If there’s one thing more impressive than the maniacal pace of 8BitDo’s controller production, it’s how the company has continuously improved those controllers. I’ve tested, reviewed, or owned about a dozen of their gamepads, including their “elite” options, like the SN30 Pro+ and Pro 2 controllers.
The Ultimate controller is a meaningful upgrade in the areas it counts. It looks better, feels better, is more feature-friendly, and comes with a slick charging dock. But most impressively, it costs just $69.99. 8BitDo is also selling a stripped-down version with slightly worse thumbsticks and without Bluetooth or motion controls for $49.99.
8BitDo Ultimate Controller – Photos
What constitutes a “pro” or “elite” controller is relatively subjective, but to me, it requires two things: robust customization software and back paddles or triggers. (That means the stripped-down Elite Series 2 Core gamepad doesn’t qualify – sorry, Xbox!)
In that vein, the 8BitDo Ultimate Controller is a proper pro controller. It features two prominent rear paddles and the ability to change button functionality quickly, customize stick and trigger sensitivity, modify the vibration intensity, and even assign macros to a single button through the 8BitDo Ultimate software.
Unlike the Pro 2, which looked like a streamlined PS1 controller, the Ultimate takes on a boxy shape with thicker handles and offset thumbsticks. You’d be forgiven for confusing it for an Xbox controller at first glance. That’s no accident; the Ultimate borrows its basic shape, functionality, and “ultimate” moniker from the company’s officially-licensed wired Xbox controller, the Ultimate Wired Controller for Xbox.
But closer inspection reveals a few fundamental differences between the Ultimate and Xbox controllers. Most noticeably, the Ultimate features five menu buttons near its center. There’s the home button, a start, and select button, a profile switcher, and a star button.
Unlike the Xbox Series controllers, the Ultimate comes equipped with a rechargeable battery (rated for 22 hours) and a sleek charging cradle. Underneath the charging cradle, there’s a 2.4g dongle, which you’ll need to connect to a PC. You can switch between Bluetooth and 2.4g modes with a toggle on the back of the controller and onboard profiles with a button on the front. The Ultimate is compatible with Nintendo Switch, Windows, and SteamOS (including Steam Deck).
At 228 grams, it weighs noticeably less than the Xbox Series Controller (287 grams). There is a white and black option available for $69.99. 8Bitdo is also selling a 2.4g-only version for $49.99 that also comes in pink.
8BitDo’s Ultimate Software is what makes its controllers so special. With it, you can change just about every part of a controller’s functionality. You can choose one of three profiles, then remap buttons, change the sensitivity of your thumbsticks and triggers, modify vibration, and craft macros that can be deployed in a single button press. Best of all, you can do this from your PC, Mac, iPhone, or Android device. The controller is able to store three profiles for Windows and three for Switch.
8BitDo Ultimate Controller – Software
As was the case with the Pro 2 controller, this software is the only way to customize the back paddles’ functionality, and I wished I could remap these on the fly. And while switching between three profiles (per platform, so six total) was easy as pie, I wish I could rename the profiles through the software. After testing the controller across a dozen games, I found myself forgetting which profiles I’d set up for what, and the software was incapable of helping.
Finally, I wish the software would allow me to customize the dock’s charging light. The delicate glow of the dock gives the entire controller a sleek, minimalist look, but it turns off when the controller is finished charging – which was most of the time.
The Ultimate Controller mostly lives up to its gaming potential. The 22-hour battery life never ran out in my testing, thanks in part to just how easy it was to sit on its charging cradle. And provided you’re not frequently switching between platforms, the Ultimate turns on and pairs in just a single button. Switching between two or more, however, requires a tiresome combination of “Start + face button” on each subsequent wake-up.
Once it’s paired, the Ultimate controller is a pleasure to use. It felt great to hold, thanks to its more ergonomic handles, which sport a far more noticeable grip on the handles than its predecessors – in fact, the grip feels almost identical to that on modern Xbox controllers. The bumpers and the analog triggers also feel much better than the Pro 2’s, which felt a bit mushy and cheap. That said, the triggers still feel hollow and less resistant than other premium controllers. And while the D-pad seems a little different – it’s more tactical and clicky – it still feels a bit squishy for my liking.
The $69.99 Ultimate Bluetooth controller also has one upgrade its stripped-down counterpart does not: Hall Effect Sensing joysticks. These joysticks use magnets to track positional input, which means they’re not prone to the stick drift that analog joysticks often suffer from. The sticks felt precise and responsive.
The controller can be used through a wired connection, and the included USB-C charging cable will suffice, though it’s a bit short. But if you’re committed to wireless play like me, you’ll be happy to hear that the Ultimate boasts a strong connection. I never experienced drops or latency. Best of all, the 2.4g dongle works when plugged in inside the dock’s hideaway compartment. That means there’s no need to plug your controller in via USB-C – even when updating.