Two minutes of review
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is one of the better third-party pads for the Nintendo Switch. Chances are you’re buying one because you want a full-size controller but can’t stand the $ 59.99 / £ 54.99 cost of the Nintendo Switch Pro controller.
Many of you should stick to the first-party pad. It costs just $ 10 more (the PowerA is around $ 40 / $ 50) and has better quality buttons, rumble, NFC, and a rechargeable battery.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is not a problem, however, and you will often find some of the many design variations of this pad that sell well below the original online price.
That breadth of designs can also be part of the appeal, especially if you’re shopping for someone who is a little younger and goes mad at the sight of a pad that looks like a Poké Ball.
PowerA sent us the Apex Legends version of the Enhanced Wireless Controller to try out. The highlights include a solid build quality, a handsome D-Pad and comfortable additional buttons that can be assigned so that they act like all main buttons.
This provides an indication of the functionality of a much more expensive pad, although you can’t swap out the primary button mappings like you would with a Joy-Con or Switch Pro controller.
You have to use AA batteries, there is no rumble. And while the latency on the switch is fine, in our experience the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller won’t work well if you try to use it with your phone instead.
8BitDo offers some compelling alternatives to the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller. But you can make it a lot worse, and this pad is great for those who mostly use their Switch in handheld mode but need a pad for the occasional docked session. And one that doesn’t cost an awkward chunk of the money you originally spent on the console.
Design: the pad with a thousand faces
The marketing of the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller depends heavily on involvement. Sure, you can get solid color pads, but the branded pads get more attention.
This Apex Legends version is one of the less noticeable PowerA brands. There are stacks of Pokemon Enhanced Wireless Controllers, Animal Crossing designs, Mario designs, and more.
These faceplates cannot be hot-swapped, and the colors of the buttons and fonts also vary between models. The Cuphead Enhanced Wireless Controller, for example, uses a lot of orange plastic, so it wouldn’t look quite right with a different bezel on top anyway.
Build quality: mixed results
Lightweight is one of the first things you will notice after purchasing the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller. It weighs 159 g without batteries, almost 100 g less than the Switch Pro controller and Xbox Series X pad (without batteries).
Your initial assumption might be that PowerA uses cheap, thin plastics. However, this is mainly due to the lack of rumble motors of the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller.
These sit in the pad handles of other controllers of this type. These handles are empty here. While the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller feels like an Xbox pad, the weighting is different.
Light weight is good for kids and fatigue-free play, but here a significant portion of the weight makes the pad appear to tip off your grip, not in. This is because the batteries are in the back.
It’s comforting, however, that there is an obvious reason for the pad’s light weight. The plastics of the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller are not particularly thin and there is no creaking from torsion when you twist the pad around in your hands.
This does not mean that the construction of the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is perfect. The two analog sticks have rubberized surfaces and feel eerily similar to the Xbox series console sticks, but all other buttons and controls use simple plastics. First-party pads usually use slightly different materials for the A / B / X / Y buttons because the feel of them is so important.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller’s face buttons feel slightly simple and have a more hollow feedback than those on an inexpensive pad.
That said, the D-Pad is solid and should be a big upgrade if you love 1v1 fighters but hate playing them on Joy-Cons.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller has two additional buttons on the back, one on each handle.
These offer some of the features of a much more expensive console controller and help mask the fact that you can’t customize the button layout as much as you would on a Nintendo Pro controller.
You long press a button in the middle of the back until the front LED lights up white. Press one of the main keys and then one of the back keys to copy the entry.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller does not have multiple profiles that allow you to quickly switch between assignments for different games. However, this process only takes a few seconds and the buttons are right under your middle fingers. It’s one of the pad’s best features.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller is missing some important extras from the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. There’s no rumbling at all and no NFC scanning amiibo toys.
We can live without NFC, but the lack of rumble seems a shame when the rival 8BitDo Pro has 2 rumble motors. Sure, this pad doesn’t have the more refined HD rumble of the Nintendo Switch Pro controller, but a completely rumble-free controller might feel a little too sluggish for some of you.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller uses AA batteries instead of a rechargeable cell. According to PowerA, you can work with a couple for up to 30 hours. This of course depends on the quality of the batteries used. PowerA bundles a pair of OEM Duracells.
If you are using a lot of batteries, consider buying a quality kit like Eneloop that holds about a charge, as well as a non-rechargeable battery.
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller also lacks a USB port. One could argue that it doesn’t need one since there is no battery to charge. In this way, you can also use the pad with a wired cable.
Input lag vs joy-cons
The entry delay is not that easy to test. It’s the gap between pressing a button and the response of the switch on the screen.
We wanted to find out if the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller had worse latency than the standard Joy-Cons. So we used a 240 fps camera to see if there was any noticeable difference.
We assessed this by counting the frames between a full press of the button and the first frame of the animation when switching between items in the Switch menu. It’s not as accurate a way of measuring latency as connecting an LED to the controller’s circuitry (which gives a clearer visual cue of a button press), but we’re here to get an idea of the relative difference in responsiveness, not of absolute numbers.
The Joy-Con input appeared on the screen after 32 frames, indicating an input delay of 133 ms. The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller required 40 frames, which indicates an input delay of 160 ms. In practice this means that the PowerA can be two frames behind the Joy-Cons in a 60 fps game or a single frame in a 30 fps game.
We didn’t find the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller’s latency to be annoying or noticeable, but third-party pads like this tend to have a slightly longer input delay.
Trying to use the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller as a pad for your phone will make things worse. We tried two androids and the delay was unbearable. The pad’s front LEDs also kept blinking one after the other, indicating that it remained in pairing mode even when connected, which may be the cause of the problem.
We also tried the PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller with a Mac. It worked perfectly and had the same feeling of responsiveness that you get when you play on your Switch.
Buy it when …
They like the themed faceplates
PowerA makes stacks of Enhanced Wireless Controllers with different faceplates so you can wear your Apex Legends / Doom Eternal / Pokemon / Animal Crossing fandom on your sleeve. Many of them are far cuter than the Apex Legends discussed here. So look at the lineup.
You want an Xbox-style pad
The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller may be an alternative to the Nintendo Switch Pro controller, but it is more similar to the shape of the Xbox pads. Its weight is far lighter, which doesn’t give it the comforting weight of a first-party pad. However, this is mainly because there is no rumble using relatively heavy motors.
Occasionally you will want to use an alternative to the Nintendo Pro Controller
We don’t think this pad is as good as the Nintendo Pro Controller. And for a full-blooded recommendation it would have to be a little cheaper than it is. However, the Enhanced Wireless Controller makes sense if your switch is used in a mixed manner and places a heavy load on the handheld mode. Therefore, spending a lot on the Nintendo Pad does not make sense. And offers for pads in this series seem to be quite common.
Don’t buy it if …
You want to rumble
The Enhanced Wireless Controller does not contain any rumble motors at all. If you want to rumble at a reasonable price, check out the 8bitdo Pro 2 instead.
You also want a pad for your Android
PowerA doesn’t make a lot of noise, but the Enhanced Wireless Controller also works as a Bluetooth controller for other platforms. It coped perfectly with our test Mac, but two Android phones didn’t like everything that led to bizarre delays in inputting.
You want a battery
The Enhanced Wireless Controller uses AA batteries, not built-in rechargeable batteries. This could be good news if the pad is left unused for months, as it is one less thing to make a mistake by neglecting it. But most of us probably prefer a rechargeable cell these days.
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