8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller review – “Fab grip and battery life, but perhaps not fully maximised on mobile”

A solution to wonky virtual joypads and fingerprint-ridden mobile screens, Bluetooth controllers have been making things easy for trigger-happy gamers on the go who prefer physical buttons over on-screen ones. The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is no different – it certainly quenches that thirst for more tactile buttons when it comes to mobile gaming. But while it does its job at the most basic level, is it worth shelling out £59.99 for this third-party device?

Look and feel of the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller

If there’s one thing that makes the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller stand out – at least, for me – it’s the sleek charging dock that comes with it. While you can certainly charge up the controller using the USB-C port on the controller itself, there’s something innately cooler about propping it up on the charging dock and refilling its juice that way. It’s all purely for aesthetics and convenience, though, but that’s really all you need in a dock.

As for the controller itself, the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller boasts a robust build that feels incredibly comfortable. The fantastic grip and size were particular winners for me given how easily my arms (maimed by “tennis elbows” from playing too many games) hurt during long hours of gaming. A welcome boon, the comfort with which you can hold the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller for sessions at a time is everything you should look for in a third-party controller for your mobile device.

8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller performance

Now, the device is specifically geared toward Switch and Windows users, but for the purposes of this review, I focused solely on the mobile usability of the controller. In that sense, a lot of the buttons were unnecessary for me and only served to clutter the surface of the controller. Most of these features weren’t really applicable to mobile devices – in fact, even the Ultimate Software (that you can install on your phone both for iOS and Android) only had options for Switch and Windows. The app also lets you adjust the sensitivity of the stick and trigger, as well as vibration control and macros. You can also assign controller profiles for up to three players.

That said, the configurations on the app (like button mapping and the like) do still work on mobile. The only minor frustration I encountered here was that every time I switched on the controller to play my game, I had to open the app and re-sync to the controller in order to apply the button mapping settings I previously assigned. It might not seem like such a big deal for some – given how quickly you can boot up your game and the app anyways – but it’s still a step back to the pick-up-and-play habits of mobile gamers.

What’s the appeal?

Compared to my DualShock 4 Wireless Controller, the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller definitely trumps the PlayStation peripheral in terms of battery life. I’ve only ever charged the controller once and haven’t found the need to recharge throughout the duration of my testing. The 1000mAh Li-on battery supposedly clocks in at 22 play hours – which is just insane, and definitely a fabulous way to button-mash through fast-paced titles without the fear of dropping out of the game in the middle of the action.

Compared to the Switch-style nested controllers like the Razer Kishi, however, it might not be as convenient to use when you’re playing games with only partial controller support. For instance, while playing Diablo Immortal, you can hack and slash your way through hordes of demons during combat, but you’ll have to manually tap on the touch screen when you’re navigating through the menus. It’s definitely easier to just move your fingers a little bit from the nested Kishi controller onto the touch screen as opposed to putting your 8BitDo controller down to pick up your phone and tap on the screen instead.

Of course, if your phone’s size dimensions can’t fit the Kishi’s specs, or you’re simply in the market for a Bluetooth controller you can use across your computer, mobile device, and Switch, you can’t go wrong with the 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller. It’s now available from the official website and across the EU as well via Game Outlet Europe.

The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller lets you button-mash without worrying about your phone wobbling or losing power halfway through a match. The grip is comfy enough for hours of gameplay, and while the basic features are nothing too mindblowing, the controller does its job – if anything else, the charging dock lets you prop your controller up on display in your gaming space just because it looks cool.