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Nacon RIG Pro Compact review: compact with caveats

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There’s a crowd for a mini Xbox controller, but this one doesn’t get everything right

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Nacon Pro Compact
This controller will feel great if you’re someone who thinks Microsoft’s controller is far too big.

Accessory brand Nacon recently put out its $50 RIG Pro Compact wired controller for the Xbox Series X / S (and Xbox One) consoles and PC, and I was immediately drawn to it. It doesn’t try anything revolutionary, but I have a thing for controllers that drastically alter the shape of the console maker’s reference design. In this case, Nacon’s is a tinier, shorter take on Microsoft’s latest controller, but the analog sticks and triggers feel just as large — some of the buttons are actually larger. There’s less distance between where your thumbs lie on the sticks and where the triggers are, which should be a boon for people with small hands or those who just want to feel like everything is easily within reach.

It’s a good-looking little controller. But setting the form factor to the side momentarily, one of the main features of the Rig Pro Compact is that it has a 3.5mm audio port for headphones and that it unlocks access to the Dolby Atmos app on PC and Xbox once you plug it in. With it, you’ll get Dolby’s spatial audio advancements through wired headphones or headsets you connect to the Pro Compact. It’s a nice incentive if you’re looking for a wired controller, but I don’t consider this to be a must-have feature.

Nacon Pro Compact
This all-plastic controller has a slightly grippy texture on its underside.

Whether you should buy the Pro Compact depends mostly on the size of your hands. As I mentioned, it’s a shorter controller from top to bottom than Microsoft’s, so there’s less distance between the triggers and buttons. That change, while beneficial for many, has a few knock-on effects that might negatively impact your experience with it, as it did for me.

I have medium-sized hands and their small grips tuck comfortably into my palms, but the rear section of the controller’s housing for the triggers gets in the way of where I’d normally rest my index finger knuckles on Microsoft’s controller. This likely won’t be problematic if you’re someone who keeps both sets of pointer and middle fingers at the ready on shoulder buttons (though, I have yet to meet anyone who uses a controller like this).

Another change that might be an issue for more people is the relocation of the view, menu, and share buttons. They’re much closer to vital controls on the Pro Compact than they are on Microsoft’s controller. This one’s more nitpicky than the last, but it leads to accidental presses during gameplay. The menu button is so close to the X, A, B, Y buttons that it looks and feels like it belongs in that cluster of inputs. On the topic of buttons, the tactility of each face button feels spot-on compared to Microsoft’s controller, though around the back the rear triggers feel like they have a shorter pull, which makes them less satisfying to use.

Nacon Pro Compact
Everything is within reach, for better or worse. I accidentally tapped the menu, view, and share buttons during gameplay.
Nacon Pro Compact
I usually like to rest my middle fingers around the grips, but the rear trigger housing gets in the way.

One of my favorite things about the Pro Compact is its companion app available for Xbox and PC that lets you tweak the sensitivity of both sticks (in addition to their respective dead zones). It also allows you to remap every button on the controller to your liking, change the actuation distance of the triggers, and toggle the directional pad between four-way inputs to eight-way for more control options. The vibration can be toggled on or off in the app, as well. Microsoft lets you adjust many of these settings with its own controllers, but not every third-party company goes through the effort of making their own app.

If most of the controllers on the market for Xbox or PC are too big for your hands, the Nacon Pro Compact is fairly easy to recommend giving a try at $50. It’s one less thing to connect wirelessly or manage battery levels for, and its 9.8-feet braided cord is lengthy and has a breakaway connector to let it safely detach if there’s force applied to the cable. That’s all great, but if you don’t have any issues using Microsoft’s own Xbox controller from an ergonomic standpoint, there isn’t much here that’ll make your time gaming more enjoyable. I fit into the latter group, and while I could enjoy casual gameplay with the Pro Compact, it’s tough to turn away from the more familiar, comfortable curves of Microsoft’s model.

Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge