No matter how heavy of a gamer you are, you’ve likely heard about the Nintendo Switch somehow. Whether you spent the first few weeks of March last year trying to seek one out at your local retailer or know about the console through your gaming-inclined friends, the Switch has become something of a phenomenon.
Now, a startup by the name of Wonder is looking to take the Switch’s formula and replicate it using Android.
In an interview with The Verge, Wonder CEO and Co-Founder Andy Kleinman gave the site an early look and what’s to come. When you buy Wonder’s product, you’ll get a smartphone with a “massive screen,” a docking station that’ll connect it to your TV, and a controller that can be used to play games on the big screen or dock the phone into for gaming on the go. The phone will be powered by the Android-based WonderOS, and similar to a gaming PC, Wonder’s custom software will allow its GPU to be overclocked to get the best gaming experience possible.
Along with the hardware, Wonder will also offer a paid subscription service. As noted by The Verge —
The software services will supposedly range from access to original games from existing game makers, licensed and mobile-optimized third-party titles, streaming game and media options, and other entertainment hub-like features. There’s no word yet on pricing, or even the specs of the phone itself.
Wonder wants to create an ecosystem for gaming/entertainment enthusiasts similar to what Apple has with its products, and while that’s an admirable goal, it’s also an incredibly daunting one. The idea of having one device to act as your smartphone, game console, and entertainment hub is exciting, but one of the reasons the Switch works so well is that it focuses its efforts solely on gaming. There’s no YouTube app, internet browser, etc. The Switch is all about games, and that limited focus is why it thrives.
Can Wonder succeed where others have failed?
Gadgets of the past that have tried to be an all-in-one solution have ultimately failed, and previous Android gaming efforts from NVIDIA and OUYA didn’t catch on with mainstream consumers. That’s not to say Wonder can’t achieve success, but it’s looking at a steep uphill battle in order to do so.
Wonder expects to launch its hardware and subscription service at some point in 2019, meaning we’re still a ways off before seeing any of this come to light. I’m certainly intrigued by what the company wants to do, but I think it’s important to be cautiously optimistic until more details come out.
Let’s face it. Whatever your current console preference, Nintendo’s old consoles are a thing of nostalgic beauty. And with its latest wireless controller, 8Bitdo has perfectly captured the essence of the past for modern gamers.
It’s something of a jack of all trades, with folks gaming on a Mac, Nintendo Switch, PC or Android mobile device able to use this one controller on them all.
It’s called the SF30 Pro (or the SN30 Pro, more on that in a moment), and it is magnificent.
SF30 Pro and SN30 Pro: What’s the difference?
There is only one difference between the two, and that’s the paint job. The SN30 Pro is the same grey and shades of purple combination as the North American Super Nintendo, while the SF30 Pro has the multi-colored buttons found on European and Japanese versions of the same console.
No offence North America, but the colorful one is clearly best.
One controller, multiple devices
As a simple Bluetooth connection is all that’s required, the SF30 Pro is great to use on your controller supported Android games. 8Bitdo also sells a pretty sturdy phone clip, too, but if you’re using a large phone you may find it gets a little top heavy on account of the light weight of the controller.
If you’re prone to playing on a Mac or PC, though, or the Nintendo Switch even, then you’re also golden. Given its price, too, it’s a very strong alternative to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller or the wired alternatives. It’s a neat little controller for most everything.
Switching between devices requires reading the instructions at least once. Using it with a Switch, for example, requires a different button combination to turning the controller on to playing with an Android phone. It’s actually very nifty, and isn’t particularly complicated. You just need to know which button combination to press, and if you forget there’s always the very small reminder on the rear. From there on out it’s as easy as connecting to any other Bluetooth device.
So many retro feels
Ergonomically, the old SNES controller probably isn’t the greatest. But it’s an iconic design many of us used growing up and picking one up again feels… right. 8Bitdo has modernized the classic controller for 2017 gaming by adding a pair of triggers and a pair of analog sticks along with the classic SNES button layout.
It feels great to use as well. Because it’s so small, all the buttons are comfortably within reach even for the kids, and the analog sticks feel good. They’re only a hair smaller in diameter than those found on a Sony PS4 controller, about the same height and feel almost identical to use.
The added triggers have surprisingly good travel given the size and design of the controller and all the buttons have an authentic clickyness to them. If anything the buttons feel a little better on this than on the recently released SNES Classic controller.
And because it’s wireless you can easily pack it in a bag and enjoy it anywhere you want. It charges over USB-C, which is outstanding, and from 1-2 hours charging you can expect up to 14 hours of play time. I’ve not had them that long but it seems like a claim easily backed up.
The bottom line
Retro is big business and that’s why products like the SF30 Pro and SN30 Pro exist. Nostalgia is what hooks people in, but the truth is that they’re also extremely good controllers at an excellent price.
The design isn’t as ergonomic as modern controllers from Sony or Microsoft, but it’s small, lightweight and can be used with a multitude of devices. Whether it’s on an Android phone or a Nintendo Switch, the experience is superb and this is a controller you can, and definitely should pack in your bag.
The build quality is excellent and it’s a truly wonderful product to use and enjoy. 8Bitdo has done a fantastic job here, and the only real decision to make is which color you get (hint: The SF30 Pro, you know it makes sense).
Both will be shipping from December 10 and can be ordered through Amazon right now for $49.99.