Nintendo made it difficult for third-party Switch controllers to really shine, as they’ll struggle to function in all the different situations the Switch console can find itself in. switch controllers it may try to offer flexibility or just rely on a wireless connection, while others will try to mimic 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 capacity upgrade to the Joy-Con and come at a lower price. Unfortunately, there are some pros and cons that prevent them from being a complete replacement for the original Nintendo controllers. Let’s delve into.
Hori Split Pad Compact – Photos
The Hori Split Pad Compact acts as a Joy-Con at the basic level. They sit right on the sides of a Nintendo Switch where the Joy-Con would go, drawing their power directly from the Switch. The grips bring a bit of Switch Lite color to standard Switch consoles, with one Apricot Red model and one that pairs a light gray front with what I can only describe as some kind of sickly yellow rear.
However, don’t be fooled by the “compact” in the name. These controllers offer much more room for larger hands than the actual Joy-Con. They provide larger shoulder buttons and triggers, and the joysticks are taller, larger, and textured. For me, this extra size is a considerable improvement for comfort compared to the small Joy-Con. There’s still room to go bigger in my mind (I’m 6-foot-3), but the size here will probably work out more comfortably for most adults and even teens.
However, that size increase has some bigger implications for Switch owners. For one thing, good luck installing your new Switch and Split Pad Compact combo into a switch case if you already chose a tight one. The Split Pad Compact doesn’t fit on the Joy-Con grip either, though it wouldn’t work even if it could, because it only supports a direct connection to the Switch itself, no USB, no Bluetooth, no wireless.
Continuing the theme of things, the Split Pad Compact No offer, you won’t find HD rumble (or standard definition rumble, for that matter), an NFC reader, an IR camera (though when do you actually ever actually use the Joy-Con, anyway), or a gyro sensor. Rumble is convenient to have, sure, but the gyro sensor can be critical for certain games. For example, you will never beat all the shrines in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild without that gyroscope, and aiming arrows can be more difficult.
However, the Hori Split Pad Compact offers something to make up for what it lacks. Around the back of each grip are two buttons that can be assigned to any of the corresponding grip’s face buttons. While useful, unfortunately that means you can’t map any of the ABXY buttons to the left grip’s back button, nor the D-pad buttons on the right grip. Hori tops this off with a Turbo button on each grip that can automatically and rapidly repeat an input while a button is held.
An interesting little extra in the design of the Split Pad Compact controller is a small piece of plastic that extends to overlap the back of the Switch and protrudes out the back. This part is likely intended to protect the trigger of the controller when the Switch is placed on a table, while also reducing the likelihood of damaging the Switch’s controller rails with the extra leverage that larger controllers provide.
Hori Split Pad Compact: gaming and performance
The Hori Split Pad Compact is a competent set of controls that offers a performance upgrade over standard Joy-Con controls. The extra room to move on the joysticks makes delicate and precise movements much easier to execute. Playing Breath of the Wild, I didn’t find myself drifting off course as often while teetering off the edge of a cliff, something that often happened with the Joy-Con’s clumsy sticks.
The face buttons are larger and easier to position with a quick thumb press, and all buttons have a bit more play before pressing than the Joy-Con. They have a little resistance without feeling soft to press, but they can move a little. This doesn’t make them any less reliable in the middle of combat. Although the triggers have a bit more room to move, Hori stuck with the non-analog ones that lack sensitivity.
The buttons on the bottom Split Pad Compact are an effective additional tool in the arsenal. They’re easy to assign to a face button and allow me to keep my hands on the analog sticks for constant control. In Breath of the Wild, I was able to combine them with Turbo on the right controls to pull off the infinite dash trick that normally involves holding down the D-Pad and repeatedly tapping B, a maneuver that’s excruciatingly difficult to pull off normally without having to let go of the thumbsticks.
Although the Hori Split Pad Compact improves on the basic controls, the lack of certain control features holds it back as a complete replacement for the original Joy-Con. Not being able to aim or control the game with a gyroscope proved problematic, and I had to go back to the Joy-Con to complete the 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 get some of the benefits of Hori’s controls while retaining gyro aiming). Since the Split Pad Compact also only works while connected to the Switch, they are of no use while the console is docked.