The Nintendo Switch has proved to be a revelation in the gaming world. Initially it was the novelty of being able to play your games either on a TV from the comfort of you couch or on the go while commuting or simply just in your bed. During this pandemic and during the resultant lockdowns Nintendo has seen the strong sales of the Switch not just continue but go through the proverbial roof.
While the Switch is a brilliant device it is not without its faults. The console’s greatest strength as well as its biggest weakness are the Joy Cons. Ergonomically, they are not the most comfortable controllers for long play sessions in handheld mode. Even when the unit is docked and using the included Joy Con grip the controllers are not that comfortable. At least in docked mode you can use the excellent Pro Controller or any number of third-party controllers, but in handheld mode you have fewer options. There are third party Joy Cons but docking them has been reported by some users to lead to bricking the console.
Looking to solve both the ergonomic and potential hardware damaging problems is the officially licensed Hori Split Pad Pro. First introduced in a bizarre cross marketing promotion with Daemon X Machina, a decent if not mind blowing mech combat game, Hori and Nintendo eventually realised that there was a lasting market for the controller and so started producing and selling a whole line.
The Split Pad Pro is exactly what it says it is a version of the Pro Controller that acts as Joy Cons in handheld mode. But there are significant differences. Most importantly the controllers are comfortable. Your hands rest in a more natural position reducing the strain on your wrists and the risk of that bane of office workers and gamers worldwide – RSI. It is not perfect, I still find the Xbox controllers and the new Dual Sense 5 Sony controllers to be angled a little more for a more natural position, but it is miles ahead of the position forced by the Joy Cons.
Like Joy Cons, the Split Pad Pro uses the superior asymmetric layout and unlike Joy Cons has a proper D-Pad instead of just buttons. The D-Pad is a nice feeling D-Pad with firm cardinal inputs, one of the better D-Pads out there. The analogue sticks are a standard height and again are a decent stiffness. The concave heads are covered in a nice rubber that does not feel like it will wear quickly. They are smooth and I would have preferred a textured rubber for additional grip but that is a minor quibble. The L3 and R3 buttons click in satisfactorily when activated and require a decent level of force to actuate preventing accidental clicks. The ABXY buttons though are not the greatest, feeling a bit loose, although they do have a quiet clock to them. They are not mushy they just move side to side in the housing a bit too much. The function buttons (home, capture, – & +) share the same size, materials, and rubber construction as the additional Turbo and Assign buttons. These feel a bit mushy, but since you will not be using them that often it is fine.
ZR, ZL and the shoulder buttons also display this odd dichotomy of high quality and slight lack of attention to detail that the face control show. The Shoulder Buttons feel mushy and loose, but the ZR and ZL have a short travel, but feel appropriately stiff and responsive. On the back are two additional remappable buttons, similar in functionality to an Elite’s paddles. These are located just by your ring fingers and using the Assign button can be mapped to whatever input you want. Since A & B are the most used buttons in most games, I remapped them to that. Remapping is simple, just hold down the assign button and press the button and the back button you want to assign it to, simultaneously. The Turbo button works in the same way. I have not found a use for it but have seen that people who play Animal Crossing say that it is a boon for many of the repetitive actions you must perform.
While the Split Pad Pro is Joy to use as it is exceptionally comfortable, it does have its Cons. First and foremost is the price. Priced at close to if not the same price, depending on where you get them from, as official Joy Cons this controller is expensive. This is especially egregious considering that the Split Pad Pro has no rumble motors at all let alone HD Rumble functionality nor do they have internal batteries so cannot be used undocked. One of the unanticipated joys of Joy Cons is the ability to use them on the couch with one in each hand and your arms at your sides. Additionally, Joy Cons can be used in MP games with each acting as a controller and these due to shape and lack of batteries and wireless functionality cannot. Of course, that also results in the addition of a proper D-Pad instead of buttons on the left controller so there are benefits. Given the lack of all this functionality and of course the associated hardware, the pricing does seem particularly out of step.
The final Con is just how large the controller makes the Switch seem. It adds what seems like an extra 50% to the size of the Switch. Luckily, the design ensures that the Switch can still dock with them attached. Unfortunately, if you want to take these on the go, you are going to have to find a large and deep third-party case or use whatever case you have and undock these controllers and let them rattle around in your bag.
The Hori Split Pad Pro is a good third-party controller for anyone who uses their Switch on the go often and who do not like the ergonomics of the Joy Cons. The drawbacks are not insignificant, but these do not detract from the excellent ergonomics and overall usefulness of the controller. I would not recommend this as a complete replacement for Joy Cons, especially if you really do play local MP on the go or like the wireless functionality, but if you play in handheld mode often and want something more comfortable, this is the controller to get.
You can purchase the Hori Split Pad Pro here for around £55
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