Nintendo has made it difficult for third-party Switch controllers to really shine, as they’re going to struggle to function in all of the different situations the Switch console itself can find itself in. Some change controllers may be trying to offer flexibility or simply relying on a wireless connection, while others try to emulate the Switch Joy-Con. Hori’s new Split Pad Compact controllers fall into the latter camp. They also follow the Hori Split Pad Pro with a more colorful design and reduced size. Ultimately, they serve as a size and performance upgrade for the Joy-Con while coming at a lower price point. Unfortunately, there are some compromises that prevent them from being a full replacement for Nintendo’s original controllers. Let’s dive in.
Hori Split Pad Compact photos
The Hori Split Pad Compact behaves exactly like Joy-Con at the base level. They plug right into the sides of a Nintendo Switch where Joy-Con belongs and get their power directly from the Switch. The grips bring a bit of Switch Lite color to the standard Switch consoles, with an Apricot Red model as well as one that combines a light gray front with a sort of sickly yellow back.
However, don’t be fooled by the “compact” in the name. These controllers offer significantly more room for larger hands than the actual Joy-Con. They offer larger shoulder buttons and triggers, and the thumbsticks are taller, bigger, and more textured. To me, that extra size is a significant improvement in comfort compared to the cramped Joy-Con. I still have room to grow taller (I’m 6ft 3) but the size here will probably prove more comfortable for most adults and even teens.
However, this increase in size has some bigger implications for Switch owners. For one, good luck fitting your new Switch and Split Pad Compact combo into a switch housing if you have already picked up a form-fitting one. The Split Pad Compact also doesn’t fit in the Joy-Con grip, although it wouldn’t work even if it could, as it only supports a direct connection to the Switch itself – no USB, no Bluetooth, no Wi-Fi.
On to the topic of Split Pad Compact Not you won’t find an HD rumble (or standard definition rumble, for that matter), an NFC reader, an IR camera (though the Joy-Con really does ever use that), or a gyro sensor. While Rumble is convenient to have, the gyro sensor can be critical for certain games. For example, you will never defeat all shrines The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild Without this gyroscope, aiming arrows can prove more difficult.
However, the Hori Split Pad Compact offers something to make up for what it lacks. There are two buttons on the back of each grip that can be mapped to any face button on that grip. Unfortunately, while this is useful, it means you can’t map any of the ABXY buttons to the left grip’s back button, and any D-Pad buttons to the right grip’s. Hori tops this off with a turbo button on each grip that can automatically and quickly repeat an input while a button is held down.
An interesting little extra to the Split Pad Compact controller’s design is a small piece of plastic that extends to overlap the back of the Switch itself and protrudes from the back. This part is probably aimed at protecting the controller trigger when the Switch is placed on a table, while reducing the chance of damaging the Switch’s controller rails with the extra leverage that the larger controllers offer.
Hori Split Pad Compact – gaming and performance
The Hori Split Pad Compact is a competent controller set that offers a performance upgrade over the standard Joy-Con controllers. The additional freedom of movement on the joysticks makes it much easier to carry out sensitive and precise movements. When playing Breath of the Wild, I didn’t stray as often while stumbling along the edge of an embankment – something that often happened with the Joy-Con’s clunky joysticks.
The face buttons are larger and easier to land with a quick thumb press, and all buttons have a little more play before pressing than those on the Joy-Con. They have a bit of resistance without feeling mushy, but they can wobble a bit. That doesn’t make them any less reliable in combat. Although the triggers have a bit more range of motion, Hori stuck with non-analog, which lacks sensitivity.
The buttons on the bottom of the Split Pad Compact are an effective extra tool in the arsenal. They easily map to a face button and let me keep my hands on the analog sticks for consistent control. In Breath of the Wild, I was able to combine them with Turbo on the right control to perform the infinite run trick, which usually involves holding down the D-Pad and tapping B repeatedly – a maneuver that’s usually terribly difficult to pull off is without having to let go of the thumbsticks.
While the Hori Split Pad Compact improves on basic controls, the lack of certain control features holds it back as a full replacement for the original Joy-Con. Not being able to aim or control the game with a gyroscope proved problematic, and I had to switch back to the Joy-Con to complete challenges (FWIW: It’s possible to use a Split Pad Compact grip on one side of the Switch and a Joy-Con on the other to reap some of the benefits of Hori’s controls while retaining gyroscopic aiming). Since the Split Pad Compact also only works when connected to the Switch, they are of no use when the console is docked.
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