After the joy of reviewing both the VX4 and WX4 from Gioteck, I was kindly sent a set of controllers I’ve had my eye on for quite a while – the Gioteck JC-20 controllers, a budget replacement to Nintendo’s dual Joy-Cons. However, although they’re budget in price, there are a number of things which I really liked about these alternative controllers which I prefer more than their official Nintendo counterparts. Similarly, there are things ‘missing’ which could render some games and accessories unplayable, so please ensure you read our review thoroughly.
For review purposes, we were sent the standard red and blue JC-20 controllers – a design which imitates the popular ‘neon’ scheme of the Nintendo Switch. However, you can also pick up a rather funky neon pink and green set, the washed-out Pastel colours and a design which is known as ‘cubes’. The ‘cube’ design (as pictured below), reminds me a lot of Minecraft as it looks like grass on top of dirt, with a few ore blocks thrown in. If I’m being honest, I really like the review units which were sent to me but I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on the ‘cubes’ set as well!
I’ve been using these now for around two weeks as my main controllers (both in portable and docked mode), but will I continue to do so?
I love my Switch, it’s great for playing smaller games which I can simply pick up and play for a few minutes at a time whilst a game is loading on my PS4 or there are adverts on the TV. However, I have one major issue with the unit, the Joy-Cons are very uncomfortable for me as I have big hands, they often leave me with a cramp or even pins and needles if I play for prolonged periods of time. As such, I was on the lookout for some alternative controllers before I was offered this unit for review, so it was convenient and coincidental that we were sent these as it’s exactly what I was looking for.
First of all, as you can tell from the images within this review, the Gioteck JC-20s make your Switch unit look like a big PS Vita, swapping out the squared design for a much more rounded one. This, as you’d expect, makes the Switch in its portable mode much easier to hold as the rounded half-circular controller slots right into the palm of your hands. Also, due to the thumbsticks and buttons being further apart and slightly off-set, I found it less of a hassle to use as the official controllers feel cramped and cumbersome to me – as if the Joy-Cons are made for small children (which they probably are based on).
To top it off though, have you still got the black controller adapter for your switch? If so, go look at it – what does it add when you slide in the Joy-cons? That’s right, it gives you shaped ‘handles’ or ‘legs’ to grab on to, giving the Joy-cons a ‘thicc’ body rather than the flimsy thin one they have by default. Well, the Gioteck JC-20s aren’t flat, they have a rounded grip (a bulge, if you may) on the rear which is about twice as thick as the Joy-Con, allowing you to actually hold the controllers and have it feel like you’re holding an actual controller and not a tablet.
Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that the Gioteck JC-20 controllers are a lot comfier for me, as someone with big hands, and I honestly found it hard to return to my official Joy-Cons after constantly using these for the last two weeks.
The way it feels in use
Let’s put aside how the Gioteck JC-20s feel in your hands, as I’ve talked about that (they feel great), but what are they like to use? Are they spongy? Do you have to forcefully push a button to have it respond? Is there any thumbstick drift? No, no, and no! first of all, I was very impressed with the mechanics within these controllers as it appears every single button is using some form of micro-switch. The shoulder buttons are all very clicky and satisfying, so is the D-Pad, the face buttons, the plus and minus are super clicky, and even the screenshot, home, and turbo buttons all feel super snappy and very clicky!
I know I said ‘clicky’ a lot, but I honestly wasn’t expecting it to click so much. Some people may not like it but it’s an audible response which sounds satisfying and you instantly know it’s been pressed and registered. It’s so much better than the spongy and soft buttons you often find in alternative controllers.
There are two differences to the official Joy-Cons which you’ll either love or hate depending on your preference and your hand size – the face buttons and the thumbsticks. The face buttons are about 30% smaller than the official ones (ABXY buttons) and are more rounded – they feel like smarties or skittles to me! As such, they take a little getting used to as you may find it harder to press two buttons at the same time, in games that require you to do so, due to the smaller size resulting in the buttons appearing farther apart.
The thumbsticks are also smaller, in terms of the ‘head’ which you push with your thumb. This resulted in me actually getting a blister due to the smaller head rubbing against my thumb – so I simply put my Batman thumbstick cover on it and that fixed that ‘issue’. Also, the stick are thinner and longer than the Joy-Cons, so you actually have more accurate control over moving and aiming due to having more ‘travel’ as you push the sticks – this is a very good thing as the Joy-Cons travel is comically small.
One small observation – I actually find the official Joy-Cons easier to use if I’m playing docked with both controllers apart (one in each hand). This is because the Gioteck JC-20 controllers are bigger, due to their grip-like bulge on the back, so they tended to slip in my hand. Portable and in the controller adapter – they’re perfect – solo in each hand, they’re fine but not as ‘holdable’ as the Joy-Cons.
The Gioteck JC-20s don’t just emulate the Joy-cons, they have one additional feature which the official controllers don’t have – turbo mode / auto-fire. This seems to be a common trend with third-party controllers, they like to include the ability to enable autofire on any button you wish. These operate exactly the same as the WX4 and VX4 did back when I reviewed those – you hold the new turbo button on one of the controllers and then tap the button you wish to make ‘turbo’. That’s it. Now, when you push that button, it’ll press it for you over and over again whilst you simply keep your finger on it.
To undo the turbo simply perform the same thing again. It’ll also undo the effect when you turn your Switch off.
This isn’t really a ‘feature’, but you get a new ‘Game pad adapter’ with the Gioteck JC-20 controllers. You know, that black controller thing I referred to before which you got with your Switch. You get a new one because these controllers won’t fit into the original one due to their thicc backsides. However, the official Joy-Cons will fit perfectly into the one which comes with these controllers, although it leaves the newly formed controller as flat as a pancake as there are no additional hand grips like on the official one due to the Gioteck JC-20s having the grip built-in.
Two features which have been fully emulated are the motion controls and the rumble ability. I’m not a big fan of rumble in general, but the motors within the Gioteck JC-20 controllers do feel a little weaker than the Joy-cons – they also aren’t ‘HD Rumble’, so games like 1-2-Switch which rely on the precise rumble effect won’t work as intended. The motion controls work perfectly – I have nothing else to say about them.
There are a few things missing or not possible with these alternative controls, things which could limit your use in certain games. Let’s see what they are…
No NFC reader. This is a feature which people primarily use for Smash Bros, but it’s also used in a plethora of games which came out within the first 18 months of the console (games don’t really use it anymore). Without this piece of hardware within the controller, you’ll be unable to scan in Amiibos and access certain hidden modes and features of games like Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8.
No IR sensor. Similar to the above, the Infra-Red sensor is a hardware feature in the Joy-Cons which isn’t really used anymore – I can only think of two games that used it, 1-2-Switch and Brain Training. I can honestly say that having this omitted from the Right controller won’t affect your choice of games to play!
Chonky design. I mentioned earlier that the size of the controllers (which makes them more comfortable) means you can’t use the official Joy-Con controller adapter. Well, they are also too chonky to use within the Ring Fit adapter and possibly certain Labo designs. So, if you’re playing either of these daily, you’d have to carry on using your official Joy-Cons within them.
Unable to drain power from the Switch. This is the biggest ‘negative’ point, in my opinion. Although you can slide the controllers into your Switch, they can’t recharge themselves like the official controllers, you must charge each controller via a USB cable (supplied). You get around 12-hours of use out of a fully charged Gioteck JC-20, so it’s not too bad – and you can charge whilst you use them if you’re near a plug socket.
One thing I’d like to say here is that I love the charging cable you get (I know right, easily amused!). It’s a cable which plugs into your wall via a USB plug (not supplied) and then splits itself into two USB-C cables for charging both controllers at the same time. However, I found you can shove one end up the Switch’s bottom and it’ll actually charge that, so you could charge one controller and the Switch at the same time – if you wanted to.
Technical and physical info
The first thing you’ll want to do when you pick up the Gioteck JC-20 controllers is to install the new firmware. However, DO NOT use the supplied USB charging cable. Why? I don’t know, but the instructions which tell you how to update the firmware makes it very clear that you shouldn’t use the supplied cable. So, you’ll need your own USB to USB-C cable. The instructions and download for the firmware is here: https://www.gioteck.com/firmware/#jc20
I imagine the newer models of the controllers will already be updated, but this original Red and Blue model was recommended to upgrade as it had support for the customisable buttons within the Switch’s firmware and a ‘Left controller issue’. However, I’ve literally just upgraded mine now, after the two weeks of use, and I never noticed any issues – but, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
In terms of the overall build, the controllers feel very solid and strong, I doubt they’ll break if you rage quit a game and throw them accross the room – although the Switch might if you’re playing in portable mode. However, the Gioteck JC-20 controllers don’t sit flush with the rear of the Switch – or at least my Right controller didn’t. It’s only hanging over about half a millimetre, and it’s super smooth with no sharp or annoying edges, but it’s hard to find any negatives so I thought I’d throw in this observation I made.
One thing to note, you can’t wake up your Switch with these controllers – just like any third-party accessory. You have to press the power button manually then tap a button on each controller. After a few seconds, the controller will rumble slightly to let you know it’s now connected – then you can continue to use them as usual. However, unlike the Gioteck WX4, I’ve not had these time out unless I’ve turned off the Switch unit first.
Finally – can you use the controllers on a PC? Maybe? The box and instructions don’t mention PC at all, it only refers to the controllers as “For the Nintendo Switch”. So, I plugged them into my PC to see what happened. I had little success as one showed up but once you connected two controllers, either they both went off or one of them did. I also tried to sync them to the PC via Bluetooth – which worked, but they kept disconnecting. As such, I’m inclined to say no, don’t buy these for use with the PC – the Switch is their sole purpose.
As a guy with big hands, the Gioteck JC-20 controllers were a gift from God for playing my Switch in portable mode. The larger form factor with a bulge to grip on to, and more distance between the sticks and buttons, meant I didn’t get a cramp or pins and needles whilst playing for long periods. Sure, the controllers are missing a few features such as HD Rumble, the IR sensor and the NFC reader, but they’re things I’ve not used in a long time, so their omission personally didn’t bother me.
When you consider you can get both controllers for less than the price of a single Joy-con, it’s seriously easy to recommend these to everyone. Plus, every single button has a satisfying ‘click’ to them!
In terms of where you can pick these up…
Argos sells the Neon (Blue and Red), Pastel and Cube controllers HERE
Game sells the Neon (Pink and Green) controllers HERE
Smyths sells the Neon (Blue and Red), Neon (Pink and Green) and Cube controllers HERE
- - Very comfy to use for long periods in portable mode
- - Clicky buttons, all of them
- - Thin and longer thumbsticks, resulting in more precise aiming and movement
- - Both controllers have a turbo button
- - Easy to set-up and had no sync issues at all
- - You have to charge the controllers as they can't draw power from the Switch
- - Missing the NFC, HD Rumble and IR sensor/camera
- - I found them a little fiddly to use with one in each hand whilst in docked mode