The Hori Horipad Pro is a third-party Xbox Series X and Series S controller. Pads like this have one main job. They need to offer a reason to buy them over a first-party pad.
Some do so with a lower price, additional paddle controls, Pokemon faceplates or specialist buttons or triggers.
The Horipad Pro’s main draw is customization. An app on the Xbox lets you remap buttons, set analog stick dead zones and change the sensitivity of the triggers. You can create profiles for different games, and hot-swap between them using a button on the pad itself.
It’s quite neat, although we’re not sure this amounts to enough when the pad is only slightly cheaper than the official Microsoft Xbox Wireless Controller. And there are some compromises involved too.
The Hori Horipad Pro does not have wireless. It needs to be plugged in to use.
The triggers are also unusually soft and squishy. This must be a deliberate design decision. But we’re not sure there’s a benefit here outside of semi-serious racing games like Forza Horizon 4, where a soft trigger may feel more natural than a crisp one.
The Hori Horipad Pro’s rumble is worse than the official pad’s, particularly in the triggers, and with no eye-catching designs on offer to argue otherwise, it looks worse than the default pad.
Any positives? The Hori Horipad Pro’s analog sticks are nice ’n’ smooth, and the D-pad makes fighting game special moves more comfortable. Still, to most people, we would recommend spending an extra $10 and getting the Microsoft pad instead.
Price and availability
The Hori Horipad Pro costs $49.99/£44.99. It’s an inviting enough price, much lower than some of the “pro” pads from Scuf and Razer, which can get uncomfortably close to the ticket price of an Xbox Series S.
However, it’s hard to ignore we are close to the cost of a replacement Microsoft pad here, and that’s the main problem.
The Hori Horipad Pro was announced in September 2020, for launch alongside Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S.
Design: the good and bad bits
If you read the introduction to this review, you may not have come off with a great impression of the Hori Horipad Pro. However, there are some elements to like.
We’ve used the HoriPad Pro for the last few weeks, and switching back to the Microsoft pad highlights quite how relaxed the Hori grip is. Relatively flat triggers and non-aggressive contouring make this a great pad for casual play.
For a game like Slay the Spire, where there’s no need for lightning-fast reactions, we prefer the Hori to the Microsoft pad. The low-profile triggers just don’t affect your grip in the same way.
All the plastics used here feel fine too. There are no rubberized parts aside from the analog stick caps but the shell is fairly tough. The grips just use a brick-like texture etched into the hard plastic, and it does the job fine.
When you first start using the Hori Horipad Pro, you’ll notice pushing the analog sticks to their limit results in a perhaps cheap-feeling high-pitch click. However, this only happens because you are pushing against a separate ring of plastic. In the Microsoft pad, the stick guard is part of the main shell.
The analog stick feel is a highlight of the Horipad Pro. They are silky smooth, perhaps slightly more so than Microsoft’s.
Some of you will also appreciate Hori’s D-pad approach. The pad D-pad offers no positive feedback as you hit each of the directional sensors, but its corners are rounded, smoothed off, making repeated 180-degree movements much more comfortable.
We’re not sure what Hori was aiming for with the Horipad Pro triggers, though. The actuation on the left and right shoulder buttons is very soft, and the triggers are flat-out mushy. There is no tactile feedback when you reach the end of their travel. They feel stodgy.
Perhaps some will like them, but this approach seems at odds with all the first-party console pads, and those of the true high-end pads we’ve reviewed. The one situation we can think of where this mushy feel might fit is as a ‘brake’ in a racing game, because that’s what these feel most like: a brake pedal. Still, we recommend one of the best racing wheels for any remotely serious driving game fan.
The Hori Horipad Pro is inconsistent, and those squishy triggers come to define the feel of the pad more than the smooth sticks.
Customization gives the Hori Horipad Pro a reason to exist. An app on the Xbox store lets you make tweaks to most parts of the controller, and there are four profiles you can store and tweak.
You switch between these using a button below the D-pad, and a little multi-color LED on the pad’s front shows the profile currently active.
What does the app let you do? You can alter the behavior of the analog sticks, adding dead zone or making them ‘digital’ inputs. You can change the sensitivity of the triggers, although even with their maximum range they hit 100% before you actually reach a full depression of the physical mechanism
The Hori Horipad Pro also lets you remap the controller’s buttons, to a limited extent. You cannot change the face buttons, only the trigger and the shoulder buttons. This effectively means the remapping is only useful for games in which these inputs are not used, as otherwise, you’re missing out on a button. And that’s no good.
The app also lets you change the power of the rumble motors. There are four of these, as in the official Microsoft Xbox pad. Two sit in the grips. Two are in the triggers.
Neither set quite matches up to Microsoft’s own.
The trigger vibration motors are relatively weak and feel disconnected from the actual trigger buttons. You can feel something rumbling away somewhere near your finger, but there’s nothing like the real finger buzz the official pad provides.
The Hori Horipad Pro’s primary rumble also has a lesser dynamic range. As in the first-party pad, the left side rumble is used for deeper, lower frequency, vibration. And it’s this side that doesn’t quite have the depth of Microsoft’s.
We probably would not have noticed the less dynamic rumble if we hadn’t compared the two pads directly. But the trigger buzz is quite noticeably a bit naff in the Hori Horipad Pro.
As mentioned at the start of this review, the Hori Horipad Pro does not have wireless. It has to be plugged in. No worries about batteries, then, but who doesn’t like wireless use?
The usual answer is “pro” gamers who want to shave off every millisecond of latency possible. But the Xbox Series X and S are designed for wireless pad use, and Microsoft claims latency is as low as 2ms — far less than that likely added by your TV or AV receiver.
And despite the Hori Horipad “Pro” name, this pad doesn’t have the paddle controls some performance-fixated players may be after.
The Hori Horipad Pro does at least have a headphone/headset jack. And one of the buttons below the D-pad lets you quick-mute your headset mic. Handy.
You want greater customization than the first-party pad
Hori’s Xbox app lets you tweak fairly deep aspects of the Horipad Pro’s behavior, such as the dead zone of the analog sticks and the sensitivity of the triggers. There’s limited button mapping on offer too. Combine that with solid analog stick quality and there’s a real appeal here.
Don’t buy if
You want a wireless pad
The Hori Horipad Pro is wired-only, like other third-party Xbox Series X/S pads. Microsoft uses a proprietary wireless system so wireless pads would have to use a separate wireless system with a dongle plugged into the console.
You’re after a bargain
As the Hori Horipad Pro is only slightly cheaper than the first-party Xbox pad, we don’t consider this a stellar deal. Weaker vibration motors, questionable triggers and the lack of wireless overshadow the customization that sets this pad apart from the standard Xbox one.
You’re picky about trigger quality
The Hori Horipad Pro’s face buttons, D-pad and analog sticks are all fine. But the triggers are mushy and we think most will prefer a more… normal trigger response. We assume this was a deliberate choice on Hori’s part, but for most game genres it is not a benefit.