8Bitdo Bluetooth Controllers

8Bitdo Bluetooth Controllers

Bluetooth controllers have been a staple since the seventh generation of video game consoles. The PS3, XBox 360, and Wii all embraced bluetooth functionality as the industry standard. We may now take this technology for granted, but prior to this, wireless controllers were hit or miss. The Nintendo Gamecube had the excellent Wavebird controller, which is considered one of the best pre-bluetooth controllers. That was the exception, not the rule. Most wireless controllers were line-of-sight infrared, so you had to have the controller pointed at the receiver constantly, or the signal would not transmit. Sega had produced some wireless controllers for the Genesis and Saturn, which are fairly rare.

OEM Sega infrared controllers. Photo credit: http://www.cedmagic.com
Fast forward to today, and there are all kinds of new accessories produced for retro consoles. Enter 8Bitdo, a company that makes bluetooth controllers for a variety of systems. Obviously the older systems did not have onboard bluetooth capabilities, which is why they also produce bluetooth receivers, which you can plug into the controller ports.

Bluetooth receivers for original hardware

I have a couple of these controllers and receivers, and I am impressed with the overall product. The build quality is solid, the controllers feel nearly indistinguishable from originals. Third party controllers often feel too light and flimsy. One test that I use to judge the build of a controller is if you can twist it even a little bit. If so, that's not up to par. I am happy to say that these pass the twist test.
The directional pad can make or break a clone controller. It is the part of the controller that is most essential to the control. The resistance, texture, and wobble are all spot on. The button presses are nearly as similar, yet maybe with a little more "click" than the originals. Simply put, these are the best recreations of the tactility and feel that I have ever come across.

Their bluetooth controllers can also be used for modern devices, like Android, PC, Raspberry Pi, and in some cases, Nintendo Switch. This versatility is a strong selling point.

Now that TV screens are larger than they ever have been, people are sitting and gaming on their couches, instead of kneeling on the floor, tethered by a controller cord. Sitting on the floor for extended periods of time may conjure memories of being ten playing Super Mario Bros., but my body doesn't cope as well as it used to. The cords are not long enough to reach the couch, so Bluetooth is a welcome addition.

Some games are good standards to test for how impactful the lag is

Hardcore gamers may notice a tiny amount of input lag, only noticeable on games that require twitch reflexes, like some shoot'em ups or precision platformers, or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! I am fairly sensitive to input lag, and I will say that it is pretty negligible. This issue can be confused with lag caused by TVs. To mitigate this, make sure that the TV input that the console in plugged into is set to "game" mode, so that not picture processing is occurring. I had a hard time fighting Mike Tyson, but then again, I'm not sure if I'm as good as I remember.

Different models have different features. The earlier models were fairly basic, with the button configurations to match a SNES controller. The SN30 Pro has dual analog sticks,  L2 and R2 triggers, star and home buttons for the Nintendo Switch. Analogue sticks on a SNES controller feels odd to me, but I can see how it has its appeal for use with emulation.

8Bitdo has even released modification kits that allow you to convert original controllers into bluetooth controllers. The internal guts can be easily replaced with this reversible process. It even ships with an anti-static bag for storage of the original pcb. I suppose this is for those who absolutely must have original buttons, dpad, etc. They work exactly like all of the other controllers in their lineup.
Original controllers turned bluetooth
They continue to release new models like the M30 for the Sega Genesis, yet also compatible with . Every model seems to have a selection of colors available. I'm hoping for Sega Saturn iterations and, this is a long shot, PC-Engine versions. The company has been gaining a deserving reputation, and hopefully they will be able to address all legacy consoles. Time will tell.

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