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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
USB Type-C with included charging dock
Rechargeable battery with long life
Ergonomic and highly customizable
Hefty for some users
Finish attracts smudges
After resolving the numerous issues of the Series 1 Elite controller, Microsoft has created one of the best gaming controllers ever made with the Series 2.
The original Xbox One controller has undergone quite a few changes and iterations over the console’s long life. You’ve got the original version that launched with the Xbox One, a slightly updated version of that, the One S controller, and then the Elite. Each of these controllers were pretty well-received in their day, but Microsoft carefully improved and updated them throughout the years to make them even better.
We reviewed the original $150 Elite controller when it debuted years ago and loved nearly every aspect of it, but it wasn’t flawless suffering from the lack of a few key features and some durability issues. This is where the newly updated Elite Series 2 controller comes in. Listening to feedback provided by gamers on the weaknesses of Series 1, Microsoft has put out what is likely to be the last iteration of the Xbox One controller, and it’s pretty much perfect—provided you’re willing to pay the hefty price tag.
The general format of the Elite Series 2 takes the basic XB1 controller and builds upon that excellent design by adding in tons of extras and features. However, unlike the first Elite controller, this version uses the newer One S model controller as its basis. This means there is no more two-piece design where the top and bottom shells of the controller are separate. The build is less flashy perhaps, no longer sporting a two-tone finish, but it makes it feel much more solid and creates a sleeker look.
The Series 2 is strikingly beautiful, with a subtle matte black finish forming the central body and some dark chrome accents throughout. The original Elite used brushed aluminum as an accent tone, but that’s been swapped for a darker gunmetal finish that I personally love. This accent tone is found along the top bumpers and triggers (that are now textured plastic), as well as the analog sticks and Xbox/home button. You’ll also notice that the mini USB port at the top is now USB Type-C. Aside from my personal dream of this USB port becoming the universal design for all electronics, this implementation offers a superior port with better data transfer speeds and quicker charging times, so it’s nice to see here.
The grips this time have been heavily revamped (a welcome change as they were a point of weakness for durability on the Series 1), wrapping around the back, sides, and front for a seamless texture. Also changed from the previous Elite, these grips are no longer grey, but instead a nice black tone to match the rest of this black beauty.
For the face of the Series 2, the four iconic Xbox buttons are unchanged, but there are a few small changes elsewhere. The toggle switch from the Series 1 has now been swapped for a simple push-button that allows you to toggle between premade profiles with even more flexibility. It is easier to accidentally push, but we didn’t find it to be an issue.
One of the most striking changes to this area is the D-pad, which no longer sticks out from the design with its shiny aluminum surface. This time around, it’s sporting a flat black color that meshes much better with the overall look of the Series 2. It’s still got the radar-dish design that I personally find to be one of the best D-pad designs for any controller ever made.
The Series 2 is strikingly beautiful, with a subtle matte black finish forming the central body and some dark chrome accents throughout.
The rear of the Series 2 is slightly different from its predecessor, mainly the lack of a removable battery. Now this change is a bit polarizing for two main reasons. A rechargeable battery is super convenient since you can simply plug it in and juice it up, never having to worry about scrambling around for new batteries. On the other hand, this battery, like all rechargeable batteries, will ultimately wear down and eventually need replacing, which you can no longer do on your own. Much like smartphones that have ditched removable batteries, it seems like more and more devices are forgoing that option. We personally love the rechargeable pack included and supposedly it’ll last 10 years, but when it does get worn out, your only option is to send it in to have Microsoft replace it.
There is also a minimal charging strip where the battery sits, allowing you to use the included dock plugged into your USB-C cord to charge the controller when not in use. This dock is an excellent perk of the Series 2, negating the need for third-party docks that are often plagued with issues. I found it convenient to leave this dock plugged into the Xbox all the time so that I could place the controller there for a quick charge between gaming sessions or at the end of the night.
Battery aside, the rear of the Series 2 also features the optional paddles and extra buttons if you like to use those for added customization. The only difference with these is the finish, which now matches the dark tone of the D-pad. Lastly, the hair triggers return, but now have three different settings instead of two, providing even more potential customizing.
The final part of the design we’d like to discuss is the case. The first Elite also included a case, but this too has been refreshed for the Series 2. The first thing of note is that it isn’t quite the same case just rehashed. Close inspection shows that the material has also been changed a bit, making it smoother and less scratchy. The zipper also uses the new gunmetal finish. One of the more important changes to the case is that the top now includes a port for the charging dock, so you can even charge your controller right inside the case.
Inside the case, the material has also been swapped from grey to black to continue the darker theme of the Series 2. You’ll also notice the foam pad is no longer here, as that’s where the dock sits. This dock can be removed or used inside the case and attaches with a strong magnet. The last two parts of the case are unchanged from Series 1, with a mesh cradle for accessories on the top and a foam organizer to hold all the swappable thumbsticks and paddles when not in use.
The original Elite was perhaps the most comfortable controller I’ve ever used, so with the Series 2, I had high hopes in this department. Thanks to some clever but subtle changes by the Microsoft team, this controller is even better.
The main points of ergonomic superiority the Elite has over the cheaper XB1 controllers stem from the finish, grips and sheer customization that allows each user to tailor their controller to their preference. With so many options between different combinations of thumbsticks, D-pads, and paddles, everyone can find their optimal setup after some experimenting.
The grips are perhaps the most important part of this realm since that’s where your hands will be in contact with the controller most of the time. Luckily, they’re even better on the Series 2. While the original Elite only had rubberized grips along the back, the Series 2 has them wrapped around the full circumference of the device. This means your hands rest on them completely, providing a nice grippy surface that never gets slippery.
The last point of comfort I appreciated on the Series 2 is the textured triggers. While somewhat gimmicky, I found it to be better suited for quickly identifying between the triggers and bumpers, similar to how the home row on your keyboard has bumps on it.
The only real issue some users may see as a downside of this controller is that it’s quite a hefty device. The controller weighs 348 grams with all attachments, so it might take some getting used to compared to the 210 gram S controller. I personally love the bulk, as it feels premium, but it might not be for everyone.
One of our biggest gripes with the original Elite controller was that it lacked Bluetooth functionality despite its premium price tag. Seeing how the much cheaper ONE S variant included this, it was even more frustrating. Thankfully, Microsoft listened to our collective rants and added Bluetooth to the Series 2, which drastically improves the number of devices it can be used with.
The overall setup process for the new Series 2 is quick and simple (more so than the first Elite). So let’s cover how to use it with both your Xbox One and PC. First things first, make sure the rechargeable battery is sufficiently charged (it comes charged out of the box) and you’re ready to pair it with the console.
To do so, turn on your console first and wait for it to fully boot. Now power on the controller and hold down the pairing button on the top until the Xbox symbol flashes. Then do the same thing on your console’s pairing button until both begin to rapidly flash (this indicates they are searching for each other). Once paired, the flashing will slow and then stop completely to show they have successfully paired.
As we stated earlier, the inclusion of Bluetooth means using the Series 2 with your PC is even easier than previous Xbox One controllers. For those who plan to use their Elite Series 2 with a PC, this is perhaps the single best upgrade over the Series 1, because you no longer need the annoyingly large adapter to pair it with your PC (also saving you an additional $25).
Everything we disliked about the original Elite controller has been improved with the second iteration, making it the best first-party controller you can get for XB1 or PC.
To do this, first ensure your PC is running the Windows 10 Anniversary Update and your controller is also updated. Next, you can turn on the controller and head to the computer. At your desktop, select Start > Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices, then turn Bluetooth on so it can discover the controller. After doing so, you should see “Xbox Wireless Controller” pop up, and you can now click “pair” from there and you’re ready to game.
For those who want to use their PC for local multiplayer games, it should also be noted that you can only connect one Bluetooth controller to your PC at a time. In addition to that limitation, you also can’t use any attachments like headsets, chat pads or the stereo adapter in this mode.
If you plan to buy this controller to use with other electronics that support Bluetooth devices, make sure you do some research before committing to it, as it doesn’t always work with everything. That said, we did manage to pair the controller with a couple other devices that weren’t officially supported.
To test the performance of the new Elite Series 2 controller, I put this device through several hours of gaming on both PC and Xbox One platforms running a number of games and layouts. The results were promising, so let’s take a closer look.
Enhanced performance in games is one of the big selling points of the Elite, which is marketed towards players who want to gain an advantage over those with regular controllers. While subtle, I did feel that the Elite improved some small aspects of my gameplay, though skill trumps this in every way.
For things like shooters, the hair triggers will give you a slight increase to reaction time, as there is less pull, but it takes some getting used to. The longer thumbsticks supposedly help with things like aim time, but getting used to them requires a bit of relearning to get the muscle memory rewired. Personally, I prefer the shorter sticks, but to each their own.
The paddles are great for adding additional functionality to your controller that non-Elite controllers can’t touch. For racing games like Forza, using these to shift gears means you can do so without having to move your fingers from other buttons. However, because these are unique to the Elite controllers, new users will have a steep learning curve to successfully implement them into their gameplay.
This price tag makes it not only the most expensive first-party controller around, but also nearly the cost of a brand new Xbox One S console.
The enhanced D-pad is perhaps my favorite piece of kit to instantly improve gaming performance. For things like platformers or fighting games, the dish design is exceptionally good at helping you to nail combos or tricky movements, and I always have it equipped.
No matter what games we used the Series 2 with, from Destiny 2 to Dragon Ball Fighter Z and more, we felt the controller added a subtle but noticeable boost to performance over a regular controller. That being said, it won’t drastically make you better, so don’t get your hopes up.
In terms of durability, this new Series 2 addresses several weaknesses of the Series 1. The rubber grips used to be a particularly weak point, coming unglued from the body over time. It seems like Microsoft have fixed this, but only time will tell.
The bumpers on every XB1 controller up until the One S were another point of failure due to the thin plastic piece that attached them to the controller. If you dropped your controller in just the right spot, even from a short height, they often broke and flopped around, requiring you to either send it in for repair or fix it yourself at home. The original Elite also suffered from this, and I experienced this with my first device. Now that the Series 2 is built off the S controller, this is supposedly no longer an issue.
While we didn’t experience any durability issues with our controller, the long-term durability will need to be assessed at a later date, though it seems to have gotten some upgrades to resolve issues of the past.
Right now, the Elite Series 2 controller retails for $180, about $30 more than its predecessor. This price tag makes it not only the most expensive first-party controller around, but also nearly the cost of a brand new Xbox One S console (or three brand new titles). That can be a tough sell for your average gamer.
Sure, all of the included extras, customization potential, and the ultra-premium feel is nice, but does that warrant the $180 cost? Well, that’s for you to decide ultimately, but if you do plan on fully utilizing the customization potential, it’s probably worth it. Otherwise, the One S is probably sufficient.
The argument could be made that considering you get a Bluetooth controller capable of working on XB1 and PC, a charging dock and a nice little case to keep it all together, the cost isn’t awful. But if you want all of those things for less, you can grab an S controller, dock and case for far, far less.
Since the Elite controller really is in a league of its own, the biggest competitor to it is the first generation, which can still be purchased from a number of retailers. We’re going to quickly compare the two to see which might be best for you.
So we’ve covered a lot of the differences between the two series throughout this article, and while the second iteration is much improved over the first, the original Elite is still a perfectly capable controller with most of the same features. Now that the new one is out, the older model has also dropped a bit in price—making it more appealing. The price of the Series 1 can vary wildly from as little as $100 all the way up to the original tag of $150 depending on where you look, but saving up to $80 for a controller with mostly the same features is an excellent way to get into the Elite series for less.
Cost aside, there are a few key things you’ll lose if you go with the first model. Perhaps the most noteworthy advantage the Series 2 has is Bluetooth connectivity. This key feature means you no longer need the obtrusive USB wireless adapter to use it with a PC, and it’ll also work with more devices. The other major advantage is the durability improvements on the second iteration, which should make it last even longer.
A truly awesome controller with a steep price point.
Everything we disliked about the original Elite controller has been improved with the second iteration, making it the best first-party controller you can get for XB1 or PC. However, the steep price point might be a hard pill to swallow for users who don’t like to splurge.