crkd nitro deck plus review

CRKD Nitro Deck+ Brings New Features. Is It Worth It?

The Nitro Deck+, from Embracer-owned outfit CRKD, follows up on the original Deck, a popular controller option for the Switch. That one-piece Joy-Con replacement sported Hall Effect sticks, a more Steam Deck-like form factor, and a whole line of aesthetics for style or nostalgia. We took a look at that first model, but now CRKD is looking to address a few shortcomings with this new revision.

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Let’s start by talking about the new controls! The Nitro Deck+ swaps the position of the thumbsticks, using a symmetrical layout. It was apparently a big request, but ultimately it’s a matter of choice. It’s true that many games prioritize analog control and all the extra programmable buttons are there to let you keep thumbs on sticks at all times, but also this change deviates from the Switch’s default scheme and could result in some weirdness. The Switch’s base configuration gives players some latitude to hold it in different ways, letting you position your hands to be comfortable with buttons regardless of scheme or hand size. The Nitro Deck+ wants you to hold it one specific way, and that’s higher up than you’d like when you need to use the D-pad and face buttons.

There are two new inputs, which CRKD dubs “sidekick buttons,” to the side of the analog sticks. There may be a use for them, in addition to the four paddles on the back, and that mobile app does let you remap them as you wish. Honestly, we thought we’d have trouble finding a use case for the new side buttons! They’re in a weird position, and they don’t make much sense during action. But combined with the stick swap on the right and the Nitro Deck’s general heft, we found it comfortable to use them to button through menus and prompts between bouts of action.

crkd nitro deck plus review

While testing this, we’ve also been working on our Super Monkey Ball: Banana Rumble review, and it’s been a great test of control precision. For context, we’ve otherwise been using a Switch Lite and a Pro Controller, both with a few years of use, so it may not be entirely fair to the others to compare. That said, the Nitro Deck+’s buttons also feel stiff in a way that could perhaps use some breaking in, so maybe things balance out in the end. Still, even without fiddling with the app settings, the Deck+ offered more precise and granular control and made navigating boards marginally, but noticeably, easier.

About half the inputs – A, B, X, Y, ZL, ZR and the menu buttons – are glossy, while the D-pad, bumpers and extra keys are matte. This is a preference thing, for sure, but we’re a fan of matte for long-term use. It’s certainly a bit peculiar to see the device split the difference like this. It was also like this in the first model, so it’s something CRKD has committed to doing.

The Bluetooth function added in this new version may not be what you expect. It’s not going to allow you to use it as a proper Pro Controller, sitting separate from the console, likely in the event you needed another pad for multiplayer. There’s no internal battery, so you can use it, but you’ll need to plug in with a cable. What it does, though, is allow you connect it to the company’s app. This is for firmware updates and customizing the control mapping, and with so many extra buttons, that easier remapping might be nice. (There are also instructions for remapping the buttons without the app in the online manual, which reminded us of the good old universal TV remote days.)

Our experience with the app was a bit shaky — it would lose connection with the device fairly quickly — but it functioned for remapping the inputs. Of course, to get there, you have to push through the company’s near-insufferable “collection” strategy, registering your device to an account and either capturing your “reaction” to your device’s serial number or saying no to about 12 system prompts trying to access your microphone and camera. Oofa doofa, this is a choice.

crkd nitro deck plus review

The Nitro Deck+ also adds a “docked mode,” which again might come with some caveats. You’ll need a USB-C-to-HDMI adapter, which the company sells separately. And you theoretically can continue to use the controls while you do it? But that’s really going to depend on your cable length. The HDMI and power cables need to be plugged in at all times, so that doesn’t seem ideal. And in our testing, even when we nestled right up to the screen, minor hand movements would jostle the cables and briefly lose connection.

In practicality, we’d really call it more of “dock mode.” Doubling as a dock replacement, either so you can keep the Nitro Deck+ assembled or so you can plug up to a secondary display without buying another first-party one, could be useful! But in those cases, we’d probably still recommend using a different controller. The more robust kickstand on the back of the unit is a significant help for such a use case, too.

There’s also an eject button now? It doesn’t push the system out of the Deck in the way you’d want, but it’s possible that wasn’t something they could engineer. Instead, it’s a latch you pull to make it hold onto the Switch less firmly, so it can keep its snug fit and help you get the system out when needed too. Since the device just plugs in to the USB-C port and functions like a wired Pro Controller instead of clicking into the Joy-Con rails, it’s likely that CRKD had to come up with some scheme like this to be more secure.

The aesthetic choices of the Nitro Deck+ are a bit “where do we go from here,” after all the choice options of the first model. There are two colors available for the new device at launch, with our review unit sporting a clear white front, solid white back and black buttons. The bases of the analog sticks are also metallic purple, for some reason? These choices could absolutely work for you, but they’re not the home run of the nostalgia-bait ones or the safe one-color offerings.

There are benefits to CRKD’s approach, but it does come at a cost: weight. It’s comfortable for a while, but having spent so much time in recent years with the Switch Lite, it’s become a great platform for longer sessions. Whether it’s the Steam Deck or the Ayaneo Slide, a heavier portable has remained in our rotation! And this feels a lot like those, with good grip and larger controls. But our wrists often give out before the battery does. If you’re playing a game that puts more focus on the face buttons, you’ll need to use a grip that makes the device more top-heavy, compounding the effect a bit.

The CRKD Nitro Deck+ is available through the company’s site for $69.99, or a bundle including the HDMI adapter for $10 more. For more on the Nitro Deck line of accessories, check out our look at the original model.

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Graham Russell
Graham Russell, editor-at-large, has been writing about games for various sites and publications since 2007. He’s a fan of streamlined strategy games, local multiplayer and upbeat aesthetics. He joined Siliconera in February 2020, and served as its Managing Editor until July 2022. When he’s not writing about games, he’s a graphic designer, web developer, card/board game designer and editor.