Since it was revealed during this year’s E3, I’ve been really looking forward to Hori’s new Nintendo Switch controllers. Named the Split Pad Pro, Hori’s new accessory offers potential solutions to the many issues that I have with Nintendo’s original Switch JoyCon. I knew there was a good chance that I would buy it Day One, and when local retailers had no updates on when it would be released here, I couldn’t help but order a pair from Play Asia, which cost me around 60% more. So is Hori’s Split Pad Pro worth the wait of 3-4 months? Was it worth the extra that I spent just to get my hands on the product early?
Right out of the box, what struck me first was how big each of the controllers were. The name “Split Pad Pro” is actually quite accurate, because this pair of controllers is as big as a Pro Controller. Surprisingly, each controller is quite light and feels like they were made of cheap plastic – plastic that you’d expect from a children’s toy and not the kind that you’d expect your video game accessories to be made of.
Using cheap plastic is a benefit though, because the Split Pad Pro is very light – without actually weighing the gadgets, I can say that each Split Pad is lighter than an original JoyCon. So despite an increase in bulk, using the Split Pad Pro makes the Nintendo Switch lighter in the hands compared to using the JoyCon.
As for the color scheme, the black plastic and buttons all go well with the black casing and bezel which all Nintendo Switch units have. I think how well the red secondary color is received will be a matter of the owner’s taste; personally, I like it. I can do without the Daemon X Machina “X” symbol and would prefer a normal X, but this is but a quibble of mine.
Inserting each of the game pads is quite easy – they fit just as regular JoyCon would. However, people who use thin protective cases may have problems with the Split Pad Pro as each controller has a thick plastic rest that serve as support for the tablet to prevent wobbling issues. These rests are a tight fit so if you’re using a TPU or clear plastic thin case, you will have to do away with them or cut off sections of them. This is also probably going to rip any customization skins that one may have. If not careful in sliding the two Split Pad Pro controllers in and out, these rests can also scratch the backplate of your Nintendo Switch.
In terms of the buttons, all the major ones (face buttons, shoulder buttons, D-Pad) are made of hard plastic and are all larger than what you have on the JoyCon and are very responsive and clicky. Due to the contour of the right Split Pad, the face buttons look like they’re raised at different levels but they’re all actually at the same level and have the same amount of travel. And while the D-Pad does not feel like a Nintendo D-Pad (which 8bitdo has been able to replicate), it feels really good and is much better than the directional buttons of the Joy Con. Meanwhile, the minor buttons (Home, Screenshot, + and -, Assign and Turbo) are made of a rubbery material which is quite alright, because Hori made the right decision to raise them high.
And as for the analog sticks, they are a little longer compared to the Pro Controller’s and so it threw me off a bit when I first used the Split Pad Pro, but I got used to them quickly. I definitely prefer these over what the JoyCon has, because I have more accurate control with these compared to the shorter JoyCon analog sticks. It’s too soon to say if the Split Pad Pro will have the same analog stick drift issue that is plaguing Switch JoyCon, and I sure hope it doesn’t.
The layout of the analog sticks against the face buttons, plus the larger face buttons and the built-in grips already make the Split Pad Pro my preferred controllers for handheld mode as these are just way more comfortable than the original JoyCon, but I can’t permanently retire the JoyCon due to what the Split Pad Pro is missing. While I can do without rumble, not having gyro controls can be quite painful. I was under the impression that motion controls will still work as the Switch tablet because the tablet itself has gyro, but it doesn’t with the Split Pad Pro.
The lack of gyro functionalities can be a dealbreaker, depending on what games you want to play. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has shrines with puzzles that can only Thankfully, each Split Pad controller can work with either JoyCon, so you can just replace the right one with the right JoyCon for those shrines. Unfortunately, for FPS games like Doom that uses gyro for aiming, you’re out of luck.
With the loss of features comes new ones – each Split pad comes with a set of Assign buttons and a Turbo button. The Turbo feature will save you a lot of effort when playing games that require mashing specific buttons, while the Assign button will allow you to do things that otherwise would not be possible without some finger gymnastics. Anything that requires you to take your thumb off the face buttons and place them on the right analog stick is now possible, e.g. jumping while aiming – just assign the jump button to the button underneath the controller and you’re good to go. It’s quite easy to assign and de-assign buttons to this new button, too. Although, to be quite honest, I have yet to make use of both these features as I play a lot in docked mode too, and I don’t want to get used to features that won’t be there for me when playing in docked.
Finally, the heft that the Split Pad Pro adds to the Switch makes it a lot less portable. I don’t know of any cases that are a good fit to a Switch with the Split Pad Pro attached, so right now I carry them separately in a pouch. This makes playing the Switch on the go require a little more effort – I can’t play the Switch with the Split Pad Pro while lining up at the bank, without having to fiddle with my stuff before and after, for example. The best use that I have for the Split Pad Pro is during times when I know that I’ll have a lot of time for handheld gaming: on an airplane, long road trips, a boring party, etc.
With all that said, I’m happy with the Split Pad Pro. I can now play most of the games that I own comfortably in handheld mode thanks to the larger buttons and sticks and the more ergonomic design. No question, the Split Pad Pro will be my handheld controller of choice moving forward.
The lack of gyro is a bother though, as well as it not fitting with current Nintendo Switch cases. If Nintendo or another 3rd party company comes up with a similar product (C’mon Nintendo, people will throw money at you for JoyCon Pros!) but with gyro functionalities, I’m probably going to toss these aside and use those instead. Despite this, I still highly recommend the Split Pad Pro to anyone who plays their Switch in handheld mode for prolonged periods of time.