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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
Great feel and superb comfort
Amazing customization and tuning
Best D-pad available for Xbox One
Doesn’t solve bumper issues
Issues with rubber grips wearing out
While pricey, the Elite controller for the Xbox One is the ultimate device for your console or PC needs when it comes to a premium, first-party controller—long as you take care of it.
Dating back to the Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft has a long-standing history of making excellent controllers for both PC and Xbox gamers. When they debuted the new Xbox One controller, it was well-received by most, but it still felt like nothing too special. In the past, if you wanted to get something premium, you had to go to a third-party seller or send off your official controller to someone who’d mod it. Well, those days are long gone.
With the release of the Xbox One Elite controller, high-end has finally meshed with first-party to create a truly awesome device, unlike any controller before it. Holding one in your hands instantly makes you feel like a pro gamer. However, the Elite isn’t completely perfect, so read on to see what we liked and disliked in our review below.
Upon opening the box, the Elite controller evokes a certain kind of luxury that others lack. Enveloped in a handy cloth shell with a hard inner lining for protection, the Elite controller’s complete package is easy to transport or stow away safely. The black case is adorned with a subtle black Xbox logo on the top and a loop for attaching it to a bag. Unzipping it reveals your new device in all its glory. Inside, the top of the case has a nice little mesh divider for storing the included USB cable or even a charge kit.
The controller is perched atop a foam stand inside with a separate foam organizer for keeping the paddles, joysticks, and D-pad safe and sound. This case not only makes for easy travel but also for solid storage if you’re someone who tends to lose small parts and accessories.
Moving on to the overall design of the Elite controller, you’ll notice it looks similar to the original controller’s design that uses two plastic pieces to form the face (unlike the newer S controllers that are comprised of one solid piece of plastic). Here, the top piece is made of a matte silver/gunmetal finish with the classic chrome Xbox button and a rubberized matte black plastic piece for the front plate, which creates a beautiful aesthetic.
The Elite originally came just in black, but now also includes a fully white variant. All of the buttons on the black version are completely black, which is a unique trait of the Elite compared to cheaper versions. Also unique to this controller is the center toggle button where you can seamlessly swap between two preset profiles, which we’ll elaborate on later.
With the release of the Xbox One Elite controller, high-end finally meshed with first-party to create a truly awesome device, unlike any controller before it.
The joysticks come in three variants, short classic style with knurling and a recessed center, a slightly longer version of this, and a smooth dome-style akin to older DualShock controllers from the PlayStation. Some claim these have specific uses, but we stick with the classic shorter ones for almost everything. Aside from these, the D-pad is also swappable and includes a classic style version and one that looks like a radar dish. Strange looks aside, we love this funky D-pad. If you enjoy fighting games or platformers, the D-pad performs superbly.
Moving to the back of the controller, you’ll see four metal paddles you can use for unmatched customization. With these, you can create shortcuts, custom button mapping and more, which really adds to the versatility of the device. If you don’t want these, you can remove or keep as many as you like. Right above the paddles are the two switches for turning on the hair triggers with the RT and LT buttons. While it won’t make a huge difference, it does add a bit of an edge to some competitive shooters. Lastly, the rear of the Elite is wrapped in two lovely rubber grips that add to the premium feel. It’s perhaps the best of any controller we’ve ever held.
Microsoft makes a big fuss about the Elite’s comfort, and it’s for good reason. This controller does feel more comfortable in your hands than any other we’ve tested. It’s got a decent weight to it, the rubber grips on the back are soft and comfy, the buttons are all perfectly placed and in reach, and the ability to swap out the sticks lets you tailor it to your hands. The textured coating on the front also feels great and adds to the Elite’s high-class vibe. If all the hardware customization isn’t enough for added comfort, you can also change aspects of the controller with the software to further tweak it to your needs. In this area, the Elite truly shines.
Much like other Xbox One controllers, setup is a breeze. Simply put in a fresh set of batteries (or a battery pack if you’re using rechargeables) and pair it with the console. First, turn on the controller and your console, hold down the pairing button on the top until the Xbox button flashes rapidly, and then do the same thing on your console’s pairing button until it also flashes. When paired, this flashing will slow and stop to show they have successfully paired.
For PC users, the setup is a bit more complicated, but not horrible. Because the Elite lacks the newly added Bluetooth functionality of the S controller, you’re going to need the wireless adapter to pair it with your PC, which will run you an additional $25. To connect, ensure your PC is running the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and that your Elite controller is also updated. Next, plug in your adapter to a USB port. On your PC, go to Settings > Devices and choose “Add Bluetooth or other device.” Select “Everything else,” then “Xbox Wireless Controller” and click “Done.” Now all you have to do is pair it like you would your console. Alternatively, you can also plug it in with the included USB cable for a wired experience.
There is one noteworthy advantage the S has over the Elite—Bluetooth connectivity. What this means is that you no longer need the obtrusive USB adapter to use it with a PC.
A quick note to make here is that with USB connections, you can connect a whopping eight Xbox controllers at the same time, four controllers that have Xbox Chat headsets attached, or two if the controllers have Xbox Stereo Headsets. For wireless connections, you can do the same as the above.
Moving on from the initial setup, let’s quickly cover the setup for the Elite controller’s software, where you can fine-tune your settings. The Xbox Accessories app is available on both Xbox and PCs running Windows 10, so choose either for this setup. Inside the app, you can essentially rebind any button you want (not the menu or option buttons though), and it’ll carry over to every game you play flawlessly. You can also further tune a ton of other things like triggers, sticks and even the brightness of the Xbox button (we loved that feature). You can also store two profiles on the Elite and quickly swap between them with the toggle at the center of the controller. If you don’t feel like doing all this yourself, there are some pre-tuned profiles out there already tailored to specific games.
As with the other Xbox One controller variants, the Elite performs perfectly despite your platform of choice. Whether you’ve got a PC, Xbox One X, One S or the original Xbox One, the Elite operates flawlessly, and we didn’t experience any issues during our extensive tests.
Thanks to some more premium upgrades in this controller, it feels the best to us out of any Xbox controller you can get right now. The buttons are a bit quieter, and the shoulder buttons are less clicky. Battery life is better than the S controllers, but it would’ve been nice to see a rechargeable pack included with the Elite. Expect it to last around 25 to 30 hours with AA batteries. Thanks to all of the added customization, the paddles, the new D-pad, and the hair triggers, we felt like the Elite gave us a slight edge in certain competitive games, but it won’t instantly turn you into a pro. The new dish-style D-pad did, however, greatly improve our play in fighting games like Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Despite the disappointing durability issues Microsoft has yet to fully address, the Elite is a top-tier controller for those who are willing to pay for it.
This brings us to durability. First, let’s discuss where Microsoft made some notable improvements. To increase the lifespan and robustness of the analog sticks, they’re made of metal in the Elite, and the upgrade feels brilliant and snappy.
So, on to the not so good elements of durability. While not horrid, Microsoft still has not been able to solve the inherent weakness of the Xbox One controller’s bumpers. Some reviewers have mistakenly listed the bumpers and triggers as metal, but they are in fact just plastic. This means they are still prone to breaking if you drop them from a significant height. We have personally experienced this age-old Xbox One controller issue on the Elite, but it is also quite easy to fix yourself. Aside from this, the rubber joystick pads will still wear down and become smooth over extended use. With the Elite, however, you can swap them out for fresh ones when you decide it’s time to do so.
One other major issue is the lovely rubber grips on the back. While they feel great, they have a susceptibility to begin peeling off with age and heavy use. One Elite controller we have was purchased at launch, and this problem surfaced in the last year or so. While four years is pretty good all things considered, there doesn’t seem to be any remedy for this aside from sending it to Microsoft for a repair that will most likely not fall in the warranty window.
If you’ve read all of the above, you probably love the sound of the Elite—right up until you learn it costs $150. At this price, you could almost purchase a new console entirely, so it’s quite a steep price point. With all of the included extras, customization and overall premium feel, it’s up to you to decide whether that $150 price tag is worth it. If you don’t plan on utilizing the customization, it’s probably not worth it. But if you like feeling like a pro, it’s truly in a class of its own.
Since the biggest competitor to the Elite controller is the newer S model, we’re going to compare the two so you can decide whether that $150 price is appealing or not. The S is definitely a step up from the original controller, but it lacks all of the customization and extras you get with the Elite. To sum it up, the Elite gives you a carrying case, removable paddles, swappable joysticks, a nice long USB cable, customizable settings, and custom button mapping, hair triggers and rubber grips—all for $150. The S gives you none of this but also costs a mere $40-50 for the base model or $65-70 for the custom color options.
There is also one noteworthy advantage the S has over the Elite—Bluetooth connectivity. What this means is that you no longer need the obtrusive USB wireless adapter to use it with a PC. It also works with more devices the Elite would lack connectivity to. We’d also point out that the Elite only comes in black and white, so it pales in comparison to the S’s many, many color options.
Check out our list of The 9 Best Xbox One Accessories of 2019 to see even more awesome accessories to enhance your gaming experience.
A controller in a league of its own.
Despite the disappointing durability issues Microsoft has yet to fully address, the Elite is a top-tier controller for those who are willing to pay for it. When it comes to a premium controller experience, the Elite stands in a world of its own.
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