Nacon RIG Pro Compact Controller Reviewby Adam Dileva
Stick-Position: Asymmetric, 38 degree amplitude
Product Dimensions: 7.28 Inches (H) x 6.38 Inches (W) x 2.68 Inches (D)
Profiles: 1 Custom Mode / 1 Classic Mode
Headset jack: Yes
Surround Sound: Dolby Atmos
Headphone Frequency Response: 00 Hz – 10 kHz
Connection: Integrated braided USB-A cable
Cable length: 9.8FT/3M
Weight: 0.25 Pounds
Compatibility: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows 10
Warranty: 1 Year
Included in Box: RIG Pro Compact Controller, Activation Guide, Quick Start Guide, Warranty, Stickers
**Non-stock images and videos provided courtesy of 1000 Shutters Co.**
NACON RIG PRO COMPACT CONTROLLER
Growing up as a gamer in the 80’s and 90’s I’ve been engrained with the notion that third party controllers, ones that aren’t official and come from the game system’s company themselves, are generally awful. Let’s be honest, if you grew up in my era of gaming and went to a friend’s house to play some games, you at one point got handed a second controller that was some off-brand as it was a cheaper option that their parents bought them for their sibling or when friends came over, not knowing the quality was nowhere near first party offerings. Over the years though after having reviewed many different controllers and other accessories, it seems I need to get this preconceived notion out of my head, as many accessories and controllers are officially licensed and approved by console manufacturers before launch.
The latest controller offering comes from Nacon with their RIG Pro Compact Controller. If you recognize the RIG brand, that’s because they make some decent headsets for Xbox and other consoles, but this is their first foray into the controller market that is dedicated for Xbox One / Series X|S (plus PC compatibility of course).
There are a ton of different choices out there for controllers, so what makes the RIG Pro Compact stand out amongst the competition? The two main features that should make you take notice is that it’s much smaller than your standard controller (by 15% actually) for those with smaller hands, and it’s actually the world’s first game controller to include Dolby Atmos for Headphones. That’s right, this tiny little wired controller comes with the ability to unlock Dolby Atmos for any of your standard 3.5mm headphones to plug straight in.
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with that, literally; unpacking the controller. The box itself is quite small but looks slick with its glossy sides and once you open the seal to take out the contents, you’ll notice there’s no fancy packaging inside, just simply some cardboard that holds the wired controller in place along with a few small papers and a sheet of branded stickers. I didn’t expect a whole unboxing experience like you get in other higher priced accessories, but this is as basic as it gets.
So you’ve opened up your RIG Pro Compact controller and want to get playing straight away. Hold up though, as you’re going to want to download the Dolby App as well as the Pro Compact App first. The Nacon App is how you’re going to fully customize your controller, either by remapping buttons or configuring the sticks and trigger sensitivities for the second profile that can be easily swapped to on the fly with a small switch on the back of the controller. The Dolby App is quite self-explanatory, as this is how you’ll make sure that the Atmos for Headphones feature has unlocked, but can also test out some great audio with curated content to showcase their technology once you plug a headset into the jack at the bottom of the controller.
Nacon offers the RIG Pro Controller in two color offerings, Black or White, for $49.99 USD / $79.96 CAD. Your first impression may be that why would you choose this controller over an official first party one for a slight price discount when comparing, but you need to keep in mind its features. The only issue I have with this price structure is that in Canada, this controller is basically the same price as a first party offering, whereas in USD there’s actually a slight discount, so the features included better be worth it.
LOOK AND FEEL
One of the main features of the RIG Pro Compact is that it’s 15% smaller than a first party controller. 15% may not sound like much, but once you have them side by side, you can start to see the differences. Roughly the same width, the real difference comes in its length along the handles where your palms rest, as well as the empty face section right in the middle. This smaller form factor is supposed to help those with smaller hands like myself, and while I do appreciate the thought and gesture of catering to those gamers, I’ve simply dealt with and have become accustomed to the standard controllers. Hell, I used to use the original Duke controller on the original Xbox at its release and a Sega Saturn controller, so I’ve learned to adapt, even with my smaller hands.
The controller has all the same buttons, triggers and sticks on the front that you’d expect to find, with the face buttons, Menu, View, Share and the Xbox orb, but the layout is drastically different than on a standard controller. Truth be told, even with the Xbox orb right in the middle of the controller, where the Share, Menu and View buttons are placed really makes it look as though it’s a Playstation controller, especially since the controller is cut off right below the D-Pad and Right Stick, just like a Playstation controller. Yes, it’s designed for Xbox, but it was simply odd to have this layout, something that I’m still getting used to after weeks of use, but more on that shortly.
There are some smaller details that don’t go unnoticed, such as the textured back half that helps with grip, just like the newer Series controllers. This texture may not be as pronounced as the first party offering, but it’s subtle enough to just be noticeable. The sticks are still in the same asymmetrical placement but I really liked the small copper accent just below the two Sticks. This isn’t just for show either, as with enough prolonged use on a standard controller without this rim, the part of the stick that grinds against the edge can eventually start to wear out; that’s when you start to see the slight ‘dust’ rings underneath the sticks. This plastic ring on the Pro Compact seems to help the sticks grind less along the inserted edges since it’s a smooth plastic, plus it's a cool small accent.
The D-Pad is your traditional cross style instead of the newer disc format found on the first party Series controllers, so this was odd, almost taking a step back so to speak. The D-Pad itself feels a little ‘mushier’ than a standard Xbox One controller but I didn’t encounter any issues relating to it when playing a multitude of games, even fighters. Scrolling through menus was fine though I tend to prefer more of a pronounced 'click' when using.
STICKS, BUMPERS AND TRIGGERS
The Left and Right Sticks are in the standard Xbox placement of the controller, but its grips are drastically different from what I’m used to. The sticks themselves are concave so that the tip of your finger rests on top and can push or pull it in the direction you want, but their decision for grip is almost opposite of a standard controller. On the Pro Compact there is some minor texture within the top of the stick where your thumb rests, but the outer edge is smooth. On a standard controller it’s the opposite, with a small grip along the outer circumference of the stick but nothing within the concave portion. Because the grip on the Pro Compact is only at the top of the stick, I sometimes found my thumbs slightly slipping, even if only very minor since there’s no texture along the outer rim. Maybe I just have really smooth thumbs, and it never really caused any major issues during gameplay but was worth noting.
The Bumpers on the Pro Compact are around the same length as a standard bumper but doesn’t have that small raised ‘mountain’ that you find on a standard controller. The Bumpers are about the same as a regular controller, giving that ‘click’ regardless of pressing the edges or middle. The Bumpers don’t match flush with the Triggers though like they do with a standard controller, so there’s a small gap between Bumpers and Triggers that takes a little getting used to.
The main thing with the Triggers is that they have a slightly different shape of them than you might not be used to. They still have that curve that your fingers will rest on and pull down, but the lip of the curve is slightly smaller and not as pronounced with its lower profile. Because of this slightly different feel and the small gap between Bumpers and Triggers, it’s almost as if I’m being told I’m supposed to be resting my pointer fingers on the Bumpers with the middle fingers on the triggers, but that’s not how I generally play unless needed. This of course is really just a preference.
The buttons are where the Pro Compact varies the most from standard controllers, not just in placement as noted above, but also the size as well. First and foremost, the A, B, X and Y buttons have a different sizing to them, slightly larger than your standard buttons. The size difference is almost negligible, but using the same face buttons for so many years on a regular controller, you just become accustomed to what ‘normal’ is. The face buttons are also flatter than your regular ones as well, and while this isn’t a drastic change, it simply feels different, even after weeks of use.
These buttons are slightly curved, but not as much as a standard controller. This coupled with the larger size means it will take a little getting used to. The button markings are also simply printed on the face of each unlike how the official controller buttons have the A, B, X and Y set within the buttons themselves. I’m starting to get used to these face buttons, but it takes some time to retrain your brain to get that natural feel if you’re simply used to first party offerings for many years.
The most drastic change though is the placement of the View, Share, Menu and Xbox buttons. On a regular Xbox controller the Xbox button is at the top with all three of the others slightly below and beside one another. On the Pro Compact controller though, they’ve opted for a much more Sony-like layout. View is at the top left sitting beside the Left Stick and the Menu button rests right beside the Y face button. Share is placed directly between the D-Pad with the Xbox jewel just above that. This isn’t a bad layout per-se, but is so drastically different that even after weeks of use I’m still having to look down at the controller to find where to press instead of instinctually knowing. I’m sure with more time it will become second nature, but this drastic change was the one design decision I constantly fought aginst and didn't understand the reasoning, as it makes the controller mimic a Playstation 5 controller with its layout rather than an Xbox format.
PRO COMPACT APP
The Pro Compact App is how you’re going to get the most out of your new controller, allowing you to remap buttons however you wish. While this feature isn’t unique to this controller, the App itself is very simple to understand and can quickly be done on the Xbox or PC. Where the App really shines is with its customization options. On the back of the controller is a small little switch, allowing you to instantly swap from default to a saved profile.
In the App is where you’ll customize this second profile, allowing you to change many smaller features like stick sensitivity, dead zone, triggers and even changing the D-Pad from 8-way to 4-way. There are four different templates to choose from when it comes to Sticks and Triggers, ranging from racing, shooters, fighting and infiltration games, each with its own suggestions and explanations as to what each setting changes. Simply flicking the switch on the back of the controller will change your profile, though my only complaint is that this isn’t labelled in any way as to which side of the switch is what profile. In one switch position it shows white and the other green, but nowhere does it say which one is default or the custom profile without looking up the user guide.
Clearly one of the main features to the RIG Pro Compact is the inclusion of the world’s first controller with Dolby Atmos for Headphones included. While I don't want to turn this into a full blow Dolby Atmos review, for those that aren’t audiophiles, Dolby Atmos is essentially a way to not only experience the best 3D audio, but also gives verticality to your soundstage. Most headsets, even ones that simulate 7.1 audio, generally can make a soundstage appear 360 degreed around you but generally only on a horizontal plane. This means you can hear everything in front, behind or to the sides of you. Dolby Atmos essentially takes this one step further, having the audio surround you from above as well, like if a helicopter flew by overhead, adding some realism to the experience.
Obviously with headphones you aren’t going to get a true surround experience with only two drivers, but Dolby Atmos for Headphones simulates this best as possible, adding more to the audio experience. Yes, games and media will have to have Atmos support to get the full feature to be noticeable, but when you do hear the difference it’s quite an experience. What makes the Pro Compact controller unique is that you’re able to basically unlock this with any 3.5mm headphones you plug in. No, your dollar store earbuds aren’t going to magically sound like a top tier $400 headset, but you will get a better overall sound simply do to the Dolby App doing its thing through the controller.
Simply download the Dolby Access App from the Windows or Xbox store and when it sees you have the Pro Compact plugged in you’ll notice the option for Dolby Atmos for Headphones becomes unlocked. Normally you have to purchase this license separately from Dolby, so having this included when the controller is being used is quite a selling point. Certain games that actually have Atmos support, like Gears 5, sounds absolutely incredible, as I tested a handful of different headsets with numerous games and media. Better headsets obviously produced a better sound, and to get a true Atmos experience you’ll need a headset that has native support, but in general I noticed much more spatial sounds when compared to using teh default Windows Sonic audio, giving a more immersive experience. Headset choice will still make the biggest difference in audio quality, and it will need to be a wired headset to make use of the Pro Compact, but it’s a great feature to have included, especialyl for its price point.
Boasting a smaller form factor of 15%, lighter weight and Doly Atmos for Headphones, the RIG Pro Compact does have a lot going for it. Yes the controller is wired, but the lengthy braided cable doesn’t really bother me as it was able to reach my gaming chair across the living room with slack to spare. And yes, it does have a breakaway section in the cord near the end that plugs into the console for those with children or pets that like to trip on cables or are clumsy. The choice to make the controller wired is to reduce latency and quicker reaction times, not generally something you’ll worry about at home casually playing the couch, but Pros look for every small advantage they can get.
The smaller form factor will be a welcome change to those with smaller hands, but any gamer that’s simply used to a standard controller for years there is a little time needed to become accustomed to the slightly different shape and layout of the Pro Compact. Even after weeks of use, I’m still not used to the drastic change of the View, Menu, Share and Xbox button layout and still need to actually look at the controller to find the button when needed.
I’ve purposely been a little rough on the controller, throwing it down when I’m done playing or grabbing by the cord, something I would never normally do, to see how the durability of the controller holds up. Even after weeks of use, the only issue I have of note is that due to the white version of the controller, it does get a little dirty where fingers and palms rest on the underside, but nothing more than any other white controller would, so watch that cheeto dust off your fingers before playing. Even being rough with the controller and purposely dropping it a few times from a short distance, I’ve had no quality or performance issues thus far after a few weeks.
It’s worth noting that the 3.5mm jack at the bottom of the controller is the only headphone input that’s actually included. Gone is the proprietary Xbox expansion port that you find on standard controllers, so if your main headset uses one of those proprietary connections this will be an issue and not compatible. The Dolby Atmos access is a great addition to the Pro Compact’s value, though I’m curious that if audiophiles that have either an Atmos setup or a high end pair of headphones that want to use it will not have already purchased the license already. Obviously this is more meant as an introductory to the technology but should do well do convince newcomers to the audio space to experience the difference that Dolby Atmos for Headphones makes over Window Sonic.
Choosing the RIG Pro Compact controller over another brand is going to basically come down to a few different choices. Do you desire having a smaller controller? Are you fine having a wired controller? Are you able to adjust to a slightly different button sizing and layout? And do you wish you could have a better audio experience? If you answered Yes to the majority of these questions then you might want to check out the RIG Pro Compact controller from Nacon. In the US, the value of the Pro Compact is a compelling argument, as it’s slightly cheaper, saving a few bucks to gain some new features like Dolby Atmos when compared to a standard controller pricing, but the price difference in Canada is negligible, so it’s a little harder of a sell this side of the border for that reason.
While I have no issues using a wired controller, I’m honestly surprised my brain simply can’t get used to the slightly larger face buttons and layout changes. By no means a deal breaker, but gone are the days when I would feel bad or embarrassed giving a friend that comes over to play games the spare controller. The Nacon RIG Pro Compact controller isn’t without its minor idiosyncrasies, but makes for an excellent secondary or backup controller, maybe even your main one if you’re playing a game that supports Dolby Atmos or want want a finely tuned and customzied Sticks and Triggers, especially at its price point.
I’ve also now made it my dedicated PC controller when needed, so it definitely has its uses, especially if I forget to charge my controller batteries. Often I found myself grabbing the Pro Compact when steaming some Netflix or Prime Video to get that Atmos sound, and since the controller is much smaller and lighter it’s not like I even noticed it sitting on my lap. The Nacon RIG Pro Compact controller is a great acessory for those looking to save a few bucks and want to have a decent secondary or third controller for when the occasion presents itself that offers premium features at a budget price.
Overall: 7.5 / 10