For all the talk of the PS5 DualSense following its launch with the console last fall, the new-gen Xbox controller itself hasn’t garnered much attention.
It’s a great controller in its own right and has seen some minor upgrades alongside the Xbox Series X|S, but most of the major innovations were behind the paywall of the Elite Controller, which retails for well over $100. This is where Nacon’s new RIG Pro Compact controller comes into play.
For competitive gamers who want some of the high-end features without the high-end price, the RIG Pro Compact controller is a one-size-fits-all that fits most.
RIG Pro Compact Controller Review: Elite features without the sticker shock
The first thing you’ll notice about the Pro Compact controller is its smaller size. While it’s not conspicuously small like some third-party controllers that hit store shelves 10 years ago, the Pro Compact earns its name because it feels more like a PS3 controller. It still features Xbox’s offset analog sticks, but wrapped in the palm of your hand, the Pro Compact takes a bit of getting used to.
I wasn’t even sure if I would get used to it when I first started playing with it, but after about two weeks of heavy use in RPGs, sports, competitive multiplayer, and other games, I can honestly say I’ve gotten used to it the Pro Compact and appreciate the many features that make its shape more forgiving.
At the forefront of these features is the Pro Compact’s lifetime access to Dolby Atmos 3D audio. Nacon claims it’s the first Xbox controller in the world to offer Dolby Atmos, and it works with any headset. In the past I’ve reviewed 3D headsets and found the feature to be the most important that a modern headset can have. So it’s fascinating to see and use a controller that gives any paired headset this capability.
To activate it you just have to enter the companion code inserted with the headset and then download the Dolby Atmos app on PC or Xbox. Since Dolby Atmos access typically costs $15 per license, lifetime access with the controller is a huge benefit, as long as the controller proves itself in other ways. Fortunately, it usually does.
With its own app also on Xbox and PC, the Pro Compact offers full button remapping, space for multiple user profiles (including two that can be assigned to the controller itself) and deadzone customization. While casual gamers don’t care much for these next-level features, the Pro Compact is unabashedly aimed at competitive gamers, and for this crowd, features like this are unheard of at the controller’s $50 price tag.
While the face buttons are larger and flatter here than on the standard Xbox controller, I didn’t think they were better or worse than their usual counterparts. However, the shoulder buttons, including the bumpers and especially the triggers, are fantastic.
The LT/RT buttons provide the perfect amount of resistance and reliably snap back into place. The internal feel also provides a more nuanced rumble. While nothing here is on par with the DualSense, it was great to feel the slight rumble of the trigger when I put build materials in it Fourteen days. It was a feature that crept up on me and I still love today, dozens of hours later.
I was also happy to find the dedicated share button, which keeps the RIG Pro Compact in sync with the Xbox’s first-party controller, which added it just last fall. But moving the launch and menu buttons to the outer center of the controller is an aspect I just couldn’t get used to or see the reason for.
While these buttons are floating next to the Xbox button on a first-party controller and grouped in a trio, these buttons have been moved next to the Y button and to the northeast corner of the left analog stick on the Pro Compact. Not only does this put them too close to other features, but it also makes them less intuitive to find.
Unfortunately, I never got used to the fact that these keys are so far apart. In multiplayer games, where the left menu button so often opens a map or other important function, the placement on the Pro Compact just slowed me down, which contradicts so much else that seems thoughtfully designed.
The controller is always wired, which Nacon says should reduce latency. I think the main reason is that Microsoft doesn’t allow third parties to make wireless controllers for Xbox, but I don’t mind wiring anyway. It’s thickly braided, feels very sturdy, and measures just under 10 feet in length, which is probably plenty for most players.
The concave analog sticks feel great and offer a smoothness in rotations more akin to the DualSense, while also being faster than even a first-party out-of-the-box controller. The downside of the sticks is their asymmetrical thumb rests. The left stick has a grid-like design, but the right only features a brand logo, either suggesting the logo is just as helpful as a real grip, or admitting that this one part of the controller has gone fashion over function.
To top it all off, there’s a D-Pad that feels more like that of Xbox One controllers than Series X | S controller. Improvements in this area were one of the aforementioned first-party fixes that Microsoft introduced with its new controller last fall, but the Pro Compact falls somewhere in between the first-party offerings, offering neither the super-satisfying click of the new nor the inaccuracy of the old. It’s good, not great, in that regard, although it should be clear by now that other parts of it are indeed great.
RIG Pro Compact Controller Review – The Verdict
- Excellent shoulder buttons
- Included lifetime access to Dolby Atmos 3D audio
- Smooth, snappy analog sticks
- Long cable almost 10 feet long
- D-Pad takes a step back from its first-party counterpart
- The movement of the menu buttons feels tedious and unwarranted
- The smaller frame makes it a one size fits all
The main barrier to overcome to play with the RIG Pro Compact is its form factor. It takes some getting used to and feels almost nostalgic like the PS3 controller, but due to its small size not everyone will find it comfortable. A few other changes are also a bit frustrating, but not unforgivable if you’re comfortable with them in your hands.
If it fits, you’ll unlock some high-end features for about a third the price of the competition, which is an impressive deal. Button and deadzone remapping is a good place to start, but is mostly good for the top 1% of gamers. The excellent triggers, and most importantly the inclusion of lifetime Dolby Atmos 3D audio, really deliver on the Pro Compact’s promise and enhance everyone’s games.
It’s not perfect, but for gamers who want something beyond the standard Xbox controller, the Pro Compact is hard to ignore.
[Note: Nacon provided the RIG Pro Compact controller used for this review.]