PowerA Nano Wireless Switch Controller (Pre-Order) | $50 | GameStop
Nintendo caters to youngins’ and adults alike, but with the Nintendo Switch’s portability, the beloved masters of handheld had to keep its default controllers—those dreaded Joy-Con—pretty small. And at first, I rejoiced: Finally, I can blame my embarrassing edge-guarding gaffes in Smash Brothers on something other than lag, which isn’t such a great excuse when you’re playing locally.
I just have to have a full-sized controller for competitive games. I love the official Switch Pro Controller by Nintendo, and PowerA’s new wireless Nano controller looks like its newborn baby. They have a lot in common, but size aside, there are key differences that’ll determine whether it’s right for you.
The Black model PowerA sent me has a similar shade to Nintendo’s but without the cool translucent effect and rubberized grips. It’s smooth and matte all around save for the reflective gray plate where the shoulder buttons sit. It’s incredibly comfortable in-hand, too, thanks to its lighter weight.
Most third-party controllers suffer from the same deficiencies: they lack NFC for amiibo, IR, and motion detection. Save for that last one, things are mostly status quo with the PowerA Nano. I’m not sure how manufacturers decide whether they’ll implement these features in their products, because there are several out there—some much cheaper than the Nano—that support all of them to varying degrees of quality. It’s especially saddening considering the PowerA Nano costs $50, which is just $9 shy of the Pro Controller’s going price these days. It’s possible the more constricted internal space prevents PowerA from implementing the electronics, but their other controllers run the same script.
Ergonomically, the PowerA Nano is much more forgiving to my joints than the Switch’s Joy-Con. My larger-than-average hands are still cramped for style, but the added grip allows me to contour my fingers around the backside, giving me much better leverage and stability while gaming. My thumbs and indices reach where they need to, mostly, except I have to stretch a bit too far in the wrong direction to hit the A button. It’s nothing a quick shift can’t handle, but I find myself readjusting my hand more often than I’m used to. This controller might be especially problematic for the few of you monsters out there still using the claw technique, which I could never pull off even with my double-jointedness, so the point is moot in my case.
Despite the smaller overall construction, you get a full-size D-pad, buttons, and analog sticks. I found the face buttons to be a tad stiffer than the Switch’s pro controller, which itself is a notch too stubborn for me, but nothing that’d cause you to miss a combo unless you’re super light-handed. The other buttons have great feedback and travel, and the analog sticks swirl around in their holding bays smoothly, deadzone be damned. I’ll need more time on the sticks to see how quickly that changes under normal wear and tear.
You’ll also get a few more buttons than you bargained for, and that’s the key selling point over the Pro Controller. Dubbed “Advanced Gaming” buttons, you can map these rear-facing buttons to whichever action you want in the Switch’s controller menu, but I couldn’t do that as of writing, possibly because it’s not out yet.
There’s one each on the lower legs of the grips, flanking a third one in the center. They’re easily accessible with your pinky and ring fingers if you’re holding them normally, which is yet another negative for claw’ers. And compared to the other buttons on the PowerA Nano, there’s far less travel, albeit with more tactile feedback to compensate.
If you don’t care about amiibo or IR in general, the PowerA Nano is a fine controller to get off the Joy-Con blues. The $50 price point is reasonable for the build quality and features in play, though that deal looks less lucrative in the face of recent discounts to Nintendo’s official offering. (Editor’s note: keep an eye on Kinja Deals
Still, the compact size is a plus that some will happily pay the premium for, and I just love having rear-facing paddles on a Nintendo console. The 20-hour battery life is also plenty roomy. And can I just quickly call out how much I appreciate PowerA’s commitment to the K.I.S.S. mantra? There aren’t any sharp edges or turbo buttons screaming “dubstep” every time you glance at it, and that’s a plus for me.
You can pre-order the PowerA Nano in Grey Neon or Black at GameStop today and look forward to its arrival at some point later this year. PowerA includes a travel bag making it easier to tote on the road, too.