Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller
• Impeccable ergonomics to the hand.
• Prime materials and really good finish.
• Simplicity of a magnetic system for removable parts.
• The most precise analog sticks.
• Adjusting vibrations on each area of the controllers.
• Directional D-Pad well suited to fighting games.
• Works on Xbox One and Windows 10.
• Carrying case and long USB cable provided.
• Still needs batteries.
• A good 80 grams heavier than the original Xbox One is not for everyone.
• Really highly priced.
With an official Xbox One controller that is already compelling, Microsoft dominates the market and does not leave much point for other manufacturers to enter. Companies like PowerA either fall back on the entry price-point to try to compete, add all sorts of gimmicks like Afterglow or choose instead to develop high-end products for demanding professional gamers and eSports such as Razer. Well, it is precisely these types of players that Microsoft targets with its new Xbox Elite controllers: A high-end modular controller, sold – if you find it – at 150$.
From the first grip, the Xbox Elite controller will impress you with its build quality, a notch above of the already very successful Xbox One “classic” one. The hard plastic shell is here replaced with a plastic coating soft to the touch, with a matte rubber-like finish, and diamond-shaped grips in the back. It feels greatly like an upsacle, but unfortunately tend to get dirty faster. The triggers also received a cosmetic upgrade, with a brushed aluminum finish, and main buttons (X, Y, A, B) are black and grey.
Now it’s not an Xbox Elite controller if it’s only visual upgrades is it? The first of many additions is obvious from observing the front of the controller. The traditional cross-shaped D-Pad is replaced by a slightly concave directional circle, which is a pleasure to use if you have to go from one direction to another quickly (like performing combos in fighting game for example). Even if the area is smoother and larger than the traditional D-Pad, you’ll find similar clicking sensations to those obtained with the Classic Xbox One controller, since the directions are marked and felt by clicks, close to a mouse tick. If It’s quite a change to get used to, D-Pad purist shouldn’t worry, as the Xbox Elite controller come with one as well, which can be easily swapped.
The same principle of “swappable” magnetic accessories has been done for the two analogue sticks, which can also be changed into multiple different combinations since you have three different pairs. Microsoft provides you in the box with 6 Elite lever, supported by magnetic tubes. The first pair are virtually identical in shape and size to those of the Classic Controller, with its known concave cap and raised textured edges, which hosts well your thumb to avoid slipping out of it. The second pair of analogue sticks have identical caps to the original ones, but almost twice as high in elevation from the controller, allowing to gain precision at the expense of responsiveness (a bit like what KontrolFreek offers with its additional thumb grips). The third and final pair offers an intermediate size and adopts a convex cap, like those of the DualShock 3, except that they are smoother and closer to the feel of an arcade stick directional joystick.
With three different models of analogue sticks supplied with the controller, I have a feeling some third party options will be launched soon, like custom colored ones, or even different shapes. Now If the ability to change the sticks and directional pad is very significant, their positions on the handle can not be changed nevertheless. Forget the idea of switching the directional pad with the left analog stick to find a configuration similar to that of PlayStation controllers, Microsoft is clinging to its homemade design and does not offer this option, unlike Mad Catz’s MLG Pro Circuit Controller that launched in 2012 for the Xbox 360.
The other less visible new feature are on the back of the controller. While Impossible to miss when holding the Xbox Elite controller, four new paddles (two different sizes) are placed in the hollow side between the two grip handles. These can take the functions of any other button on the controller (to aim or reload in an FPS or change gears in a racing game, for example). Like the analog sticks, they are also removable and exchangeable, if you prefer two of the same size on the top or on one side of the grip. In my personal opinion as a user of Scuff and other previous custom-made third party controllers, this feature is great for shooting games, as you can quickly customize these buttons to the X,Y,A and B to reduce the have your right thumb travel to them for the clicks. That way, your thumbs will always be on the analogue sticks, and you’ll benefit of maximum responsiveness of the paddles, since they have more sensitivity. These paddles alongside the triggers and other buttons feel add a lot to the gaming sensations, since the mechanisms associated feel like a real-life function, like a steering wheel gear change.
All these additional changes in materials, mechanisms and parts however bear a great load on the user: the Xbox Elite controller is substantially heavier. To compare, the Xbox One Classic controller weighs around 282 grams while the Xbox Elite Controller reaches up to 350 grams in weight, depending on the parts used – with batteries in both cases – so that’s around 50-60 grams difference. The Xbox Elite Controller. In comparison, the wired Mad Catz’s MLG Pro Circuit Controller, one that used for a long time, reaches 266 grams on the scale. While this extra weight might seem a lot, and will take you time to get used to, you’ll soon realize that it adds a certain feel of solidity, and will make you feel like using something cheap or toy-ish once you switch back to the normal classic controller. The Xbox Elite controller is a tool of all trades for any Xbox One player, and the ergonomics of the controller are perfect and limit fatigue during long gaming sessions.
If the Xbox Elite controller is quite modular when it comes to extra parts, it is also fully configurable via the dedicated Xbox Accessories application available on both Xbox One and Windows 10. This is where you’ll be able to change the assignment of all buttons, triggers and handle paddles, then save these configuration settings to create profiles assigned to the games you play. On that note, the Xbox Elite controller also has a new switch located in the middle, under the Xbox illuminated logo, to quickly switch between two profiles with one click.
But the richness of the customized profile doesn’t end with simple reallocation of buttons and functions, but also the sensitivity of the analog sticks, which proves to be very convenient to adjust with the different heights and style provided in the box. The paddles on the back for example, although well placed can be very sensitive by default, and you can play with those settings to avoid accidental actions in your game, or alter its reaction.
When combining the rich and deep programmable settings on the Xbox One Accessories App with the modular combinations of the controller different parts, you end up creating perfect recipes for your different games. In my case, as a Destiny regular player, I’ve based the settings closer to what I’m used to in Halo 3, with a bumper jumper configuration, assigning my weapon switch, reload, special and melee to the paddle buttons, lowered the range of the triggers, heightened the sensitivity of the sticks, and I used the right elevated analogue for more precision. This has changed my game style quite tremendously, and felt closer to what I was used to on previous professional gaming controllers.
In another example, was a different alterations of buttons and modules with Killer Instinct. Because I’m more used to play fighting games with arcade sticks, I’ve removed the paddles, both analogue stick (to prevent misusing them), and tried the circular D-Pad, with heightened button responsiveness. In the end, there’s no perfect recipe for each game, and you’ll have to find the one that fits your game style.
One final note that I assume a lot of Xbox One or PC players want to know: does the Xbox Elite controller work with my current accessories? Well, the great thing is that the Elite Controller has the same plugs as the updated Xbox One Controllers that came out in late 2015, such as the Armed Force Special Edition, including a Built-in 3.5mm Stereo Headset Jack, the propriety Xbox protocol in case you have an Xbox One Chat Headset, Xbox One Stereo Headset or Xbox One Chatpad. The controller of course has the usual USB-B plug for powering it when not using batteries, or charging the Xbox One Play and Charge Kit. Oh and yes, the Xbox Elite controller comes with it’s own higher quality corded and longer USB cable, and a very stylish but subtle carrying case for the controller and all the accessories and modules.
The Xbox Elite Controller was reviewed using a unit purchased by the writer. The model is available in two color schemes, and compatible with Xbox One and PC with Windows 10. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.