Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: which Joy-Con alternative is best?

·9-min read
 Hori Split Pad Pro and Hori Split Pad Compact on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Pro and Hori Split Pad Compact on a wooden table

With all their drifting concerns, high price tags, and uncomfortable designs, many are seeking alternatives to the classic Nintendo Switch Joy-Con. Thankfully, there's no shortage of budget-minded third party gamepads. Hori, however, has long produced some of the best Nintendo Switch accessories on the market and it has two sets of clickers up its sleeve.

The Split Pad series offers Joy-Con like attachment to the main handheld tablet, with the extra benefits of a more ergonomic design, remappable back buttons, and even a handy turbo feature. There are two versions to consider, though - the Hori Split Pad Pro and the Hori Split Pad Compact.

As the name would suggest, the Compact model takes everything the Pro does (at least at a feature level) and shrinks it down into a smaller footprint. That brings it more inline with the majority of Nintendo Switch controllers out there. However, there's more to consider in this equation. We've had our hands on both versions for the last couple of months, testing and comparing to see which Joy-Con alternative you should buy.

In short, we'd recommend the Hori Split Pad Pro for its additional comfort features and more satisfying feel. That verdict comes after weeks of weighing cost, comfort, controls, design, and compatibility to find the victor. That's not to say everyone will be best served by the Pro, though, and you'll find our full breakdown of each model's pros and cons just below.

TL;DR: Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • $49.99 / £39.99

  • Chunky, more ergonomic form factor

  • Larger, more tactile face buttons

  • Taller thumbsticks

  • Larger remappable back buttons

  • Turbo functionality

  • More colorway options

  • Attachment Set for docked mode

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • $49.99 / £49.99

  • More streamlined squared design

  • Smaller, mushier face buttons

  • Smaller but still precise thumbsticks

  • Smaller remappable back buttons

  • Turbo functionality

  • Limited colorway options

  • Won't work in docked mode

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: Price

Hori Split Pad Pro and Compact controllers face up and face down on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Pro and Compact controllers face up and face down on a wooden table

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • $49.99 / £39.99 for controllers only

  • $79.99 / £69.99 for Attachment Set

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • $49.99 / £49.99 for controllers only

Both the Hori Split Pad Pro and Compact sit under $50 / £50 when buying the controllers by themselves. However, the Pro model has a slightly cheaper price in the UK at £39.99. You're paying the same whichever version you buy in the US, unless you opt for the full Attachment Set, which includes a centrepiece for use with a docked system. Considering the benefits below, the Pro offers far greater value for money than the Compact, even when at the same $49.99 MSRP in the US.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: Comfort

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Hori Split Pad Pro back paddles close up
Hori Split Pad Pro back paddles close up

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Back of Hori Split Pad Compact controllers showing textured surface and rear buttons
Back of Hori Split Pad Compact controllers showing textured surface and rear buttons

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • Larger size and additional grips

  • Rougher texture along the back

  • Larger face buttons

  • Curved d-pad

  • Larger, smooth thumbsticks

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • Square design

  • Only slightly textured along the back

  • Smaller face buttons

  • Curved d-pad

  • Smaller textured thumbsticks

There's no getting around it, the Hori Split Pad Pro is far more comfortable than the Compact. The larger size and chunkier grips makes for a more ergonomically-minded form factor straight off the bat, allowing the hands to gently cradle the handheld system in the palm. The Split Pad Compact does widen out at the base, allowing for a more comfortable grip than a Joy-Con, but the squared off design and lack of legs mean it's not as naturally relaxed in the hand.

On top of that, the Split Pad Pro has a rougher texture running along the back of each controller. With diamond ridges in the plastic itself, there's far greater grip than the slightly bobbled plastic on the Compact model.

Hori Split Pad Pro and Compact backs on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Pro and Compact backs on a wooden table

Around the front, by nature of its size, the Pro version carries taller, slightly larger face buttons than the Compact version. In our testing, we found that this did make for a more comfortable experience overall, with a satisfying button feel and plenty of space to navigate the button array. However, young children will likely get on with the reduced size of the Compact better.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact face buttons side by side
Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact face buttons side by side

Similarly, the thumbsticks on the Pro have a larger diameter with a taller stem. While that generally makes them more comfortable to use, and easier to wield in more precise gameplay scenarios, the thumb does need to travel further to swap to d-pad or face button controls. Overall, we preferred the experience of the Pro's thumbsticks, though it should be noted that the grippy texture present on the Compact's version allows for more controlled movement.

The Hori Split Pad Pro offers greater comfort overall, though those buying for small children will prefer the reduced thumbstick height and smaller face buttons of the Compact.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: Controls

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Hori Split Pad Pro controllers and attachment piece detached on a table
Hori Split Pad Pro controllers and attachment piece detached on a table

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Hori Split Pad Compact controllers on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Compact controllers on a wooden table

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • Full control scheme

  • Snappier face buttons and d-pad

  • Precise, responsive thumbsticks

  • More pronounced back buttons

  • Turbo functionality

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • Full control scheme

  • Mushy face buttons and d-pad

  • Precise, responsive thumbsticks

  • Back buttons inline with body

  • Turbo functionality

With both models offering the same full control scheme layout, there's very little difference in the functionality of both the Pro and Compact. However, the implementation of the face buttons, d-pad, and programmable back buttons does differ between the two models. While the fully fledged Hori Split Pad Pro offers a snappy response in its ABXY and d-pad controls, thanks to the larger size and longer travel distance, the Compact's options feel a little mushy under the hand. This was one of the first things we noticed during our testing, and it certainly makes for a different experience overall. While both feel responsive, the Pro is considerably snappier.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact thumbsticks close up
Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact thumbsticks close up

Both controllers do offer excellent thumbsticks, though, with far greater precision and accuracy compared to the Joy-Con. These have the resistance and speed of something more akin to the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller. As mentioned above, the additional height on the Pro model can add a sliver of additional time moving between thumbsticks and buttons, but it also provides a greater sense of control overall.

The only other difference between the two control schemes is the back buttons. While these clickers sit slightly away from the main body of the Pro model, they are in-line with the main Compact chassis. That means there's far less travel and more of a chance of accidental presses. We were regularly hitting these back buttons by mistake in testing, whereas the Pro version was nicely positioned and ready to hit exactly when needed.

Both the Pro and Compact offer the option to map these back buttons to a wide range of commands, as well as assign a turbo function to certain inputs. In both cases, this is quick and easy to set up via two dedicated clickers at the bottom of each gamepad.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: Design

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Hori Split Pad Pro controllers on Nintendo Switch OLED playing Pokemon
Hori Split Pad Pro controllers on Nintendo Switch OLED playing Pokemon

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Hori Split Pad Compact running Dragon Quest Builders 2 on a Nintendo Switch
Hori Split Pad Compact running Dragon Quest Builders 2 on a Nintendo Switch

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • Bulky form factor

  • More colorway options

  • Solid, durable plastic materials

  • High quality rail sliders

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • More streamlined form factor

  • Fewer colorway options

  • Solid, durable plastic materials

  • High quality rail sliders

Depending on how you want your Switch to look, the design category might be the Hori Split Pad Pro's downfall. The extra heft required to make a controller this comfortable and tactile means the Pro model dramatically changes the look and feel of your handheld overall. This is a bulky device, significantly adding to the device's footprint and creating a chunky bulbous aesthetic. By contrast, the square design of the Compact is far more in keeping with the ethos of the Switch itself. It's far more streamlined and keeps the footprint similar to that of a set of Joy-Con. While neither the Pro or Compact will fit into a standard clamshell Nintendo Switch case, it is easier to transport the Compact model in a separate backpack pocket.

Aside from physical form factor, though, the Hori Split Pad Pro does offer a wider range of colorways and more choice between franchises if you're opting for a special edition. At the time of writing, the Pro comes in black, blue, and red, with special editions spanning Pokemon, Pac-Man, Mega Man, and Sonic in a variety of different character decals. The Compact is only available in red or gray, with only two special edition options, both of them Pokemon.

Still, both controllers are built to a high quality. There's a solid, durable plastic chassis keeping each one scuff-free and save, with no wobble or flex in the rail sliders.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: Compatibility

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Hori Split Pad Pro full set with attachment and controllers
Hori Split Pad Pro full set with attachment and controllers

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Hori Split Pad Compact controllers attached to Nintendo Switch system on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Compact controllers attached to Nintendo Switch system on a wooden table

Hori Split Pad Pro

  • Attachment Set for docked mode

  • No wireless connection

Hori Split Pad Compact

  • Can only be used in handheld mode

  • No wireless connection

Neither the Hori Split Pad Pro nor the Compact allow for a wireless connection. That means you won't be able to split these controllers up for separate use across multiplayer sessions. However, the Pro does take the edge here if you're willing to pay a little extra. While the Compact will only work when directly attached to the Nintendo Switch system, the Pro is also available in an Attachment Set. This package includes a central panel to be slotted in between each controller, which can then be connected to a docked system via USB-A.

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Compact: which should you buy?

Hori Split Pad Pro vs Hori Split Pad Compact controllers on a wooden table
Hori Split Pad Pro vs Hori Split Pad Compact controllers on a wooden table

We'd recommend the vast majority of players buy the Hori Split Pad Pro over the Compact model. Prices are about the same (if slightly cheaper in the UK), and you're getting a far more comfortable form factor, better control scheme, and better button feel overall, more aesthetic choice, and the option to use the device with a docked console should you opt for the Attachment Set. The Compact does have its audience, though. Younger children will likely find the slightly smaller face buttons and reduced footprint much easier to navigate. Plus, those looking to keep the slick, streamlined design of the Switch will likely prefer the square shape of the Compact as well.

Buy the Hori Split Pad Pro if:

Buy the Hori Split Pad Compact If:

Of course, we're also rounding up plenty more accessories. You can find all the best Nintendo Switch chargers and the best Nintendo Switch headsets right here. For more storage, we'd also recommend checking out the best Nintendo Switch SD cards on the market as well.