PowerA Review Roundup: Vol I

Last week, I received a care package from the great team at PowerA. They sent over some Nintendo Switch Enhanced controllers and some other neat gaming products for me. I was able to test out some of these new PowerA Enhanced controllers over the past week. I also already happened to own older models of the wired and wireless controller to compare to these updated versions. I put together this review of the products I’ve been testing out for the past week, or so.

Let me start off by saying that the Nintendo Switch Pro controller is an amazing controller. I love the way it feels in my hands and it’s most definitely my favorite Nintendo Switch controller (way better than the Joy-Con controller). I actually waited a few months after buying my Switch to get a Pro controller, because I had seen that this Splatoon 2 edition was coming out (my second set of Joy-Con controllers were also Splatoon 2 edition — pink and green).

The Nintendo Switch Pro controller is usually pretty expensive (MSRP $69.99). I recommend Switch owners own at least one Switch Pro Controller — for yourself. I have the one Splatoon 2 Switch Pro Controller. When I wanted a second Pro controller for playing with friends I started looking into third party controllers. PowerA is one company that is making some great third-party gaming gear: headphones, controllers and accessories.

Prior to receiving my care package, I already owned two PowerA Nintendo Switch Enhanced controllers. A Zelda Enhanced Wired Controller and the KK Slider Enhanced Wireless controller. I was sent the updated versions of these controllers, plus one Nano Enhanced Wireless controller (which is basically a Switch Pro Controller at ½ scale of the original).

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller

PowerA Wired Enhanced controllers are fine, as long as you are close enough to your Switch dock while playing games on the TV. These run for half the price of the Wireless controllers (MSRP $24.99), and you can sometimes find them even cheaper. The downside is they only work in docked mode, since you cannot plug them straight into the Switch — but that’s fine since I only really use my wireless Pro controller on docked mode anyways.

There are a few small differences between my older Zelda wired Pro controller and the new Mario one.

Mario (New Style)

  • Headphone Jack
  • Two Mappable Back Buttons
  • Smaller Joystick Grips
  • Higher Rise on Buttons

Zelda (Old School)

  • No Headphone Jack
  • No Mappable Back Buttons
  • Large joystick grips
  • Lower rise on buttons

The design on these wired controllers hasn’t changed much, other than those small additions to the new one (headphone jack, mappable back buttons, joystick grip size and button position). These controllers both won’t wake the Switch up from rest mode, and they both feature a lightweight design, with tough buttons and stiff joysticks.

These wired controllers sport a metallic D-pad with no HD rumble or motion controls. No HD rumble is ok, and I’m pretty sure most third-party controllers don’t carry that feature. However, the motion controls are critical to certain games. Sure, you can play Spaltoon 2 without motion controls (by turning them off in the menu), but that’s not the way the game was meant to be played. Of course having a wired controller with motion controls can lead to a broken Switch on the ground.

The Joysticks on these and most of the PowerA collection are a bit taller than the official Switch Pro Controller’s Joysticks giving you more control in certain situations. This is especially helpful in a games like Skate City and Olli Olli, where you pull off tricks by flicking the stick in different directions. USB-C charging would also be ideal for these wired controllers, since most controllers today are using it — also, less cables around.

PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controller

PowerA’s Wireless Enhanced controller collection does offer a few more features than their wired counterparts. Also, any wireless controller can become a wired controller while charging, so if you’re in desperate need of wires you can just plug one of these bad boys in to your dock (unless it’s battery operated). The PowerA Enhanced Wireless Controllers are still $20 less than an official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller (MSRP $49.99), and even have some extra features.

I’m glad that I have an older version of this controller too. I have my girlfriend’s KK Slider Animal Crossing: New Horizons Wireless Enhanced Controller. They have made some significant improvements from my ACNH controller to the new Matte Black version. Although I love the design of the KK Slider version we will most likely start using this new Matte Black one instead.

Matte Black (New)

  • Rechargeable (USB-C)
  • Metallic D-pad
  • Matte Black (gripped finish)
  • Updated, more Sturdy

KK Slider (Old School)

  • AA Batteries (not rechargeable)
  • Plastic D-pad
  • Shiny, Plastic Body (no grip)
  • Older, Clunkier model

Since my KK Slider Wireless Enhanced controller is much newer than my wired Zelda Enhanced controller, it also has two mappable back buttons. So does the brand new Matte Black version. The wireless Enhanced controllers both don’t feature HD Rumble, but they do have motion controls. Also, both can power up the Switch (as long as they’ve been paired to that Switch before).

I will say again that I do like the longer joysticks on all of these PowerA controllers. The mappable buttons is also a nice touch, since the Switch Pro controller doesn’t have that feature. With these enhanced wireless controllers I’m able to map my most used buttons to the back of the controller, which is helpful once you get used to it.

I really enjoyed this feature after I purchased and got used to using my PS4 back button attachment, even though they have nothing like that on the PS5. I would definitely choose the new wireless enhanced controller over the wired versions.

PowerA Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller

I was extremely excited when I saw this Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller in my care package. It’s just so cute at half (or three quarters) the size of my regular-sized Pro controller. This controller reminds me of my Little Martin Acoustic guitar (which is a ¾ size scale model of a regular Martin guitar).

I love that nothing is sacrificed or made smaller to fit onto this controller. The buttons, joysticks and triggers are just more compact, but not scaled down. Everything is just a little closer together. The Nano also restarts your Switch from sleep mode, which is a feature everyone wants from any wireless controller. Who would want a TV remote that you have to get up and power on the TV manually before using it to control the television?

I thought this would be my new favorite controller, but playing more competitive games (Overwatch, Splatoon 2) on it was a bit tough. This controller is great as an indie and laid back/chill game controller. It’s also great to use when playing handheld mode with the kickstand up. I can see this as a travel Switch controller — it even comes with a handy little travel sack.

The Nano is ideal for kid gamers, with their small hands. I bought a Hori PS4 mini gamepad for my nephew so that he could play LEGO games with me on my PlayStation 4 back when he was younger. The PS4 DualShock controller is a weird shape for kids, and the mini gamepad is perfect for their small hands. The Nano is a great alternative to the Joy-Con controllers for kids.

Final Thoughts

Thank you PowerA!

I had a great time testing out all of these controllers and noticing the subtle little differences while playing different games. All of these would be great additions to your Switch controller collection, if you are looking for more controllers to have around for when we can have our friends over again. You’re going to need all of these and more controllers for your future Smash Bros parties when we’re all vaxxed.

Although I prefer the feel of my Nintendo Switch Pro Controller to these PowerA Enhanced controllers, the PowerA controllers are a great alternative. I remember some of the wacky designs of third party controllers back from the Nintendo 64 and Gamecube days. Companies like MadCatz were redesigning controller styles in the strangest ways possible. I remember using some of the controllers below at friend’s houses.

I do like that PowerA did truly enhance their Switch controllers with two of their very own features. The first feature is the two mappable back buttons. Although they take some getting used to, they are extremely helpful in certain games. For instance, I mostly used my PS4 back button attachment for shifting gears in Gran Turismo Sport, it just feels better than pushing Cross (or X, as I’ve always called it) and Square.

The second “enhancement” is that slightly taller joystick. It’s a small adjustment, but it is noticeable. It allows for more precision and control — a great additions for shooters and games that rely heavily on quick joystick movements. These small enhancements are what give PowerA an identity. They aren’t just a company trying to make cheaper or strange versions of our first party controllers. They are actually thinking about it and adding something new. They’re adding things that some gamers may even prefer.

After using these PowerA controllers for some time now, I still love going back to my Pro controller. I do see myself using the Enhanced Wireless and Nano Enhanced Wireless for certain gaming experiences. I’m definitely going to choose PowerA over my Pro controller for the Olli Olli games. I will also try out the Nano with most indie titles just to see how it feels.

It’s also great to have extra controllers around in case you get stuck with low battery. Rather than play wired while charging you can charge your Pro controller and continue where you left off with one of these.

The Nintendo Switch is great in that it comes with two controllers out of the box — the Joy-Con Controllers which can be used as one or split into two (for some games). However, like with any console you’re always going to end up buying more and more controllers. In my PS4’s lifecycle I got up to four or five controllers total.

It’s great to have a good third-party alternatives from PowerA.

As I stated in the beginning of this article, some but not all of these controllers were provided to me by PowerA. However, that in no way affects my opinion on these controllers. There were also some extra surprises in that care package form PowerA and I look forward to talking about those in the coming weeks.

2 thoughts on “PowerA Review Roundup: Vol I

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