Billed as the world's smallest Bluetooth gaming controller, the 8Bitdo FC Zero is compatible with Android, iOS, Windows and Mac devices – basically anything which supports third-party Bluetooth devices. It has an 8-way digital pad, four face buttons and two shoulder buttons, and is powered by a 180mAh rechargeable battery.
8Bitdo's boast isn't a hollow one - this is easily the tiniest joypad I've ever used. It's 73mm wide, 35mm tall and 13.7mm at its thickest point, and slips so effortlessly into your trouser pocket that you'll forget it's even there. It even comes with a lanyard that allows you to tie it to your keys, making it a portable control option that's always with you.
The pad is plastic, yet the build quality is decent enough. The D-pad is responsive and comfortable to use, despite its diminutive nature. The buttons are also high quality, and click reassuringly when pressed – no annoying sponginess to be felt here.
The small size of the 8Bitdo Zero might lead you to assume that it's awkward to use for prolonged periods, but I didn't find that myself. I've got quite small, Hobbit-like hands which probably helps, but the controller is comfortable to use and never feels too tiny. If you're used to pads which fill your palms like the Xbox One and PS4 pads then it might take a while to become accustomed to the Zero's miniscule stature, and the lack of grip can cause problems - you're essentially gripping the device with your fingers rather than your hands - but these are acceptable trade-offs for such incredible portability.
Pairing the Zero with a compatible device is straightforward. In the case of Android, I had the controller connected in seconds and was able to use it to navigate through my phone's user interface and control various games and emulators. Once paired, the pad connected automatically with my phone whenever I turned it on. A light on the bottom edge of the Zero shows you if it's on, visible to other devices or charging.
Linking to non-Android devices requires you to input a special button combination - for example, the Zero can be placed in "iCade" mode by holding down the Start and A buttons together, or can emulate a keyboard on iOS by holding down Start and B. You can even use the device as a remote shutter for your phone's camera by holding down the Select button - a feature that is useful when taking group shots you want to be a part of.
While Android games with physical controller support should automatically detect the Zero and map buttons accordingly, I discovered a few examples where the software refused to recognise the presence of the pad. The excellent OutRun tribute Horizon Chase was perhaps the most noteable; while it has full pad-and-button support on the Nvidia Shield handheld, it failed to recognise the Zero's face buttons and was therefore unplayable. Thankfully, this isn't a common problem and most games work happily with the device.
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The pad's 180 mAh battery charges in around an hour, and is advertised as offering 20 hours of gameplay on a single charge. The pad has a Micro USB connection for charging so you can use your phone's charger (assuming your phone doesn't have a fancy new USB Type-C port, of course) but 8Bitdo has kindly included a small cable in the box that can be used on any USB socket.
If you're already partial to indulging in a spot of retro gaming on your phone or tablet then the the 8Bitdo Zero comes highly recommended. While it doesn't do anything special when compared to the hordes of other Bluetooth pads on the market, its small size makes it far more portable and therefore more likely to accompany you out of the house. Performance wise, the excellent build quality means it's a joy to use and if you're used to gaming on Android devices, the pairing process is effortless.
While nothing beats the elegance of built-in physical controls, we're unlikely to see another Xperia Play any time soon so the 8Bitdo Zero is perhaps the best bet for serious mobile gamers.
Well-made, comfortable to use and eminently pocket-sized, the 8Bitdo Zero is highly recommended to all serious mobile gamers
Thanks to Willgoo for supplying the 8Bitdo Zero used in this review.