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8BitDo Lite 2 controller review: Small and satisfying

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8BitDo Lite 2 in blue on a white background

There’s no such thing as the perfect gaming controller (but there are a few contenders). Besides the fact that hand size runs the gamut from child to Andre the Giant, you also have to consider how you plan on using your controller. If you’re settling in for a few hours, you’ll probably want something wired and ergonomic. On the other hand, if you play on your phone and portability is your biggest concern, you’ll want to go wireless and small. The Lite 2 from 8BitDo falls squarely into the latter category.


8BitDo Lite 2 controller review: Small and satisfying
8BitDo Lite 2

The Lite 2 from 8BitDo is the perfect controller to take with you on the go or keep in a drawer. It’s big enough to be useful without being so big it’s a pain to haul around. Plus, it has a beefier battery than most flagship smartwatches, so you’ll get a lot of life out of it.

Platform
Android/iOS/Mac/PC/Switch

Wired/Wireless
Wireless

Connectivity
USB/Bluetooth

Phone compatibility
All

Programmable
No

Extra Buttons
Turbo/Home

Colors
Turquoise/Pink

Battery
480mAh (~18 hours)

Weight
83 g

Price
$35

Pros

  • Compact size and full button set
  • 18 hours of battery life
  • Switch compatibility
Cons

  • Small size can cause hand strain with some games
  • Terrible mobile app
  • No first-party accessories like phone clip or hand grip

Price, availability, and accessories

Few first-party options to pick from? Roll with the king of third parties

The Lite 2 is available on Amazon for $35 (also available in the EU, UK, Mexico, and other markets) or directly from 8BitDo for $31. Inside the box is the controller, an instruction manual, and a USB-A to USB-C cable that can both charge and connect your device.

If you’re looking for a case, no first-party products are available, but you’ll find plenty of third-party options elsewhere, especially Amazon. There also aren’t first-party phone clips or grips for the controller, but if you’re willing to fire up your 3D printer, you can at least find a grip adapter on Thingiverse for free.

Design and performance

Cute on the outside, robust performance on the inside

One of the reasons I love the Lite 2 is that it’s small enough to be portable, but not so small my hands are strained trying to use it. It measures about 4.75 x 2.625 x 1 inches. It has 12 buttons, 2 analog sticks, and a d-pad, plus buttons for power, pairing, turbo, and a switch to toggle between Android/PC and Nintendo Switch connectivity.

8BitDo has built a solid reputation for making third-party controllers, and the Lite 2 is no exception. Despite the all-plastic construction, it still feels sturdy enough to survive a fall or repeatedly being tossed into a bag. Most of the buttons have a satisfying, tactile feel when pressed, despite using rubber pads. The exceptions are the power, plus, minus, and turbo buttons, which sit nearly flush with the body of the controller, making them feel kind of mushy when pressed.

I’m not really a turbo kind of guy, but it’s easy to set up. Press and hold the button you want to assign to turbo, then hold the turbo button until it kicks in. Anytime you press that button now, it will have turbo functionality. Follow the same process to turn the turbo off or assign it to a different button.

8BitDo Lite 2 and Perler creations

One of the biggest improvements the Lite 2 makes over its predecessor is the addition of shaped triggers beneath the shoulder buttons. Previously, the R2 and L2 buttons were small afterthoughts placed next to the shoulder buttons, but now they look and feel like proper triggers, similar to the Switch triggers. The other big step up from the original Lite is the overall layout. Instead of two d-pads and eight primary buttons, the Lite 2 has four primary buttons, two analog sticks, and a d-pad, similar to the Switch Pro controller, without hand grips.

I put the Lite2 through its paces with a number of games with varying levels of input complexity. Vampire Survivors hardly counts, but the controller handled the game like a champ. I also tested emulators like Dolphin and RetroArch, and the Lite 2 managed every ROM I threw at it. The triggers aren’t analog (like the GameCube), so games like Mario Sunshine can be hard to control. The Lite 2 does work great for retro NES and Super Nintendo games (a niche 8BitDo is known for excelling in), although I did have some trouble using the shoulder buttons instead of the triggers when playing Super Street Fighter II.

I fired up Mario Kart 8 for the Switch, and the Lite 2 had perfect response with no lagging. But games like Mario Kart highlight why the controller isn’t ideal for some games. After four races, my hand and fingers started to get stiff from being curled around the small controller. It’s definitely not a deal-breaker — and using a third-party grip mitigates this issue — but it’s something to keep in mind when you consider how you intend to use any joystick you buy.

Compatibility and connectivity

Pairs with all of your portable hardware: Android, iOS, and Switch

8BitDo Lite 2 with Nintendo Switch

The Lite 2 can connect to your PC, Android, Chromebook, Nintendo Switch, or iOS device. I don’t have an iPhone to test, but pairing it with everything else was quick and easy. Since I bought the Lite 2 for its portability, I prefer this Bluetooth connection, but you can also use the included USB-C to USB-A cable to connect with your phone or computer.

8BitDo has a reputation in the pre-med community for making devices that double as phenomenal clickers for the Anki flashcard software. Most online tutorials focus on using the 8BitDo Zero 2, but the Lite 2 works flawlessly with the mobile app without any setup, but you’ll have to do a bit of legwork to get it working on your desktop app.

Software

It exists, but you probably don’t need it

Screenshot of 8BitDo's mobile app

8BitDo offers an app on the Play Store, but it has terrible reviews, and rather than being a button mapper for all 8BitDo joysticks, it’s only made to work with five models. If you do download the app to give it a shot, you’ll just see a screen with a phone and a joystick, but there won’t be any options to do anything. The odd part is that the software knows that there’s a joystick connected because pressing the B button twice will close the app.

There’s also a firmware updater available for Windows and Mac, but my Lite 2 already came with the latest firmware. The easiest way to use it is to plug in your controller via USB so you don’t have anything to stress over as far as connecting your controller. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can download it.

Battery life

More than you’d expect, exactly what you need

I haven’t had any issues with the battery on the Lite 2. It has 480mAh of juice, which is more than a Pixel or Galaxy Watch. Since the Lite 2 doesn’t carry nearly the same power load as a smartwatch, I can put in a few hours a day playing Vampire Survivors or Rogue Legacy (I like pixels) and still get weeks of life out of it before I need to charge it again.

If I could add one feature, it would be a charge indicator so I don’t jump into a game with a controller about to give up the ghost. If you do need to get your game on when your battery is low, you can hook up the Lite 2 directly to your PC or phone (via a multi-port adapter) with the included USB-C to USB-A cable.

Competition

There’s no shortage of portable controller competitors

game controller sitting on rocks in front of leaves

The biggest competition for the Lite 2 is going to come from another device in the 8BitDo lineup, the original Lite or the Lite SE (which we talked about last year), and both bring a similar profile and feature set. The Sn30 Pro has a virtually identical button layout and feature set to the Lite 2, but has a Super Nintendo aesthetic.

If you’re not worried about Switch connectivity, there is some stiff competition at this price point, such as the SteelSeries Stratus+, which only costs $5 more than the Lite 2, offering a more ergonomic design, and it comes with a phone clip. If you’re willing to drop some cash, the Moga XP-Ultra has a similar form factor, but includes both grip and clip for enhanced comfort.

Should you buy it?

8BitDo Lite 2 overhead, rear angle shot

Honestly, Amazon is swimming with wireless controllers that work with PC/Android and Switch. Still, very few of them have the compact form, durable construction, low price point, and reputation of 8BitDo. Buy the Lite 2 if you’re looking for a well-built, portable Bluetooth controller, especially if you’re in the market for a low-cost Switch controller.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a new living room controller that you’ll be spending hours at a time with, look for something that fits the contours of your hand better and won’t leave you strained when you’re playing online.

8BitDo Lite 2 in blue on a white background

8BitDo Lite 2 controller review: Small and satisfying
8BitDo Lite 2

The Lite 2 from 8BitDo is the perfect controller to take with you on the go or keep in a drawer. It’s big enough to be useful without being so big it’s a pain to haul around. Plus, it has a beefier battery than most flagship smartwatches, so you’ll get a lot of life out of it.

Battery
480mAh (~18 hours)

Connectivity
USB/Bluetooth

Extra Buttons
Turbo/Home

Weight
83 g

Platform
Android/iOS/Mac/PC/Switch

Wired/Wireless
Wireless

Colors
Turquoise/Pink

Programmable
No

Price
$35

Phone compatibility
All

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