When Microsoft first announced the Xbox One Elite Controller back at E3 earlier this year, I immediately decided I wanted one. Now, I’m not a hardcore gamer by any means, but I do play competitive multiplayer quite a bit, and having any additional advantage over my enemies is better than nothing. So this review is coming from a fairly average gamer, not someone who participates in gaming tournaments, which is where I think this review differentiates itself from others.
The Xbox One Elite Controller is a new controller from Microsoft designed mainly for professional gamers. It comes packing with interchangeable buttons, paddles, hair-triggers, the lot. It's not just for the Xbox One however, it works on Windows 7, Windows 8.x and Windows 10 PCs too, so even if you're a PC gamer, you can take full advantage of the new Xbox One Elite Controller.
Unboxing / Hands On
We've done an unboxing and quick hands on of the Xbox One Elite Controll which you can check out below. In it, we showcase everything that comes in the box, and I give first impressions and detail some of the things the new controller can do.
Jumping straight in, let’s talk about the hardware. The Xbox One Elite Controller is by far, one of the most premium feeling controllers I have ever held, and for $149.99 it absolutely should be (more on that later). Everything from the materials used, all the way down to the little things like weight. It’s one well-crafted piece of kit, and it’s something that you will notice when playing video games.
Let’s talk a little bit more about its weight actually. You definitely notice the controller being slightly heavier than the standard Xbox One controller, but this is not a bad thing. I think it adds to the premium-feel of the device, and maybe this is a placebo effect, but I think it makes me play better. It feels good to hold in the hand, and with the addition of added grips on the back of the controller, it definitely isn’t going to slip out of your sweaty hands whilst mid-matchmaking in Halo 5: Guardians.
The controller is made out of this very subtle matte material, which also adds to the grip-ability of the controller. It feels great in the hands, but is a huge fingerprint (and scratch) magnet meaning gamers who love to eat chips and other greasy substances mid-game will likely have very dirty controllers pretty quickly.
Microsoft says the Elite controller can be modded to suite your needs, now what they essentially mean by this is you can swap out certain controls and map buttons to your liking. The Elite controller comes with your standard set of controls, being the four action buttons (A, B, X and Y), a D-Pad, left and right thumb sticks, left bumper and right bumper, as well as left trigger and right trigger. But the Elite controller also comes with four extra paddles at the back of the controller which can be mapped to mimic actions of another button. For example, I can map “paddle 1” to the A button, so when I press on the paddle, the A button is activated in game. There’s also a preset switch in the middle of the controller for quick switching between two different button layouts.
Maybe it’s just me, but I had a little trouble getting used to the paddles on the back of the controller. More often than not, I found myself accidently activating them when concentrating on a game, simply because I was griping my controller tightly. Where your fingers usually wrap around the back of the controller ‘handles’, with the paddles attached your finders sit just on top of them, so when concentrating you may not notice yourself slightly griping the controller more, resulting in accidently activating paddles. Rest assured however, if they do get in the way you can remove them from the controller.
In fact, you can remove not only the paddles, but the D-PAD and thumb sticks too. The controller comes with two kinds of D-Pad and three kinds of thumb stick. Let’s talk about the D-Pad first though. The D-pad on the Xbox One Elite Controller is worlds better than the standard Xbox One controller one. It allows for precise movement in any direction, and is much more satisfying to click. In the box, you also get a standard D-Pad, which is a nice addition too. Switching out these interchangeable controls is actually easy, a little too easy you might say. It’s all magnetized, so you simply pull out the D-pad, thumb stick or paddles, and plop on the alternative control. Simple as.
Now moving onto the thumb sticks. In the box, you get three kinds. You get a taller, non-grip kind, a taller, grip kind and a standard set of thumb sticks with grips. They’re not much taller, but it’s definitely noticeable. The taller sticks are likely to be used by hardcore gamers who need the accuracy in certain video games, but I found myself preferring the standard set of sticks.
The Elite Controller also comes with hair-trigger toggles. For those who don't know that that is, it's actually pretty useful even for casual gamers who want a slight advantage when playing first-person shooters. It essentially halves the distance you need to travel with the triggers, when the toggle is on, instead of the triggers travelling all the way down, they begin activating about half way down instead.
The advantage within first-person shooters is great, it allows for faster shooting with guns that require multiple pulls on the trigger. And with the addition of the new D-Pad and paddles on the back of the controller, you can really see how a hardcore gamer would enjoy using this controller.
The Xbox One Elite Controller can be programmed with the Xbox Accessories app, available on Windows 10 and Xbox One. With this app, you can customize button mapping, and even thumbstick sensitivity. The app is pretty simple to use, however I requently had issues with the app not seeing my Elite controller when on wireless. It popped up fine every time when plugging a USB cable in. I imagine that's a bug with the software and will be fixed before the controller is launched however.
Using the controller
Now comes the part where I simply talk about what it's like to use the controller. Quite frankly, it's great. It's better than the standard Xbox One controller for sure, but some of the additional features the controller supports may be a little too much for an average gamer. The paddles for example, I really can't find a use for them. Perhaps I play the wrong kind of ganes, but I really don't see a benefit of using the paddles as a normal gamer.
Now, on a professional gamer level, the paddles are an excellent addition. For example, I can map a paddle to the A button in Halo, so I no longer need to take my finger off the right thumbstick to jump. A small advantage that only professional gamers would appreciate indeed. In the end, the paddles come down to whether or not you can get used to them. Muscle memory has all the buttons mapped out in the right places for me, so bringing in 4 extra buttons is a little jarring at first, especially when you program them to do a job another button has been doing for many years.
The thumb sticks feel great. All of them, in fact. They all feel superb on the Elite controller. I'm most comfortable with the standard set of thumbsticks as I've already mentioned, but only because my hands aren't the biggest things in the world, and using the taller sticks is a little difficult for my puny fingers. The taller sticks though do offer a different level of accuracy, but only for certain types of games, like racing perhaps. I struggled to use them with a first person shooter, but perhaps that was just my lack of skill.
Does the Elite Controller give you an advantage when gaming? Yes, absolutely. It gives you a very competitive advantage over gamers with a standard controller. But is it worth the $149.99 price tag? I'm not so sure. In the end, it depends who you are. If you're someone who is very into gaming, in that losing a game is bad news for you, then this controller is what you need. It has all the bells and whistles one professional-type gamer would want. But if you're a normal gamer who doesn't mind losing every now and then and isn't super-serious about winning at a game, I can't see why you'd want to shell out $149.99 for a controller that you probably won't take full advantage of. The standard controller does everything you probably need.
Of course, the $149.99 price tag doesn't only get you a controller. It gets you a pretty nifty carrying cade, a super rugged USB cable, three sets of thumbsticks and two D-pads. If you're going to take advantage of all this controller has to offer, than the $149.99 price tag is very easily justified. Would I personally buy the Xbox One Elite Controller? I think I would. Even though I'm not a professional gamer, I do think I'll take advantage of the many features the Xbox One Elite Controller has to offer. I'm struggling to get used to the paddles on the back, but I think after some time and once I figure out a good button map, it will be very useful.
The Xbox One Elite Controller goes on sale on October 27 for $149.99 (£119.99). You can pick one up at the Microsoft Store and places like Amazon.