Retro-Bit 2.4ghz Controller Review
For a while, I have been searching for the best controller for MiSTer FPGA setup. I’ve tried all the usual suspects, PS4 controller, a PS3 DualShock controller, Switch Pro & Wii U controllers etc, but none of them felt ‘Right’, Afterall, none of these was designed with 2D gaming in mind.
When it comes to impressive 2D games the answer is obvious: The Sega Saturn. The Saturn had some of the best 2D fighting games of the generation and had one of the best controllers to go with it. The D-pad was nice and responsive, and the 6 face buttons had, in my opinion, the perfect travel distance but sadly Sega’s console vanished pretty quickly losing this fantastic controller.
So, what is the best controller for MiSTer? After testing various controllers the best controller for MiSTer is the Sega Saturn 2.4ghz controller from retro-bit. The controller is fantastic for all retro games the MiSTer as it has the 6 face buttons and the L & R buttons which are great for SNES and GBA games.
The Retro-Bit 2.4ghz Sega Saturn controller provides one of the best controllers I have held in a while. This controller is officially licensed by Sega and Retro-Bit have done Sega proud in this accurate representation of their legendary Saturn controller.
As you can see from the packaging, Retro-Bit has put a lot of effort into making this look and feel like a product Sega could happily release today. My amateur photography skills and a combination of bad lighting in my office, really don’t do the packing justice. The outer box is a satin finish; however the Sega Saturn Logo and controller are actually slightly embossed and glossy, a real nice touch and a small sample of the kind of attention to detail that Retro-bit has put into the 2.4ghz Sega Saturn controller itself.
Inside the Sega Saturn controllers outer box, we find yet another box. This really did make me smile when I slid it out of the packaging, this custom controller case is really something else: –
The case is made from very hardy & durable plastic and is the same shade as the controller within. I think it looks very nice, in the top corner is inscribed in a pixel style Text ‘I ♡ レトロ’ Japanese Katakana for RETRO. I have the outer box displayed on one of my shelves and this plastic box I keep nearby my computer setup for ease of access.
As you open the box you will find your Retro-Bit Sega Saturn 2.4ghz controller and two wireless receivers. You will notice one is USB and the other is different, the other receiver is, in fact, a Sega Saturn receiver meaning you’ll be able to use this wireless controller with real Saturn hardware.
I have to admit, at first I felt like it would have been nice if they included a USB charging cable, Luckily they did! I wasn’t looking hard enough, but you can lift out the insert where the controller and receiver sits and underneath you will find a high-quality micro USB cable, instruction manual and even a nice thank-you note for the folks at Retro-Bit, which is a nice added touch.
The build quality of the controller itself is very high. Holding it in my hand felt just like an original Sega Saturn controller. The face of the controller is glossy and transparent, with a nice ‘frosted’ matte backing which makes it feel a little more premium and will stop your hands slipping while playing an intense game of Bomberman.
You may notice that two new buttons have been added, select and home. These are welcome additions and a much-needed modern touch, I’ve mapped my MiSTer bindings to pull up the core menu when playing while still retaining the functionality of the other buttons. The D-pad pivots from the centre just like the original controller does and feels great and comes with really nice feeling L & R buttons… well technically fast-forward and rewind buttons. They have a nice tactile clickiness which was missing from Retro-bits previous wired version of these controllers.
Turning the controller over, you will be able to make out the 500 mAh Lithium-ion battery included to keep you controller running. You’ll also notice the Sega and Retro-Bit logo in the bottom right corner, it might seem silly, but I feel this adds to the authenticity of the controller.
Looking at the top of the 2.4ghz controller we can see the micro USB charging port in the centre of the controller and get a better look at the shoulder buttons, the shoulder buttons are slightly curved at the edges to stop your fingers sliding off just like the original controller. Its also worth mentioning the translucence of the controller, making this feel very 1998. Mine is the transparent blue but you can also pick up Slate Grey which has coloured buttons similar ‘Coolpad’ which was bundled with the Japanese exclusive transparent ‘THIS IS COOL’ Saturn.
Being 2.4ghz, this Sega Saturn controller has virtually zero lag when compared to the Bluetooth versions. Connected to MiSTer, I found lag to be non-existent. I mean I am sure there is some, but I couldn’t feel it when playing Gradius on the PC-Engine MiSTer (A great game for testing controller response times by the way!). 2.4ghz controllers tend to have around 3ms input where Bluetooth have around 16ms – 20ms. The clear winner for people who are susceptible to input lag is the 2.4ghz controllers.
The Best Controller for MiSTer FPGA
So, what makes this the best controller for MiSTer? The 2.4ghz connectivity makes this very low-lag controller perfect for MiSTer. MiSTer is designed to be low latency by default so using a traditional Bluetooth controller adds fare too much input lag. The controller layout is perfect with not no cores I’m aware of needing and ‘L2’ or ‘R2’ buttons. I completed an entire playthrough of Drill Dozer using the GBA core for MiSTer, the constant need for the use of the L & R buttons made this the ideal game to test this controller. The L & R buttons held up perfectly, this is now my go-to controller for GBA games and in my opinion, this is the best controller for MiSTer FPGA.
In my testing, these 2.4ghz controllers not only connected to MiSTer flawlessly but also connected to my PC, Mega Drive Mini & Nintendo Switch, making for some real authentic feeling Sonic Mania Plus gameplay. By holding down a button the Start button and B will switch the 2.4gz Saturn controller between Xinput and Direct input which is indicated by the LED turning Red and is nice little touch. This means the USB receiver is pretty much compatible with anything with a USB port in some way or another.
You may notice on the side of the 2.4ghz Saturn receiver is a micro USB port, this is so you can update the firmware. Some of the original model shipped with a firmware had a few issues with latency but this thankfully has been fixed with updates being rolled out from retro-bit from time to time. I would highly recommend you check for a firmware update if you plan on using this controller with your Sega Saturn. you can find these firmware over at the Retro-Bit support page.
In my testing, this particular 2.4ghz model had a battery life of around 26 hours on one charge which is quite frankly insane! The 500 mAh battery inside lasts a long time and to help this, the controllers have a built-in disconnect feature which kicks in with the controller being idle for 5 minutes. This is great if you have to put your controller down for a while and means you don’t have to worry about turning it off manually.
Some people have reported problems with the ‘C’ button getting stuck in pressed down position, This was the first thing I tested when I received my controller and I am happy to report I could not replicate it no matter how hard I’ve tried. I have heard from others if you do have any issue with your ‘C’ button that Retro-Bit are very quick to send out a working replacement if you get in contact and let them know.
My only issue with this great 2.4ghz Sega Saturn controller is its weight, This may just be a personal thing, but I find the controller a little of the lighter side. There are no motors inside for any kind of rumble feature and these usually add a little bit of weight to a controller, but to be fair to Retro-Bit the weight is actually about the same as an original controller, I’ve just got used to heavier controllers over the years.
This 2.4ghz Saturn controller is now officially my go-to controller for any 2D game I get it to work with. The D-pad feels amazing, the 6 face buttons all have great travel distance and the shoulder buttons just feel perfect. I purchased this controller for use with my DE-10 nano running MiSTer and it is the best controller for MiSTer that I have tested. What I didn’t expect is that I would be using this with my Switch as much as I am. Retro-Bit has done SEGA name proud and I suggest if you want a premium feeling authentic controller that just works out of the box, pick up the 2.4ghz Retro-Bit Saturn controller when you can!