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The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is an excellent gamepad, offering the same size, shape, and layout as the Xbox Wireless Controller as an alternative to the Switch’s Joy-Cons. It’s also $70, and that’s pretty pricey. The $49.99 PowerA Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch shaves off a good chunk of both price and size from the Switch Pro Controller, dropping the rumble but adding two programmable Advanced Gaming buttons to the design. It’s a functional gamepad for the Switch, and can work with PCs as well, but its small form can be uncomfortable for big hands. Fortunately, PowerA also offers a non-Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch for the same price, so you can consider this a review for both models.

Design

The Nano controller, available in all black or in gray with red and blue highlights, is tiny, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s about three-quarters the size of a “standard” controller like a DualShock 4, Xbox Wireless Controller, or Switch Pro Controller. Because of its smaller size, users with large hands might find it uncomfortable. I found with my own big mitts that the buttons and analog sticks are placed naturally for easy thumb access, but the slight frame of the gamepad meant I had to hold it by cradling it in my fingers rather than pressing comfortably with my palms against the grips. 

The layout is identical to the Switch Pro Controller, with dual analog sticks positioned off-angle from each other, a direction pad below the left stick and to the left of the right stick, four A/B/X/Y face buttons above and to the right of the right stick with a Nintendo configuration (A on the right), and two pairs of shoulder buttons (L/R bumpers and ZL/ZR triggers) on the top. Small Plus, Minus, Home, and Capture buttons sit between the left analog stick and the face buttons, providing all the controls you need for the Nintendo Switch.

The underside of the Nano holds three additional buttons, two programmable Advanced Gaming buttons that naturally sit under the middle fingers, and a programming button in the middle, near the bottom edge of the controller. You can set either Advanced Gaming button to any digital input (A/B/X/Y/L/R/ZL/ZR, any direction on the direction pad, or clicking the left or right analog sticks). Just hold the programming button down for three seconds until the indicator light on the front of the controller flashes, then press the input you want to use followed by the Advanced Gaming button you want to assign it to.

The top edge of the controller holds a USB-C port for charging, a pairing button, and a charging LED. The bottom edge holds four indicator lights, like on the Switch Pro Controller or a Joy-Con.

Connectivity and Features

The Nano controller is designed to work with the Nintendo Switch, which also means it’s compatible with Windows 10 thanks to Steam’s Switch Pro Controller compatibility. The pairing process for either device is the same with the Nano as it is with the Switch Pro Controller: Hold down the pairing button, then pair it in the Assign/Change Controllers menu on the Switch or the Bluetooth menu in Windows 10.

The Nano features motion control support in addition to the physical controls, like the Switch Pro Controller. However, it doesn’t have rumble.

Performance

Super Mario Odyssey performed well using the Nano, with the analog sticks functioning exactly as they should, just like on the Switch Pro Controller. Face buttons felt responsive, and I had little issue performing the throw-long-jump-bounce move while running around. Motion controls even worked, letting me perform a spin throw or steer my cap throws by twisting the gamepad.

I also played Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon, a 2D platformer more designed for the direction pad than the analog stick. While the pad on the Nano is responsive, it also feels a bit stiff, like I have to push down slightly more than on the Switch Pro Controller or on the direction buttons of a Joy-Con. I could still control Zangetsu easily with the gamepad, but I had to adjust to its feel.

PowerA Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch

I have large hands, but I generally haven’t had much of a problem with smaller controllers, like the Joy-Cons in the Joy-Con Grip. The Nano’s small size really pushed my tolerance, though, and while I didn’t cramp up while playing, I certainly noticed that it isn’t as comfortable as the larger Switch Pro Controller (or the Xbox Elite Controller). If you have big mitts, you might find the Nano to be unpleasantly tiny. But again, that’s what the non-Nano version is for.

Finally, I tested the Nano on my PC, with Steam’s Switch Pro Controller compatibility mode. Sonic Generations and Carrion both detected the controller properly and all controls worked as intended. However, I occasionally noticed a bit of input lag in Sonic Generations, which didn’t feel quite as responsive as the Switch titles. Carrion is a much more fluid game that depends almost entirely on the analog sticks rather than precise face button moves, so I didn’t notice as much lag there. In both cases, any lag wasn’t particularly consistent, so it might be more an issue of the crowded Bluetooth environment in my office more than the gamepad’s performance.

For Smaller Hands

The PowerA Nano Enhanced Wireless Controller for Nintendo Switch is a useful gamepad for Switch owners looking for most of the same features as the Switch Pro Controller for a much lower price. The Nano name isn’t just an affectation, though; it’s tiny compared with most other modern gamepads, and users with large hands might find it uncomfortable to play with over long periods. If this is a concern, PowerA’s own Enhanced Wireless Controller (non-Nano) offers the same features as the Nano in a larger frame for the same price. We’re also fans of the 8Bitdo SN30 Pro+, which lacks the Advanced Gaming buttons but adds rumble and programmable controls through a Windows app for the same $50.

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