8BitDo SN30 Pro for Xbox Cloud Gaming Review
If you’re familiar with other controllers from 8BitDo, then this version of the SN30 Pro controller won’t offer many surprises. Besides its Xbox-specific branding, sleek matte black colorway, and an emphasis on streaming games via Xbox Game Streaming on Android, it’s largely the same as its predecessors. However, its weight, overall design and very limited platform support as a phone controller may not be the best choice for most users looking to game on-the-go.
8BitDo SN30 Pro for Xbox Cloud Gaming
Design and Features
8BitDo’s SN30 Pro controller not only draws inspiration from Nintendo’s Super Nintendo/Super Famicom controller – it aims to emulate and improve the original experience by adding Bluetooth connectivity, dual analog sticks, and dual analog triggers.
Right off the bat, you’ll notice the controller’s layout closely resembles that of a PlayStation-style controller with the dual analog sticks parallel, instead of the offset layout typically found on Xbox controllers. This may be enough to turn Xbox purists away, but once you step back and look at where this controller excels, it’s not that big of an issue.
To start, the D-pad on 8BitDo controllers is top-tier, dare I say almost as good – if not better – than Nintendo’s famous D-pads in certain situations. The size and shape is almost identical to that of the SNES controller, with arrows indented on each of the cardinal directions and a small concave circle in the center to rest your thumb. The press of the D-pad is exactly what you want: just the right amount of press without feeling mushy, a satisfying click that doesn’t feel exaggerated like the D-pad on the Xbox One controller, and a nice texture that keeps your finger in place.
The face buttons opposite the D-pad are also similar to the SNES controller in the layout and spacing. They are color-coordinated to match Xbox’s color scheme and labeled as such with A/B and X/Y swapped to align with Microsoft’s controllers. The actual buttons aren’t quite as round on the top as they are on an Xbox controller, unsurprisingly taking design cues once again from the SNES controller’s face buttons. Although, it’s actually closer to the Super Famicom version of the controller as all the buttons are convex, instead of the SNES controller’s concave X and Y buttons. The individual buttons are quick to press and snap back to their default position. Overall, they feel good.
The bumpers and analog triggers on the top of the controller are the most awkward-feeling out of everything. The buttons themselves don’t necessarily feel bad, it’s more so the design decision made to keep the “SNES” feel of the controller that makes things interesting. Because of the thin profile of the controller, the dual bumpers and triggers are very thin and very wide to accommodate the design. This means your fingers have a tendency to slip off the triggers, as there is not much surface area to rest on when you’re pressing downwards. There’s not much of a lip to keep your finger in place, either, which I found contributed to overall issues with the triggers. Nevertheless, the actual triggers feel good to press. There’s a good amount of tension, and they are definitely of a quality build. I just wish they resembled more ergonomic modern trigger designs.
As with other SN30 Pro controllers, this one features a set of analog sticks at the base of the controller. These were one of the bigger surprises for me, as they actually feel sturdy and precise. Shape-wise they are a bit closer to the DualShock 4’s analog sticks, albeit a bit smaller. There’s a textured grip around the outside of the sticks and a comfortable indent for your thumbs to rest. They feel a bit stiffer than most analog sticks, but are very snappy when moved around.
What makes this SN30 Pro controller different from the host of other options and colorways is the Xbox-specific buttons. Namely, the large central Xbox button that pulls up your menu in-game and also allows the controller to re-pair to the last device it was connected to. There’s also the menu and view buttons in their respective locations below the central Xbox button, as well.
8BitDo also has two proprietary buttons: a star button on the bottom left side of the controller below the D-pad and the profile button opposite that, below the face buttons. The star button allows you to quickly switch buttons on the fly. For instance, if you wanted to swap the A and B buttons for a specific game, you can do that by holding the two buttons you intend to swap and press the star button. Buttons will remain customized until the controller is powered off. The profile button allows you to toggle on or off specific profiles that you can customize with 8BitDo’s Ultimate Software for PC and Mac.
Besides the actual buttons themselves, the SN30 Pro features a USB-C port for charging and connectivity. It’s got a 480mAh Lithium-ion battery that provides up to 16 hours of playtime with around 1-2 hours needed to recharge completely. It also preserves battery life by entering into a sleep mode after two minutes without connection, and 15 minutes without any activity when connected.
8BitDo’s SN30 Pro controller is also extremely lightweight. It weighs just 111g – or roughly a quarter of a pound. While this is ideal for something that you’ll likely be traveling with to play on-the-go, it becomes a bit unwieldy when you have a device connected to it using the included phone clip.
8BitDo offers a free downloadable software tool for PC and Mac called Ultimate Software.
By connecting your controller to the Ultimate Software app you have complete control over how every button, stick, and trigger behaves. 8BitDo allows you to remap every single input on the controller, build and save profiles for specific games, and even set up button macros. What’s even more impressive is the ability to adjust the range of the analog sticks and analog triggers to react more quickly.
Even without the software, there are still some handy adjustments you can make on-the-fly. As mentioned before, the star button on the controller allows you to temporarily swap two buttons for a specific game, if needed. Additionally, you can toggle the triggers between analog and digital with the star button. This is especially useful for games that don’t take advantage of analog triggers and you’d prefer the faster response time.
Okay, so how does it actually feel when playing Xbox games? I’ll be honest; it’s a bit weird. This controller favors retro games by nature of its design, with the D-pad and face buttons parallel to one another.
During my playtesting, I tried several different games across different genres. Still, I found that retro-inspired indie games that utilized the D-pad like Scourgebringer or more relaxing narrative-driven games like Spiritfarer were the sweet spot for this controller.
Jumping into FPS games like Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege or Halo: The Master Chief Collection just didn’t feel comfortable playing for long periods. Because the controller is so small, it feels very crowded with the number of inputs crammed onto its face. Additionally, the issues I have with the analog triggers are very apparent when you are trying to aim down sights and line up a shot. The lack of surface area on the triggers makes it feel especially difficult when you’re playing twitchy games that require quick movement and fast reflexes. That being said, I did really appreciate the analog triggers in Forza Horizon 4 where they performed extremely well since I could gradually add and reduce the pressure on them without necessarily taking my finger off the trigger.
The biggest issue I had while playing was actually the weight of the SN30 Pro controller – or lack thereof. Because it’s so lightweight, I actually became fatigued far quicker than with other controllers. The phone I connected it to actually weighed more than the controller, making it feel very top-heavy when in use. Having to constantly counterbalance the phone’s weight puts additional stress on my hands, causing them to get sore very quickly. This is also due to the fact that the SN30 Pro’s design isn’t very ergonomic for gaming today. If you’ve ever used a SNES controller for extended periods of time, you’ll understand the type of fatigue that can come with holding it.
I found myself adjusting the angle of the phone constantly to reduce fatigue. I would play for a bit, start to get sore somewhere, adjust the angle, and repeat. It’s fine for short play sessions, but if you’re looking to sink hours into games with this controller – I would look elsewhere.
Oddly enough, I found this controller most enjoyable when I wasn’t actually connected to the phone. If you can prop your phone up somewhere and play, it’s a much more enjoyable experience. And, since the SN30 Pro for Xbox works with Android tablets, this is a great way to stream your Xbox games while someone uses the TV, or while traveling. In addition to streaming Xbox games with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, the SN30 Pro also works with mobile games for Android that support controller input.
One additional important piece of information to note is that this controller only works on Android. That’s it. It does not work with Xbox consoles, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, or iOS.