I’ll be honest. My first gaming device was a computer – the Commodore 64. I laid my hands on it barely after I learned to walk. Despite being a big Nintendo fan and getting the original NES for Christmas when I was six, I’ve actually played more games using a keyboard (and mouse later) than a controller. But of course, I’ve also owned every Nintendo console and by extension a variety of game controllers. So I still know when a controller is good and when it is crap, particularly for the types of games I tend to use a controller to play (Platformers, adventure games, and puzzle games chief among them, with the occasional fighting game thrown in).
On my PC I usually use a mouse and keyboard; it just comes naturally. But for more portable devices, especially a Windows-based tablet, having a controller helps a lot since you either don’t have a keyboard or it’s more cramped than a normal one.
Enter Nacon’s RIG Pro Compact controller. Available now for Xbox One, Series X|S and Windows 10 PCs (side note, it works just fine on Windows 11 if you’re testing it right now!), it claims to bring you pro controller gaming in a smaller package, plus some other tricks up its sleeve. Let’s dig in and see what it delivers.
Little Big Controller
In another bit of honesty, I typically expect third party controllers, even if officially licensed like this one, to be lower quality than the official ones. In the early days of consoles, this definitely held true, and generally such controllers were positioned as a lower cost alternative. But this one is different. In this era of eSports, there is a breed of gamer that, even on game consoles, demands a higher-quality input device.
Physically, the entire controller feels solidly built. I feel like if I threw it across the room in a fit of gamer rage, it would put a hole in the wall and itself not have a scratch. Though that’s not TOO likely to happen, as this controller is wired, albeit the cord length is generous.
The face buttons, bumpers, D-pad, and stick buttons all have just the right amount of tactile feedback. The analog triggers, not quite so much. If anything, I’m used to the ones on the Nintendo GameCube controller, which have a click at the end of their travel. The triggers on the Nacon just aren’t quite as satisfying, but that said, they do the job just fine otherwise.
Outside of that, much as I hate to say it, the only way this controller could be better is if they offered a Nintendo version with YX and BA face buttons instead of the North American PlayStation and Xbox layout. But I admit I’m an outlier here, so this is just an aside and I’m not factoring it in.
The face buttons themselves are remarkably large for a smaller-than-standard controller, and honestly I like this. I also really like the strongly textured surface on the back side. This thing won’t be easily flying out of your sweaty hands after a long game session, and is remarkably comfortable to hold. The sticks are functionally great, but I feel like they’re a bit taller than they need to be, particularly for a controller selling itself as compact. After all, you want to be able to take it with you to play on your laptop or on a console at your friend’s house. It is a minor consideration, but if it’s sold as “compact,” too much Z axis isn’t ideal.
One of the RIG’s biggest selling points, at least to the maker, is that it provides Dolby Atmos spatial sound technology for any standard headphones you plug into it. This feature makes it easier to tell what direction sounds are coming from in the games you play by simulating full 3D audio with simple stereo headphones. The idea being that this provides a gaming advantage for serious players.
This feature certainly works, for whatever it’s worth to you. The spatial audio Dolby Atmos does make it easier to judge distance and direction, with the caveat that you have to know whether something is in front or behind you as even the most sophisticated software can’t create sound from speakers that don’t physically exist. This is still far, far better than the regular audio experience with a cheap pair of headphones, but cheap headphones are still going to sound cheap even enhanced with spatial audio, so your mileage may vary.
Frankly though, I believe that in my use case, most PC gamers use USB headsets and won’t need this feature. However, the opposite is true for Xbox players, so I’m certain that this will be an attractive feature for many an Xbox player, if not PC users, as spatial sound is genuinely very useful when playing 3D games. Normally Dolby Atmos is activated on a per-sound-device basis, but this controller will provide Atmos to any headset connected to it, which is a nice perk for those interested in the feature. Does this feature justify the purchase of this controller? I’d classify it more as a “neat trick” than something people need or expect from a controller. Still, it’s a very good controller, so it’s a nice bonus if you don’t have or can’t use a USB headset.
Additionally, the controller is fully programmable via the Nacon app on the Microsoft Store for Xbox and PC. You can customize pretty much everything: Analog sensitivity, button remapping (So I can make it work like a Nintendo controller, haha), turning the vibration on/off, analog stick function, and also optionally lock the D-pad to four directions. All the core functionality you would expect. This adaptability, while certainly not an unusual feature today, makes it easy to adjust for any sort of game you want to play with it.
Finishing it Up
The RIG Pro Compact exceeded my expectations. A quality third-party controller? I’m not used to that! This controller did a service to the multiple games I’m running through for Gamer Escape right this very moment, and while I’m possibly not the most serious controller gamer, this controller made the case to me that if you are, you have good options out there.
Despite being compact, and my hands a decent size, this controller surprisingly did not feel cramped and it was fun to play with. I certainly recommend it, as even though I didn’t get much use of it’s most advertised feature, this controller delivers a fun and reliable game experience.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review product and images provided by Nacon.