Xbox Elite Wireless Controller: Review

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Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller came as surprise when it was first announced. Both its price ($149/£129/AU$195) and its purpose seemed misaligned with the image Microsoft wanted to put out there after the Xbox One’s slow start out of the gate.

It’s expensive, extravagant and perhaps most useful for only a small niche of the Xbox community i.e. it’s everything Microsoft was trying to avoid when it rebranded the Xbox One from a next-level gaming machine on par with PCs to the more affordable, all-in-one entertainment center we see today.

But despite what the lavish, pro-only price suggests, the controller has a universal appeal that anyone – from the tier-one Call of Duty players to the casual Peggle kings – can enjoy.

Why? The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is easily the most comfortable controllers on the market, with rubberized grips, a cool-to-the-touch finish and stainless steel components that can be swapped out to suit your needs.

Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

Add to that a slew of paddles located on the back of the controller that can be assigned the function of any face button and a set of reinforced hair triggers that can be programmed and physically set to different sensitivity levels and you have the makings of a great gamepad.

Best of all, it works on PCs running Windows 7 or higher – including, of course, Windows 10. Drivers for PC release on October 27 which, unsurprisingly, coincide nicely with the recent release of the Xbox One Controller Wireless Adapter.

Design

It’s hard to spot a serious design flaw with Microsoft’s new control pad. For the first six hours with the controller I pored over every detail trying to find something that didn’t live up to the price tag. But after the six hours passed I hadn’t found anything that annoyed me that couldn’t either be swapped out, recalibrated or reprogrammed.

Hold it in your hands for a minute and you’ll instantly feel the big changes over the standard Xbox One pad. It’s heavier by far, and more comfortable too thanks to the rubberized grip and amazingly smooth matte finish.

There are three magnetic interchangeable parts on the face of the controller – the d-pad and the two thumbsticks. The standard sticks are the concave rubber pads you might know and love already on the Xbox One, but other options include convex PS3-style sticks or extra long, arcade-style pieces if those are more your thing. (The arcade-style sticks are excellent for fighting games, by the way.)

Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

The other interchangeable part, the d-pad, comes in two flavors: a standard cross or the new 360-degree “solar panel” design. I found the former more comfortable than the latter, but I could see the latter coming in handy, too.

The six other face buttons – share, menu, A,B,XY – aren’t any different than their standard controller counterpart with the exception of their color: they’re all jet black.

Spin the controller around and things get more interesting. There you’ll find the four aforementioned paddles, aptly named P1, P2, P3 and P4. At first I thought they might interfere with how I usually grip the controller – like most gamers I place pressure on the wings with my palms and three outside fingers – and for a few irritating seconds when I first started using the controller that’s exactly what happened.

But Microsoft has given this controller real thought, and have left no stone unturned. If you don’t like the paddles, you can either remove them from the controller or simply disable them by pressing the sync button at the top of the controller twice.

Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

You’ll also find the rubberized grip here, as well as lock mechanisms for the triggers that allow you to halve the press of the right and left trigger buttons.

The last feature worth noting is that it comes packed with a USB cable to connect it to your PC and two AA batteries. I found it slightly insulting that Microsoft doesn’t include a play and charge kit with each Elite, but that’s more of a personal issue than anything wrong with the controller itself.

Overall, the design is one that is incredibly well thought-out. Microsoft, like Sony and Nintendo, usually leaves the design of extra controllers to third-party manufacturers like PDP or Mad Catz with varying degrees of success, but this is the first time since the Wavebird on GameCube that I’ve been impressed with a second-iteration first-party peripheral.

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Performance and Xbox Accessories App

Over the course of a weekend, I used the controller in a half-dozen racing, fighting, shooting and sports games in my Xbox One collection. Some benefited immensely from the controller while others merely felt more comfortable than usual.

As you might expect the Elite was a major boon in first-person shooters. Halfing the distance on the right trigger allowed me to shoot non-automatic weapons faster, and crouching became quicker once I mapped it to one of the paddles on the back. Likewise, racing games like Forza Horizon 2 became more dynamic experiences using the Elite controller, and left me salivating for Forza Motorsport 6.

Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

That said, I didn’t find the controller to be particularly advantageous in every genre. Besides a longer left stick, I saw no reason fighting games could be made any better using the hardware. And the same went for sports games like Madden, FIFA or NHL.

Of course one size didn’t fit all when it came to the paddle buttons and stick sensitivity. To that end Microsoft is releasing an Xbox Accessories app that will allow you to set up custom profiles for your controller.

Options in the app include changing the left and right thumbstick sensitivity from a linear speed to an exponential one and decreasing the time it takes for the triggers to respond to your touch. You’ll also use the app to assign functions to the paddles. It’s on this screen that I found my first disappointment.

Review: Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

The Xbox Accessories App doesn’t allow you to program a string of buttons to the paddles – a huge disappointment if you play fighting games and like to have a few combos up your sleeve when things get dicey.

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In the beta version of the software used for review testing, Microsoft already included preset options for its biggest fall releases: Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Halo 5: Guardians and Forza Motorsport 6. The controller can save two profiles at a time, and switching between them is as simple as moving a slider on the face of the controller. If you need more than two apps at any given time you’ll need to return to the Accessories app, however, I never found myself playing more than two games in any one gaming session.

Admittedly the app’s biggest problem is that navigation so far feels cumbersome. Moving back and forth between screens can be a headache as some of the normal functions of the controller (like using ‘A’ to go forward and ‘B’ to go back) are temporary disabled while you monkey around inside the app.

We liked

Versatility is the Elite’s greatest strength. Besides the four face buttons and two bumpers there’s almost nothing permanent about this controller. Paddles can be removed anytime they get in the way; triggers can be physically set to different distances; and control sticks can be swapped at a moment’s notice.

It also helps that at its core the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is incredibly comfortable (not to mention stylish) thanks to some slight tweaks to the grips, jet-black color scheme and matte finish.

We disliked

That said, the amount of customization options can be overwhelming for someone who isn’t interested in X- and Y-axis acceleration or setting the sensitivity of a trigger down to the nearest millimeter.

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This fact hurts more when you consider the one function that highly invested gamers could really benefit from – macros – was nowhere to be found.

Final verdict

Here’s the short of it: The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is simply one of the most extraordinary controllers to hit any Microsoft console since the original switch from the Duke controller to the S Controller back on the original Xbox. It’s smarter, sleeker and more versatile than the standard gamepad, and despite the pro moniker will appeal to gamers of all skill levels.

Now, with that said, no matter how great this controller is, if you think $149/£129/AU$195 is too much to spend on a controller the Elite won’t change your mind. If the decision comes down to buying this or three new titles around the holidays, you should probably go for the extra games. But if you have the financial wherewithal to back purchases like these without losing sleep over it, the Elite Wireless Controller will help you find a newfound love for controllers and the science behind them.

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50 thoughts on “Xbox Elite Wireless Controller: Review

  1. I recently got this controller and I must say I love it. I went into Gamestop looking to buy it and was dismayed to find it was sold out through December. The associate I dealt with however informed me that if I were to trade in my Xbox One for the Xbox One Elite System Bundle that they were offering $250 in store credit, a free extra controller, and a free $60.00 game. After I traded in my Day One Edition Xbox One (which admittedly was having some issues (albeit infrequently) reading blu-ray movie discs, and a few games (that I simply wasn’t going to play anymore), I only paid $200 out of pocket and that got me the 1TB Hybrid SSD hard drive, the Elite Controller, an extra Xbox licensed controller, and a copy of Call of Duty Black Ops III. Not too shabby at all. That being said, I was very pleased when I first handled the controller. The heft makes it feel like a high quality product. I love the fit and finish, the new ergonomics of it, and the additional paddles, thumbsticks, and the swappable d-pad. I had recently priced out a Scuf controller to my specifications and it came out to over $200.00 so I find that the price for the Xbox One Elite Controller is very fair, and very competitive for controllers of this kind of quality. The ease with which everything is swapped is also amazing. So far I’ve got a bit of time in Halo 5, and in Fallout 4 with this controller and I don’t think I’d ever want to go back to using the standard controller under any circumstances. This is the single nicest controller I’ve ever used, without question. I highly recommend it. $150 might seem steep to the untrained eye, but this is truly a huge step up from the standard controller.

  2. >Uses a stick in fighting games, rather than the d-pad(optimal for fighting games on a controller) or an actual arcade stick. >Wanted to be able to press one button to perform an entire combo in fighting games. That’s called cheating. The

  3. I wanted a paddle for LB and RB simultaneously, but alas, not luck. I get that it would feel a little cheep to program a string of commands. you would essentially have instawin buttons on fighting games. (Yes I play Destiny. I need those supers man…)

  4. I think the controller features full button remapping. So you can just tool the paddles to whatever you want to.

  5. Also, aren’t the scuf ones wired only? I know some will ONLY play wired because they’re stupid enough to believe that it eliminates some non-existant lag, but anyone with a nice big TV is gonna find the regular length cables too short and use it wirelessly.

  6. But better implemented by the friendly folks at XBOX

  7. pretty much, when the elite controller comes out, there will be an app on windows 10 to remap the buttons to your desire. Example; mapping A,B,X,Y to the 4 paddles so you wouldn’t need to take your right thumb off the stick.

  8. Huh? You can map anything you want to the paddles..

  9. They finally added the rear trigger paddles, but they still wont act as triggers for LB/RB? Gah.

  10. Just started Fallout 4, and even though its completely playable on the standard controller being able to assign the VATS and jump functions to the rear paddles make it just so much more playable. Having jump initially set to Y instead of the usual A was just stupid on the developer’s part.

  11. i reckon it could be useful to anyone looking for an improved set up, i’m not a pro gamer but sometimes i feel like the button layouts could be much simpler or better especially when the game doesn’t have many options to remap or the options just suck.

  12. Haha …. So Save your money .. It seems like a great controller for those who want one .. Pricy ? Yes but worth it to those who matter

  13. Yup, and made exactly the right decision. Even though they knew they’d be dinged for it by cheat-gamers.

  14. There isn’t macros on this button as Microsoft thought it would be unfair to other gamers who won’t have this controller. They did actually think about it

  15. Does anyone notice that non of the reviewers of this device have actually used it other than to play with the accessory app? I got one today that I was hoping to use on windows 7 for gaming. It says right on the box that it works in win 7, but sadly it does not. On the box is a link to get the drivers for win 7, but that page only has instructions for connecting a standard controller and no download link for drivers. I found a forum post where a dev posted a link to the driver for the standard controller. I downloaded the driver and windows 7 says it is not for this device. I called Microsoft for help. Their suggestion is that I buy a standard controller to install the driver with and then it might work with the elite controller or I can wait and just hope that someday they actually make a proper driver for win 7. That probably isn’t likely though. This is now the most expensive paperweight I own.

  16. True so true. Even Xbox 360 controllers cost $39.99 smh

  17. Sold out almost everywhere I looked before finally snagging myself one. I think this controller and its price will be here to stay for a while.

  18. Way over priced in my opinion. I guarantee this thing don’t cost $150 to produce this is all profit for MS. I say wait it out and if sells are really low which I think it will happen they have no choice but to drop the price. Seriously I agree with @mattswider:disqus No charge kit is a dumb move on MS. If your going to charge a premium price tag for hardcore gamers at least included everything without having to fork more money on a accessory that should already be included.

  19. You’ve not already got a stash of eneloops used for all your controllers? How silly.

  20. Although as a normal controller I understand $150 being expensive. This controller is the equivalent of MS scuff and a normal scuff without any real customization I believe STARTS at $150. I think you should compare the price with the competitions counterpart instead of the normal price…. Plus most people I know personally don’t own a play and charge it’s been rechargeable batteries for years

  21. Im not usually one complaining. However if you think there is nothing wrong with MS all of a sudden releasing a new controller which is 3 times the price of the old one and then not including the play and charge kit then possibly you do love MS a bit too much? Im not going to complain myself but I dont blame others for doing so. My protest is simple, I wont buy this controller! But then I am a PC gamer and I can choose whatever the hell controller I like! I do think that the release date is a bit poor timing for PC gamers, the new steampad is out at the same time for a third of the price!

  22. Nice one Matt. It looks great. Its cheaper than a Scuf with more functionality and lets be honest…we’ve all already got a play and charge pack. People just aren’t happy unless there is something to nitpick these days. Especially gamers, who are now the whiniest race on earth.

  23. Thanks, @khalid_gravi:disqus. Everyone who asked me about the controller felt it was nice, but expensive for $150. And then when I tell them it doesn’t come with Play & Charge, their reaction is

  24. your review was really good!! specially this part

  25. Good point, @marcy_ff2:disqus. I originally had in there, and it got edited for space.

  26. I think your review is good, though the negatives on the pros/cons list are exactly the same just worded differently!

  27. I’m reviewing this for all gamers, @disqus_DSwsMu8duL:disqus . And I think I do a good job of explaining it’s for pro-level gamers and not for everyone. In fact, I say those exact words. Just because I list drawbacks and explain why it’s not for everyone doesn’t mean I think it’s any less of a recommendation for dedicated gamers willing to spend the money. tl;dr: If I said

  28. I’m a lost cause by trying to make sense of a (senseless) negative comment? Please explain it to me then. You *are* aware the author of this article has re-worded that part of his review, yes?

  29. This is the elite controller. The ‘con’ states buying two normal controllers instead.

  30. part of your story is mine as well.. i bought the new system on launch night and i’m sporting 3 controllers with similar symptoms plus a bunch of broken mics.. i truly wish you luck and hope to remember this thread next year, so i can check in and see how your new controller is doing.. as i think most gamers will agree these are the tools of our entertainment and anything that dampings that is always looked upon negatively. for now i refuse to give MS another 60 bbucks or more and have been busting out the soldering iron every now and again. until i find something that been field tested. i’ll hold the old 360 controllers up as something to aspire towards and i’ll keep patching these new ones until worth the investment.. seriously cheaping the hardware is not where these guys want to go.. in the end they will louze far to many customers if they do.. again i wish u luck and a controller made out of germany for the xbox one i would still buy in a heart beat, no matter what the price.. its not the shiny metal that will make it durable its the higher tolerances that does it..

  31. I still think these will outlast a ‘standard’ controller. The thumbsticks (for example) are metal as are the circle bits that they fit into. My standard controllers are already showing significant signs of wear – particularly on the left. There is a build up of ‘dust’ from the plastic that is slowly being worn away and my thumbstick itself has a groove worn into it. This controller is less than 6 months old. My others have exactly the same and 1 Left thumbstick doesn’t work properly – it doesn’t always click and is a little loose – it has a bit of play before it starts working – hence it was replaced by my current controller. In 18 months, I have had 4 standard controllers – 1 doesn’t work, 2 have excessive play (loose and worn thumbsticks) and intermittent issues and the 4th is on the way out too. I doubt these would have these issues – at least not to the same degree because of the metal parts.Obviously its untested in the public hands at the moment but if it lasts longer than 18months its a cheaper option than my other controllers.

  32. Indeed. Libtards are quick to brand other people with their BS. Just a fact of life that Germany and Japan generally manufacture products to a higher standard. Just look at their automobiles for the most evident examples.

  33. if only it was untrue. but since its a FACT! calling out someone as a racist only shows your ignorance of quality but your more likely a thin skinned libtard! please go away and when china and mexico starts manufacturing products that rival germany and japan then i might put weight into your really stupid comment!

  34. good point but not really valid. if its made in mexico or china it will last about as long as the original. now if it came out of germany or japan i’d buy two as soon as they were out..

  35. They advertised the original controller to last about 8 – 10 years, so if this can last

  36. I guess if you are heavy handed though, the Elite could still work out better value as its metal parts and better build quality may last longer than 2-3 normal controllers….

  37. for some the extra’s won’t be worth it, so if you’re a bit heavy handed with controllers having two instead of one might be better value.

  38. I stopped reading when I saw in the ‘against’ list,

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