The 8Bitdo SF30 Pro was launched at the end of 2017 by 8Bitdo in an effort to create the ultimate, ‘portable’ gaming controller. Having become known for their faithful recreations of vintage gaming controllers, the SF30 Pro is a step away from that with a new layout, but there’s no disputing it’s nostalgic colours and contours.
The SF30 Pro has the most expansive control set ever released by 8Bitdo, so much so that it fills up every mappable option inside RetroPie. This is a great thing because it allows a single controller to be used with pretty much every emulator on RetroPie which makes it a fantastic option for an all in one controller. Keep in mind that we cover off on a lot of general 8Bitdo usage in our other RetroPie tutorials. So, for firmware updates, more detailed mapping info, and RetroPie setup take a look at those. Now, let’s take a closer look at the SF30 Pro.
What’s in the Box
The current 8Bitdo line-up consists of solid, well-made products, and the SF30 Pro is no exception. Packed in a sleek, matte laminate box, the SF30 Pro comes with everything you need to get started:
- USB C cable
- SF30 Pro controller
- Quick start manual
It’s an interesting change seeing the USB port change from a micro USB connector to USB C. All of the features USB C brings to the table aren’t really needed for the controller, so it’s more of a statement that they’re embracing new standards and technology than anything else, but it’s a nice touch. It does mean that the handful of micro USB cables you likely have stuffed in a box somewhere can’t be used to charge it, so don’t lose the included cable.
Of course, the fancy packaging doesn’t mean much if the controller isn’t equally as nice, and the SF30 Pro is a gamer's swiss army knife. As I mentioned earlier, the SF30 Pro has the most extensive control set we’ve seen from 8Bitdo which makes it a joy to use across multiple platforms.
Packed into a 157mm x 98mm x 50mm form factor is:
- 2x Analog joysticks
- 2x joystick switches
- ABXY buttons
- Start & Select buttons
- Home & Screenshot buttons
- R1/L1 bumpers & R2/L2 triggers
- Motion detection
- Haptic vibration feedback
- Pairing button
And if you plan on gaming on the go, the 16hr battery life will have you covered, and only requires 1-2 hours to fully charge. For RetroPie gaming, it’s unlikely that the haptic feedback ‘rumble’ and motion detection will be supported by many emulators out of the box, but the beauty of open-source platforms is that there’s always a way to get something done.
The most interesting addition to the controller layout is the two ‘function’ buttons in the lower right and left-hand corners of the controller. Designated as ‘Home and Screenshot’ buttons by 8Bitdo, they can be used for mapping to the Hotkey button in RetroPie, activating turbo mode, and many other things. Whilst you may not always use them, they’re handy to have.
Something else to keep in mind is that you can also use the controller via USB. This saves the hassle of setting up Bluetooth if you only plan on using it next to your console. Unfortunately, in my testing, neither of the function buttons are mappable with the current firmware when using it with the USB connection. You also can’t use Bluetooth pairing whilst connected via USB, so you’d need another controller, or a keyboard to configure the Bluetooth connection.
It’s one thing for a controller to have a whole bunch of buttons, but the big question is, do they feel any good? The answer; absolutely.
Usability and Build Quality
8Bitdo are known for their responsive, tactile controls. It sets them apart from the sea of generic controllers, so it’s nice to see that carried on with the SF30 Pro. Everything feels like a brand-new controller should. The controller doesn’t flex if you try to twist it and its light enough to comfortably hold, but heavy enough that it sits well in your hands.
All of the buttons are responsive and have a satisfying ‘click’ to them. Unlike some of the other 8Bitdo controllers, the SF30 Pro is also incredibly comfortable to hold, and all of the controls are easily within reach. The big thing that blew me away is the feel of the joysticks. 8Bitdo experimented with adding joysticks to their previous controllers, and whilst they were ok, they were a bit small to be practical. The ones found on the SF30 Pro, and indeed worthy of the ‘pro’ name. They feel and respond just like the joysticks found on mainstream console controllers, have no wobble or dead zones, and have a smooth response across both axes.
The bumpers and triggers have a fairly even feel across the entire button which makes them easy to press no matter how you hold it. Everything feels as though they really thought about how people would use it, and tested each design iteration to ensure the SF30 Pro will be a well-used staple in retro gaming.
Whilst this isn’t a proper review, I wanted to share my thoughts after getting some hands-on time with the SF30 Pro, and I have to say that it is truly incredible. It’s the first 3rd party controller that I’ve loved every aspect of. There aren’t any niggly errors which get in the way, and it’s the sort of controller that I’d use for any system and feel comfortable with.
Be sure to check out our other RetroPie tutorials for more info on pairing and mapping your 8Bitdo controllers.