Hori’s Split Pad Compact is my new favorite controller for handheld gaming on Nintendo Switch. It has everything you could want in a Joy-Con replacement: great sticks, an actual D-pad, ample triggers, remappable back buttons, and, most importantly, truly sublime ergonomics. After spending the past month using the Split Pad Compact almost daily, I can say that I’ll never go back to any other handheld-focused controllers or grips I own.
As a frame of reference, I have quite a few different options that I switched back and forth between up until now. Hori’s great Split Pad Pro was my go-to for awhile. Earlier this year, I started using NexiGo’s Gripcon and the Joypad (both are solid). I’ve also dabbled with various Switch grips, including form-fitting case grips and larger grips with conventional handles like Satisfye’s ZenGrip Pro.
Hori’s Split Pad Compact takes everything I love about a lot of the different controllers I’ve tried and puts it in one sleek package.
The Split Pad Compact is functionally the same as the Split Pad Pro, so if you’re happy with the existing Hori grip, there’s really no reason to upgrade. The difference between the two is the size of the controller. The name cues you in on this fact already, but the Split Pad Compact is a trimmed- and slimmed-down iteration on the Split Pad Pro. It offers an entirely different form factor.
Rather than chunky, conventional-looking handles, the Split Pad Compact looks like a wider Joy-Con on the front. The back of the each controller is where it gets its wonderful ergonomics, with a curved design that supports your palms and fingers. The main problem with the standard Joy-Con is that they are flat, which made them uncomfortable for me pretty quickly. The Split Pad Compact completely remedies this issue while still retaining a relatively small form factor.
The Split Pad Compact is ideal for those who think other Joy-Con replacements are simply too large. This was my primary complaint with the Split Pad Pro. It was a tad too bulky.
With the smaller form factor comes other slight changes. The analog sticks, face buttons, and triggers are marginally smaller than the Pro version. They are still larger than the Joy-Con inputs, and you’re still getting better analog controls than the short Joy-Con thumbsticks. That said, if you have large thumbs, the Split Pad Pro is still probably the better option. Meanwhile, the great D-pad on the Split Pad Compact looks and feels almost exactly the same as the one on the Split Pad Pro.
Outside of the standard inputs, the Split Pad Compact also has a pair of back triggers (FR and FL). They are conveniently located in the spot where my middle fingers rest while holding the Switch, which makes them feel natural and easy to use. These can be mapped on the fly with the “Assign” button. Like the Pro version, the Compact also has Turbo functionality–auto-press/fire at different speeds–that can be assigned to buttons on each side of the controller.
The controller is missing a few features found in Joy-Con controllers. It doesn’t offer rumble, motion controls, NFC support, or the IR camera. The Split Pad is powered by the Switch console itself, which means it doesn’t work when detached from the tablet. The Split Pad Compact is strictly for handheld play, but that’s really not a criticism. It does what it sets out to do extremely well.
The Split Pad Compact is officially licensed by Nintendo and available to order now at Best Buy for $50. It will be available at Walmart and Target at later dates. Two color schemes are available: gray/yellow and Apricot Red.
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