PowerA Fusion for Nintendo Switch Review: The Elite Switch Controller Has Compromises
“The PowerA Fusion is a solid third-party option as long as you can easily swap key features for customization.”
Handy back paddle
Missing main features
Reduced battery life
The PowerA Fusion is possibly the closest we can get with an Xbox Elite Series 2 equivalent for the Nintendo Switch. The third-party controller is packed with bells and whistles, making it feel like a predictive redesign of the best Nintendo Switch controllers.
Given that Nintendo often moves sideways rather than forward with technology, there’s a lot to explore here. The PowerA Fusion comes with mappable back paddles, interchangeable joysticks, and other customization options never seen before on an officially licensed Nintendo controller. When it comes to third party equipment, there is always some level of tradeoff. Some lack of basic features provide a level of give and take that players need to weigh before making an expensive commitment.
The whole pack
The PowerA Fusion costs $ 100, which is more expensive than a standard Switch Pro controller. When you look at the whole package, it’s easy to see why. The box doesn’t just contain a wireless controller. There’s a paddle backpack, four thumb pins, two interchangeable faceplates, and more – all in one convenient carry bag.
It’s hard to imagine Nintendo doing anything with the same type of utility …
Considering the official Pro Controller is retailing for $ 70 without that justifying the extra $ 30. The closest parallel to the PowerA Fusion is the $ 180 Xbox Elite Series 2, a similarly extensive package. They’re not exact comparisons, considering the Elite Series 2 is way more advanced technologically, but it’s the closest we’ve seen in terms of Switch technology.
The controller itself (with no rear paddles installed) is completely comfortable and doesn’t feel much different from a standard Pro controller. Some of its buttons stick out a bit more and the handles feel a bit thick, but it doesn’t have the knockoff design of the third-party pads we grew up with.
Removing and replacing parts is literally a breeze. The magnetic front panels can be removed immediately and the thumb pins can be easily replaced. There’s even some flexibility with the paddle pack. Each paddle is easily interchangeable, and the pack itself can pop out whenever it’s in the way. All moving parts are intuitive and easy to use. It’s hard to imagine Nintendo making something with the same type of utility while the Switch was alive.
The joy of the buttons at the back
The back paddles are the main attraction here. When the Pro-Pack is attached, the controller receives four metal paddles that sit between the handles. With just three quick entries, keys can easily be assigned to each paddle.
There are some limits to the assignment. Keyboard shortcuts cannot be assigned to a paddle. I was also hoping to map the cardinal points of the right club on the paddles to control the aiming system of the Tetris 99, but not dice. The more likely use is for players to map the four main buttons on the back so they never have to remove their thumb from the right joystick.
Despite their limitations, the paddles can be incredibly useful. While I couldn’t assign my targeting in Tetris 99, I was able to assign my spin buttons to them. It’s a simple change, but it meant I never had to switch between aiming and rotating, which could risk a misfire if I dropped pieces in the fast-paced late game. When testing with New Pokemon Snap, I mapped each paddle to one of the face buttons, which made photography smoother. I never lost full control of the camera and was able to scan or toss fruit without moving a finger.
I found that my hands felt a little cramped at times when I tried to wrap my fingers around the thick controller. Far from being uncomfortable, I would call it a less natural grip. A nice advantage here is that the paddle pack is completely detachable and the slot it dips into can be closed when it is out. Anyone who feels it is in their way can just remove it.
Despite their limitations, the paddles can be incredibly useful.
I encountered a problem with the two left paddles always associated with the same button. According to PowerA, this is likely due to a defective model. Given that others haven’t had this problem, it seems it does. However, it serves as a reminder of a risk you are taking with third-party gaming technology. It’s harder to ensure consistency when compared to a first-party product from a company like Microsoft. While Nintendo’s own, official controllers are notoriously defective (leading to Joy-Con drift lawsuits), the PowerA isn’t exactly unreliable by comparison.
Give and take
All of these shiny features may sound too good to be true – and they are to some extent. While the Fusion offers all sorts of customizations that Switch gamers have only dreamed of, it also lacks a few basics.
There’s a give and take here as players will sacrifice some basics for customization potential.
The most noticeable problem is that the controller has no rumble. I don’t mean the Joy-Cons’s HD rumble is lacking. it doesn’t tremble at all. For all the exciting extras, this could be a deal breaker for some. It also lacks the Amiibo reader functionality that is present in a normal Pro controller. That’s much less of a problem considering amiibo support has always been a niche, but devoted fans can be a little put off by its absence here.
The battery life is also a step down. While the Pro controller can last up to 40 hours, the Fusion types out at around 20 hours.
This is where the $ 100 price tag becomes more of a debate. It’s not that PowerA has all of the features of a Pro controller with lots of extras. There’s a give and take here as players will sacrifice some basics for customization potential. Whether it’s worth it or not ultimately depends on what a gamer appreciates in a switch controller. If you just want something closer to an Xbox controller, you can stick to the Pro controller.
If the priority is customization, there is no comparison as Nintendo offers next to nothing in this department. It can also be plugged in, which is an improvement over some of the standard AA powered wireless switch pads from PowerA.
The PowerA Fusion is a rugged Nintendo Switch Pro controller alternative for gamers who want more control. The back paddles, interchangeable faceplates, and detachable joysticks make this a worthwhile investment. If the PowerA had rumble functionality and amiibo support, it would be an easy upgrade. With these omissions, the $ 100 price tag feels a bit steep for anyone who simply wants a better version of the Pro controller than an impressive, alternate version.
Is there a better alternative?
The official Nintendo Switch Pro controller is more rugged and less expensive, although the Fusion is undisputed when it comes to customizing it.
How long it will take?
The battery lasts up to 20 hours, which is half of the official Pro controller. Compared to other third-party controllers, it feels more stable than the US, even with some plastic buttons.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you’re specifically looking for more granular customization of the Switch controls, the Fusion is a pretty robust package. Otherwise stay with the Pro.