Binbok Gemini controllers are a solid budget option for the Switch – Review – WGB

There are a lot of cheap controllers on the market these days, all vying for your attention. Very few of them are actually any good and trying to sort through the chaff to find one that’s actually good value for the money is tricky. This is why we’re going to check out Binbok Gemini, a controller from the Chinese company Binbok which promises a lot for a relatively small price tag of $39.99. How does it compare to the more expensive but reliable Nintendo Switch Pro Controller? Let’s find out.

Let’s start with the most obvious thing: the looks. The Gemini comes in either white or black, both featuring clear pieces of plastic so that the innards can be seen. The white version boasts some powder-blue and powder-pink buttons, whereas the black one is a tad more subdued. And, of course, both have strong LED lights that can have their output turned up and down, or even turned off entirely.

White or black, both have a distinctive and striking style that’s likely cause to divide opinions. They have an old-school MadCatz vibe, the aesthetic you expect from the off-brand controllers your mates would have lying around for when people would drop by. The LED lighting has a handful of colour settings or you can turn it off entirely, which is my preference. Without the lights, the black version looks pretty sweet. The white one is much more garish, obviously, but I kind of like the white plastic shell combined with the blue and pink buttons. It looks more like a toy controller you’d be a child, and I’m here for it.

Works on: Switch, PC
Reviewed On: Switch, PC
Made By: Binbok
Price: $39.99

Controllers provided by Binbok for review.

The Nintendo Switch Pro Controller is obviously the defining Switch controller, and for good reason: it’s comfy as shit! It’s hardly surprising that the Gemini is heavily based on that design. The only difference I noticed is that the Gemini flares out a teeny bit more on the handles. It’s a small change, but enough of one to make me favour the Switch Pro Controller. With that said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in this case, it’s imitating one of the most comfortable controllers ever made. That makes the Gemini pretty damn nice to hold, too.

The build quality isn’t quite as good as the real thing, mind you. There’s nothing too egregious: the shell feels solid and nice to hold and the weight is the same as the Pro Controller, giving it a good sense of heft. The buttons are a cheaper feeling yet still have a satisfying action, one that takes more pressure than something like the Pro Controller or an Xbox pad. Speaking of Xbox, the d-pad on the Gemini feels quite similar to the Xbox in terms of its clickiness and movement. In other words, it’s decent, but nothing amazing.

One area where the Gemini beats out the Pro Controller and equals the 8BitDo I reviewed, is the use of Hall Effect joysticks. If you aren’t aware of what those are, Hall Effect sticks use magnets and conductors to detect inputs rather than the traditional potentiometer. There are many claims about whether Hall Effect sticks are superior in every way or just in certain ones. Generally speaking, they do tend to be smoother, more accurate and have fewer dead zones but it depends on the quality of the components. The one thing we can say with certainty is that Hall Effect sticks are more durable and far less likely to suffer from drifting issues, the very same problem that plagues the Nintendo Switch Joycons.

Overall, the sticks felt smooth and precise. My only gripe, a very small one, is the slightly rough feeling when the sticks rub against the circumference. It’s a minute detail that doesn’t ultimately damage the Gemini’s performance but does speak to its budget nature. Other than that, I never had a problem with them and felt content with their performance. Of course, I’m not out there competing at the highest levels of multiplayer mayhem where even the slightest hiccup can spell disaster.

The official Switch Pro Controller vs the Binbok Gemini

Two special macro buttons are hidden on the rear of the Gemini, just waiting for your probing fingers to find them. Their location is judged perfectly, at least for my hands, so that they fall right under where my middle fingers naturally rest. Recording a series of commands is easy, and the controller allows a maximum of 21 inputs per macro and will even remember the timing of your presses. Of course, how useful this feature is will vary wildly from player to player. Personally, I immediately thought of how useful it could be on Helldivers 2, since I often like to kick back with a controller for some bug-slaughtering. It worked pretty well, though I did note that Windows detects the Gemini as a Switch Pro Controller which can cause a few issues with button layouts and the like. It’s probably not going to be a problem for most people, but still worth mentioning.

The rear also has a few more buttons worth discussing. There’s a turbo function, which will make a button act like you’re repeatedly pressing it while you hold it down. For example, in a fighting game instead of mashing the punch button, you can just hold it and the game will register it as separate button presses. Features like this can be controversial, especially in the fighting game scene or in any competitive online scene, so always be careful about using them. For myself, I find it useful in FPS games because repeatedly pulling the trigger can exacerbate some finger and wrist issues I have.

I did find myself accidentally activating the turbo button without meaning to. It doesn’t take a lot of pressure to activate it, so if your fingers wander a little it’s possible to catch the button. This happened to me in Marion Kart 8 when my acceleration seemed to stop working properly. It took me a minute to figure out what had happened.

The lighting button is also located on the back of the Gemini, easily letting you swap between colours and special modes. There are three modes in total (single colour breathing, automatic colour breathing and solid single colour) and the brightness can be set to 40%, 70%, 100% or off entirely. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m a sucker for some nice RGB.

A slider that switches between two vibration modes is located at the halfway point on the back of the Gemini. The first is the classic linear rumble that you’ll find in almost every controller on the market. Thanks to the transparent casing you can see the two motors fire up on the controller’s arms which is pretty cool. It has some decent strength and an acceptable level of detail in how it matches up with the on-screen action, although it can obviously depend heavily on the game you are playing. The other vibration method fires up a motor somewhere in the middle of the Gemini’s body and it’s a much weaker type, more like a high-pitched buzz than the low-down rumble of the linear motors. I tended to avoid the second type mostly because of the noise it can make being obnoxious. You can also choose to turn off the vibration completely.

Finally, we get gyro control as well, a requirement in a handful of Switch games. Overall, the official Pro Controller is stronger in this area. It’s a bit more accurate. The Gemini comes close though, and is definitely good enough for general use if that’s your wobbly cup of tea.

Amiibo support on 3rd party controllers is a rarity and the Gemini does not buck that trend, sadly. I imagine it’s because being able to scan Amiibo’s is a relatively niche feature so companies don’t see the point in spending money to include it.

Before I finish this review, I want to talk about quality assurance. Even with two controllers, I can’t judge how well-constructed products actually are on a large scale, which is why I always try to look at experiences actual customers have as well. With the Gemini, that’s a limited pool because there are not too many people talking about it. However, I did want to point out that the Amazon reviews for the Gemini highlight some potential issues to be aware of, such dead zones and the joysticks getting stuck. Other reviews are glowing and find it comparable to the Pro Controller. The good news is that Binbok seems open to replacing the controller if there are issues.

Aaaaaaaaand that brings me barrelling toward the conclusion of my own review like a runaway train being driven by a suicidal Mario. Honestly, I don’t know where I’m going with this analogy. The point is, that the Binbok Gemini is an impressive controller at an equally impressive price. The Pro Controller remains the superior option overall, being of slightly better quality and boasting a nicer overall feel in its buttons and stuck, but it’s also the pricier choice. The Gemini is perfect for adding some extra controllers to your armoury without breaking the bank but is also worth it as a primary controller, a budget-conscious replacement for the official Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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