Overview and installation of the Buetooth DIY controller kit from 8BitDo. Convert an original Sega Mega Drive controller to Bluetooth. Easy to install and works great. Also features the Retro Receiver for the Mega Drive.
8BitDo have been making a name for themselves in the last few years making reproduction classic style control pads that work on modern consoles or computers with Bluetooth. They also support a range of classic consoles with Bluetooth receivers so these controllers will also work with them too. This is the aspect of their business that interests me. I don’t play much with emulators, although a Bluetooth equipped Mega Drive or Saturn controller would be my first choice.
Their full range of products can be found here.
Mega Drive controller DIY Kit and Retro Retro Receiver
I purchased both the DIY Bluetooth kit for an original 6-button Mega Drive controller, and the matching Retro Receiver directly from 8BitDo’s web page. Both arrived within two week from China by airmail with tracking.
Packaging for the DIY kit was rather simple brown cardboard box.
My Retro Receiver on the other hand came in a more store suitable box. The box contained only the device and a USB cable used to update the firmware. Instruction for its use are printed on the back of the box.
Lets take a look at the DIY kit now.
The DIY kit contained the all important replacement PCB with on-board battery and Bluetooth transmitter. Screwdriver and charging cable was a nice but possible unnecessary addition. Instruction are included showing how to power on and off the pad, and to sync it to various devices
The PCB looks to be of a good quality and was thicker than I expected. This must be to match the original board it replaces. Firmware is updatable on doth the controller and receiver with software found on 8BitDo’s support pages. I did this first for both before using them. The battery is rated at 180mAh. That seems microscopic but I’m sure that is all the capacity that’s needed for a controller like this and the stated play time is 7 hours. The instruction page provided refers to the battery being 230mAh. Perhaps this spec changed at some point.
Diving into my box of spare controllers I selected this Original Mega Drive control pad. Opening it up only takes a few seconds as does removing the wired PCB.
Now was a good opportunity to clean away the 20 years build up of hand jam from the surrounding joining edge and between the buttons. Soapy water and an old toothbrush work well for me.
Just place the new PCB into the controller making sure to keep alignment with the rubber membranes.
Also check that the Mode button is sitting correctly the micro switch. There’s a small rubber part to install before you close the pad up. It helps reduce the size of the opening and helps make the LED easier to see without looking directly in the hole. I gave it about an hours charge before use.
Sync and Testing
Syncing the controller to the Retro Receiver was also very simple. Just power the controller on with Start + B, then press the pairing button on the receiver. Only takes a second and keeps the sync even after both the console and pad have been switched off.
Games seem perfectly responsive to me. If there’s any lag introduced from the Bluetooth link then I can’t feel it. It does feel strange playing my Mega Drive without a controller wire, and the controller feels lighter without it. Range is good enough to easily cover the whole room in my test.
I also sync’d the controller up to the Nintendo Switch. again this was an easy job with the included instructions. Playing Sonic Mania was absolutely perfect, as too were the Neo-Geo games available on the Nintendo store. I can see I’m going to get a lot of fun out of these devices.
So I’d say that the 8BitDo Blueooth kit and receiver have met my expectations and hopes for the product. Wireless controllers on a Mega Drive – Done! I know a lot of people would like to have seen this kit have a 2.4G wireless option, but I’m happy with Bluetooth and the compatibility with other devices that comes with it. Installation could not have been simpler. Syncing is reliable, although slightly tricky to remember all the device button combinations needed. I’ll keep a snap of the instructions on my phone for quick reference. All in all I’m very happy with this purchase and will be placing an order for the SNES DIY kit at some point.
Thanks for reading.
Neil – 8bitplus – 2019