Tech Up! 8Bitdo SF30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad Review

By Shane Jury 06.01.2018 6

As Nintendo's second entry into the console market, the successor to the original Nintendo Entertainment System would push the envelope in new and exciting ways, such as with 3D polygonal games like Starwing and the three-dimensional sprite work of the Donkey Kong Country titles. Although a lesser point of attention at the time, the Super Nintendo controller itself would become the benchmark for nearly all gamepads going forward, namely the diamond button layout and the shoulder triggers. Third Party accessories manufacturer, 8Bitdo, has mimicked this design greatly in previous products for general wireless controllers, which not so long ago received firmware updates to work on Nintendo's newest machine, Nintendo Switch. Now, its latest product has hit the shelves in the form of the SF30 Bluetooth Gamepad, which boasts Switch connectivity right out of the gate. How does it hold up to the other options available on Switch?

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Just from the image on the front of the box, it would be easy to mistake the SF30 for an official product, as apart from the logo alteration, it looks just like its inspirational model, save for the new analogue sticks and a couple of smaller additional buttons. Taking it out of the box reinforces this impression, as the satisfyingly chunky press of the main buttons and grip texture of the pad is a strong call-back, even more so to recent purchasers of a Nintendo Classic Classic: SNES.

Holding the controller for the first time gives notice to the new L2 and R2 digital triggers, both of which have smooth sloping grooves ready-made for fingers to rest on. This further improves the grip overall, which is secretly a blessing in disguise, because the positioning of the analogue sticks and the somewhat slippery texture of the controller surface make the SF30 slightly cumbersome to hold onto in intense play, especially for bigger hands. This can be adjusted to, thankfully, but there is a notable phase of acclimation there.

The analogue sticks take subtle inspiration from the PlayStation 4 controller in their positioning and how they feel, with a comfortable rubber structure and easy click inwards. Looking under the hood reveals more of the SF30's capabilities, with gyroscopic motion control as standard; perfect for the turf wars of Splatoon 2 or the devious tilting puzzles of Breath of the Wild, for instance. Rumble functionality is also here, and it actually does a respectable job of replicating Nintendo's HD rumble tech. The feedback has gone over several firmware updates as of this review write-up, but each one has only improved the rumble consistency and subtlety.

Image for Tech Up! 8Bitdo SF30 Pro Bluetooth Gamepad Review

The SF30 comes with a recharging cable, and like the Switch itself, uses the USB-C standard, ensuring quick re-energizing after lengthy use, which for a reported 15-to-20 hour battery life ensures minimal downtime.

To only speak of Switch support would be underselling the capability of the SF30 greatly, though, as it can connect to Android devices, laptops and computers, and essentially any games machine that supports Bluetooth input. The controller works on these devices just as well as on Nintendo Switch, even including Turbo functionality that strangely doesn't work on the latter.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the SF30 since reveal is if it would operate with the SNES Mini. With the 8Bitdo retro receiver that is sold separately, it is indeed possible, and with the functional home button now providing a quick exit to the menu, it is by far the most authentic and practical way of playing on SNES Mini wirelessly.

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Although the SF30 is labelled as a general use controller suitable for many Bluetooth supported gaming devices, its biggest selling point is Switch compatibility, and the d-pad does a great job of enforcing this. With many Switch Pro Controllers sporting issues with their d-pad input reliability, and the Joy-Con lacking one entirely, the SF30 is easily one of the best options on the market for this purpose. In a prime location of the controller and gratifying to press, playing games like Sonic Mania and Shovel Knight with this input is pure joy.

When paired with a Switch, the two extra smaller buttons on the bottom of the controller act as the screenshot and home buttons, respectively, and do so wonderfully. If not for the lack of an NFC reader, meaning no amiibo functionality, and the inability to switch on the console remotely, the SF30 would be a strong consideration for a Pro Controller replacement.

One notable flaw to mention with the controller is the initial connection reliability. When attached to a Switch or other device, the SF30 remains secured, but said receiver can take some time in finding the controller - an issue that has gotten better with each firmware update, but still of note. Another is a recent bug that stopped the SF30 from staying switched on when searching for a device, but that was thankfully ironed out, also, and does little to hinder the overall strengths of the controller.

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9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
Taking the best of the past and mixing with the most efficient of the present results in the 8Bitdo SF30 Bluetooth Gamepad being  one of the best options available on the market right now. With strong Nintendo Switch compatibility, and other multimedia purpose possibilities, this newest controller from 8Bitdo is a great option for both classic and modern games alike.

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Comments

It's definitely a good controller but I have found compatibility issues with the Switch. I've found some games make the controller go into overdrive with the rumble and it doesn't stop until I switch the controller off. Also, it doesn't seem to work for me at all with Sonic Mania. I don't know if there's an update that sorts these issues out, I haven't looked yet. 

I also find the joysticks too twitchy and awkward to use for first person shooters, but any other kind of game they're acceptible. 

Trepe said:
It's definitely a good controller but I have found compatibility issues with the Switch. I've found some games make the controller go into overdrive with the rumble and it doesn't stop until I switch the controller off. Also, it doesn't seem to work for me at all with Sonic Mania. I don't know if there's an update that sorts these issues out, I haven't looked yet. 

I also find the joysticks too twitchy and awkward to use for first person shooters, but any other kind of game they're acceptible. 


Yeah, I've read that some games have trouble accepting Pro controllers in Tabletop or handheld mode if there are joy-cons attached to the system, I know a recent Xenoblade chronicles 2 patch addressed this so I'd wager Mania has similar issues. 

I didn't have the rumble issue you described but it's probably just testing different games out. 8Bitdo have been pretty good with firmware updates so hopefully they sort that out soon too.

I had the rumble issue with the Resident Evil: Revelations games. I can't play those two games with it because they just trigger the rumble unfortunately. I don't know if it does it with any other games. I haven't tried the all yet. 

Oh really? Strange, I've used mine with the first Revelations game and didn't have any trouble, though I'm quite early in so that might have something to do with it. 

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Trepe said:
It's definitely a good controller but I have found compatibility issues with the Switch. I've found some games make the controller go into overdrive with the rumble and it doesn't stop until I switch the controller off. Also, it doesn't seem to work for me at all with Sonic Mania. I don't know if there's an update that sorts these issues out, I haven't looked yet. 

I also find the joysticks too twitchy and awkward to use for first person shooters, but any other kind of game they're acceptible. 


I have had the same issue with the first RER. Have you updated the firmware though? It is said to fix the rumble issues, though I have yet to try with RER. I played through most of Dragon Quest Builders with that controller without issues. I agree with the joysticks being twitchy though, for shooter type games, as i couldnt play RER with it. There's more to it though : try calibrating the sticks, and you'll see that there's a big dead zone to the outer edge of the sticks. the sticks actually register inputs over a square shaped area, not round, but the corners of that square are chopped off so that it makes a perfect circle in gameplay but that results in all of the outer area of each stick registering as MAX. Worse, I couldn't cali rate the right stick AT ALL before updating the firmware and, after updating, trying to calibrating it simpli crashes the OS altogether for good measure.

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I'm going to try updating it at some point but every time I turn my computer on it spends an hour updating itself. There's only so much updating I can stand in one go. Haha. 

The control sticks definitely aren't as good as I'd hoped. I was hoping it would be a good enough separate main controller, but I'm definitely going to have to fork out the extra expense for the Pro.

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