For a long time I have considered purchasing a controller to bring with me on the road when playing emulators on my Android phone, but never ended up pulling the trigger for one reason or another. I was concerned that bringing a Bluetooth controller around with me would be unwieldy and inconvenient, that is until the 8Bitdo Zero caught my eye. At a mere 50 grams, with 73mm x 35mm x 10mm dimensions, this pint-sized controller could easily fit in my pocket, permitting me to game almost anywhere. After trying it out for a couple weeks, I have decided to review the product for the good of my readership, considering hardware is as important as software. Just to be clear, I am NOT receiving any compensation for this review… though I would love to 8Bitdo ;).
The first thing I noticed when holding the 8Bitdo Zero is the quality of the plastic; it feels very smooth and has a nice finish. It is comparable to the Wii’s Pro Controller in that the back side is matte with a fairly glossy front. It is available in two styles, white with red accents and white with blue accents. I purchased the blue, a more basic design, but the red has a few stripes for the snazzier consumer looking for a Famicom vibe.
The controller has 8 buttons in an SNES style layout, with four face buttons, two shoulder buttons, and the obligatory start and select buttons. The face buttons are accurate and deliver a satisfying click with each press, making it mildly noisy, but avoiding the common pitfall of mushy buttons.
The shoulder buttons are also very responsive along their entire length; this is crucial considering the tiny size of the controller may result in differing finger placement according to hand size.
Perhaps the most important aspect to me in any controller is the D-Pad, and the Zero does a pretty damn good job. The Zero’s 8-way D-pad is pretty large, taking up most of the left side of the game pad. The D-pad is responsive even in precision platformers, fighters and shmups, which are always the litmus test for D-pads in my opinion. Though it is not a truly elite D-pad, it is definitely well made… and yes, I could do Shoryuken with it. I will say I only tried out one 8Bitdo Zero controller, and I know from experience retro third party controller companies can sometimes struggle to make a consistent D-pad, so use caution of course. In reading other reviews however, I noticed a generally positive consensus for the D-pad, which is a great sign.
Aside from the overall great build quality, I would be negligent to not address the most important question: Is this thing comfortable? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Despite its miniscule size, the 8Bitdo Zero feels comfortable and plays well. I have pretty big hands and I was able to play for hour-long stretches without cramping up. The lack of cramping is likely due to the fact that the small size naturally leads to using the fingers, rather than the hands, to hold the Zero. Holding it in this way and its negligible weight makes the task of using the controller incredibly low-effort. The cramping will come however for those with big hands, after a multi-hour session my left wrist did start to tighten up a bit
The size also lends itself to incredible portability. Once in my pocket, I can barely feel the Zero, which is exactly what I was looking for; though this could lead to some unwanted trips to the washer and dryer. It even comes with a handy little wrist strap that can double as a means to attach it to a key chain.
In addition to build quality, portability, and cool wrist strap, the Zero also has pretty solid battery life; one charge will yield around 18-20 hours of gaming. The battery can easily be recharged via MicroUSB cable, be it the tiny one included, or one of the millions in the average persons night stand.
Despite having a MicroUSB cable, the controller is strictly Bluetooth, which is completely fine considering it is clearly intended primarily for use with mobile devices. It is incredibly easy to pair with devices, when following the directions on the back of the packaging, and only disconnected on me one time in the past two weeks.
Overall, I highly recommend the 8Bitdo Zero and consider it a must have for gamers on the go. Due to its size and the availability of larger controllers of similar build quality, I would not recommend this as a primary Bluetooth controller for home use, but it certainly is fully functional and can serve this purpose well if it were the only option. Despite this, 8Bitdo Zero’s compatibility with Android, Windows, iOS, and Mac, as well as its $16.99 price tag make it a no brainer to add to any collection.