Yeah, it’s been years since the Xbox Elite controller was released. We’re late to the party, we get that but we still wanted to do a review of the controller.

Why, you ask?

Simply because we needed a comparison piece to other controllers we’ll inevitably review. What better controller then to be the one that others will be compared to?

What is the Xbox Elite Controller?

Great things come in small packages.

The Xbox One Elite controller is bar none, the greatest controller money can buy currently.

It takes every single aspect of the already excellent Xbox One controller, kicks things into overdrive, sets it on fire and then pours gasoline on it just to spice things up.

The controller not only comes in a nifty box, it even has its very own carrier, with slots for the modular buttons all arranged nicely inside. The extra buttons all fit snugly in their slots and I didn’t find any that slipped out of their place, even after purposely shaking the carrier repeatedly.

The carrier itself is sturdy and solid, and feels extremely similar to those one might get from buying high end headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM3. It carriers the Xbox Elite controller as snugly as the extra parts, and you’ll never have a problem taking the controller out (or putting it back in).

The looks.

Appearances can be deceiving.

On initial visual inspection, there might not seem to be any significant change to the Xbox One Elite controller over the normal Xbox One controller.

The buttons are still in the same places, the contours and shape remain unchanged. Only the colors seem to be different. Take a closer look at the device though and things start to stand out. 

For starters, the Xbox Elite is a bit heavier than the original Xbox One controller.

The added heft and weight makes it feel more substantial and aren’t detrimental to the controller in any way. If anything, we actually prefer the heavier weight of the Xbox Elite controller in our hands, compared to the relatively lightweight normal controller. It’s not at all uncomfortable to hold, even after marathon gaming sessions so worry not.

Colors are for casuals.

Another change is that the face buttons (X,Y,A,B) are now grey, no longer the color coded inputs like those found on the normal controller. That’s fine; the color coding was mainly for beginners to grasp what the buttons did and their placement.  

These buttons, like the shoulder buttons and the triggers, aren’t modular, so you can’t swap them out if you prefer the brightly color buttons of the original controllers. They are as responsive as the ones on the original controller but other than the new color, there’s nothing special about them. Surprisingly, they’re not even analog.

Still, if you’re using the Xbox Elite controller, Microsoft (rightly) assumes that you can press the buttons without looking down or depending on colored prompts. 

Yes that’s right. The Elite controller is elitist. You know what? We love it all the more for being that way. 

It’s clearly meant for the hardcore gamer, the one who buys Limited Editions of games and extraneous peripherals just to get a more immersive experience. Remember Steel Battalion for the original Xbox? Yeah, it’s for the guys for bought that thing.

Sure, normal gamers can use the controller but will probably not appreciate the differences as much as a hardcore gamer might.

The feel.

Instead of the smooth plastic found on the regular Xbox One controller, the Elite controller uses a matte coating. It has good grip and feels a tad rubbery but is leagues ahead of the relatively cheap feeling plastic found on the regular controller.

The rubberized grips are great news for those with sweaty palms.

There are even grooves crisscrossing the back of the controller now, so you can grip it better when you’re playing. It’s a great addition to the controller and gives it a unique feel, while still being functional and useful.

If you have sweaty palms, give the controller a shot. It makes a world of difference being able to hold on tight to the controller even if your hands are slippery. 

You know the Xbox Elite Controller is on a whole different level when you realize that it comes with its own customization suite app on the Xbox One and Windows 10.

The app lets you configure and reassign all the buttons, vibration intensity as well as adjust sensitivity settings and create profiles, which can then be saved on the cloud or in the controller itself.

In fact, in a rather inspired move, the controller has space for two different profiles with a button that lets you toggle between what profile you’re using on the fly.

This is great if you’re constantly changing games or are playing games with multiple gameplay styles. Even if you’re used to the customization scene, the app is rather straight forward and clearly aimed at making it easy for those new to give it a go without too much trouble.

Easy on, easy off.

One of the biggest changes on the controller comes in the form of the modular analog sticks and D-pad. The tops of the sticks and d-pad are now easily removable.

They’re held securely in place by magnets and won’t come off during gameplay, but removal is simply just a matter of pulling them out of their sockets. 

Once removed, you can swap the tops for a handful of different styled caps.  

The new D-pad comes with a circular, plate-like cap, which is incredibly useful in fighters. In fact, if you play fighters regularly on a controller (instead of on an arcade stick), it is worth it to spend money for the controller JUST for this feature as doing motions on the D-pad is much easier and more fun. 

The other D-pad cap is the traditional cross shaped D-pad. While it’s still better than the one on regular controllers, we didn’t bother to use it at all with the circular cap around.

It’s that much better.

In fact, we really hope that Microsoft integrates this design into future iterations of the basic controller as well as it’s a shame that such a great control method is locked off to only the hardcore who are willing to spend more.

For the analog sticks, there are more options, though they’re much more traditional. The Xbox One Elite controller comes with three different cap types; concave, convex and flat.

Excuse us for the lint. Try as we might, we can’t clean them out for a clear shot.

Concave caps are like what most controllers now use, with the tops caving inwards to create a depression. Convex caps are reminiscent of early Sony DualShock controllers for the PS1. They don’t have the depression, and kind of look like mushrooms. Finally there’s also the flat analog cap, like the one found on the Nintendo 64 controller. Whereas the other two caps are curved, the flat cap is exactly as it sounds, with the top flat.  

Our favourite are the concave ones. With their depressions, these tops hold the thumb more securely than the others, especially if your palms and fingers are prone to sweating. Others might prefer a different top, but no matter what is chosen, the fact remains that all of them are solidly made and feel great in use. That’s because the analog stick, as well as the caps are now made out of metal, which gives them a great premium look, as well as feel. 

Analog tops aside, the analog stick itself have been given an overhaul. It’s hard to describe, but the sticks now are much looser. On a scale of 1 to 10, with one being the original PS1 DualShock (which had incredibly loose analog sticks) and 10 being the current Xbox One analog sticks, the new ones fall around 5 or 6 on the scale.

The looseness actually makes using them much better, as they are much more responsive when compared to the general analog stick sensitivity of the original Xbox One controller The looseness doesn’t translate to it having a sloppy feel however, it just felt right.

We don’t know what voodoo Microsoft has done on the analog sticks, but going back to the regular sticks on the DualShock 4 or the Xbox One controller makes us wish every controller has the Xbox Elite’s smoother, more responsive sticks. 

Hair triggers.

The other aspects of the controller, the triggers (or RT and LT buttons) have also been given a few tweaks to make them better. They now come with individual hair trigger locks, which allow them to register button presses with even the slightest pressure. You can turn them off if you prefer, but we found them useful in FPS multiplayer games like Battlefield V or Black Ops 4.

They snap right in and won’t fall out.

The biggest change for the Xbox One Elite controller is that it can be outfitted with paddles.

These can be configured in the app to serve any function, be it as alternates for the face buttons or triggers. They take some getting used to, but are really handy for games where you need your hands to be on the triggers at all times.

We loved using them in FPS games. The extra paddles allowed us to melee, jump and shoot all at the same time without moving out fingers around. The paddles slip into their groove easily, without needing special tools so you can just plug them in or remove them whenever you want.

Once connected, they remain securely in place too, so there’s no issue of them accidentally slipping out during a boss fight or something.

The bad stuff.

Why aren’t these buttons customizable?

As much as we love fawning over the Xbox One Elite controller, it is by no means perfect. One of the most glaring issues with it is that it doesn’t come with rechargeable batteries or the Xbox One’s rechargeable battery pack found in the Play and Charge kit.

It’s an annoyance, especially after considering how much thought went into the creation of the controller. The good news is that since the battery casing is the same, you can swap in a Play and Charge battery in with no issues if you have one lying unused.

We also don’t like the shoulder buttons.

On a controller with so much customization options, the shoulder buttons are totally ignored. They aren’t modular, meaning you can’t swap out the tops and feel as rigid as they do on the normal controller.  

So shiny. It’s a shame the rest of the silver parts aren’t like the Xbox logo.

It’s a shame that the buttons were overlooked. We would’ve preferred modular options for them too. The garish silver paint on them is rather out of place. Instead of making the controller look like a premium device, it cheapens the overall look instead. A chrome finish would’ve made it look much better. 

The bottom line.

It’s an investment, but a worthwhile one.

At $194.90, the Xbox One Elite controller is definitely not an impulse buy. Despite how the features can advantage both the newbie and hardcore, only the hardcore will truly appreciate the nuances the controller provides.  

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out then, if you count yourself among that faction than the Xbox One Elite controller is definitely for you. 

The features it offers make it a must-have for any hardcore gamer, even if the price isn’t as low as we’d like. 

We just hope that Microsoft incorporates that circular d-pad into future iterations of its controller because it truly is one of the best D-pads we’ve ever had the pleasure or using.

TLDR:

Great controller with a ton of options but incredibly pricey. Unless you’re a hardcore gamer, skip it.

The Good.
– Feels and looks great.
– Tons of customization options.
– Comes with a carrying case.

The Bad.
– The price.
– Some buttons not customization.
– Not rechargeable.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.