, but there are places, such as the lack of HD Rumble and IR support, that makes it lack in comparison. With this being said, the Advanced Gaming Buttons on the rear do add something that the Pro Controller doesn't have even if they are a little fiddly to use at times. While the Pro Controller is one of, if not the best Switch controllers available today, the similarities these two share shows just how capable of a device PowerA's controller truly is, and for me, I think I've found my new main Switch controller.
8 / 10
Feels great to use. Fantastic battery life. Rear Advanced Gaming Buttons are easily mappable.
Lacks HD Rumble, IR, and Amiibo support. Rear buttons can be a little fiddly to use. Might be a little too similar to the Pro Controller for its own good.