For four years, almost being used every-single-day, this Xbox One Elite Controller Series 1 has taken a beating, being used day in and day out for PC and Xbox One use as well as seeing itself get everyday wear and tear including the occasional drop at the hands of a five-year-old gamer. So how has it held up?
+Adjustable d-pad and thumbsticks
+Back-side paddles make the use of the face buttons non-existent
+Carrying case offers optimal protection while transporting the controller
+Charger cable is long, braided, and is hard to tangle
+One of the heaviest, but most comfortable controllers on the market
-Cable lasted about a year of constant use
-Back paddles can be easily activated when setting down the controller
-Lacks Bluetooth capabilities
For nearly three years, my Xbox One Elite Controller Series 1 has seen a lot of tough love. I’ve used it almost on a daily basis, killing the battery almost once a day, and even using it quite often for our PC reviews. During that time, it has been dropped, it has been accidentally sat on (no damage, surprisingly enough), and still, it works as it did from the day I bought it.
Over that period, it has helped me complete campaigns for various Xbox One games I decided to give a whirl, some I even decided to stream during my time with the games. It has even helped me stream a plethora of games on PC, hardwired to our PC, and used for hours on end, never failing to keep my hands comfortable.
During that timeframe, including today as well, I remain impressed with my purchase, having even begun to consider the purchase of an Xbox One Elite Controller Series 2 due to its Bluetooth capabilities and improved upon designs. But enough of that, we’re not here to talk about that, instead, we’re here to review a controller that released in 2015.
Xbox One Elite controllers are not a joke, they’re for hardcore gamers and they offer a hardcore experience
One of the impressive things about the Xbox One Elite controller is what it’s all about. This controller is not a joke and it’s one that offers some of the most hardcore of hardcore experiences yet. Microsoft boasted about its features both before and after their controller’s launch.
So let’s talk about those features. As you already know, I’ve discussed up above in the Pros and Cons that the controller comes with adjustable thumbsticks as well as a d-pad, which it does. Both can be swapped out with different versions. You can have one short thumbstick (default controller size) and an extremely tall one, offering you the most you’ll get out of your FPS titles like Halo: The Master Chief Collection and even titles like Gears 5.
The D-Pad is much the same, you can use the, as my nephew calls it, “radar dish” to get the optimal play out of your fighting games, allowing you to more easily access special moves and even feel as if you have more control than before. To be honest, when this work of art released, I couldn’t help but have a moment of being awestruck by a controller before.
It’s instantly noticeable that this controller is designed for gaming enthusiasts. It’s heavy, it has weight others don’t have and its customizations are aplenty. This could mostly be due to the fact that esports and competitive gaming have only gotten bigger as time passes on. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are both heavy competitors against one another, both pushing the other to their limits the best they can.
It even comes with the ability to fine-tune your triggers with the flip of two little switches right beside them. Do you want them stiff and super responsive or do you want more draw, allowing you to better aim your shots, and then finally pull the trigger? Let alone can you do that, you can also fully customize what the face buttons actually do.
Do you want the triggers to act normal on Setting 1 and have Setting 2 fully customized or do you want both set for certain games? That’s your option and it works rather well. Now, let’s talk about how durable this thing actually is before we talk about functionality.
Between myself, a thirteen-year-old and a five-year-old, this thing has seen some use
Now, when I hear words like “Elite” and “Pro” I don’t just look at functionality. One of the key things I look at is ease-of-use and durability. The last being priority as I did share this controller quite a bit with a thirteen-year-old and a five-year-old, both of who have put it through some rigorous use of their own.
With that being said, you might be wondering what kind of use we’re talking about. We’re talking about it having been dropped, sat on, and even, well, accidentally kicked across the room. Oddly enough, it actually works, and it works REALLY for what it is. The controller itself hasn’t shown any signs of paint wearing, thumbstick tears, or even cracking from the abuse it has seen.
Believe it or not, it functions just as intended. It still works just as I would have hoped it would for $129.99 USD. Surprisingly enough, part of its durability isn’t just in how it is built, but also, how well everything holds. Those magnets that hold on the back paddles and the thumbsticks? They’re solid. I never once had to go scurrying across my room or our office in search of them.
They held up just as they were intended. I’ve not found a lack of responsiveness thanks to the controller’s durability. Hell, not even a single scratch to be honest. Some of that could be thanks to that rather nice case it comes shipped with that seems to be able to protect it rather well.
Let’s talk about usability
Now, when it comes to usability, one thing you have to think about is the actual weight of the controller itself. As this is a premium controller, you might think it’ll actually weigh a little less, but surprise-surprise, it does not. Actually, according to our scale, the controller itself weighs in at roughly 12.75 ounces, or just under a single pound depending on what attachments you decide to use.
Now if you’re wondering, this controller does weigh a bit more than the standard 9.8 ounces controller, which believe it or not, is a significant amount more, but the added weight is due to its sturdiness and the amount of attachments you actually have. You’ll need to add 2-3 more ounces if you decide to opt for a Play and Charge pack as well.
It’s a weight that’s extremely palpable, a weight you’ll quickly come to enjoy thanks to its matte rubber finish, the diamondized rubber grip on the underbelly, and a controller that feels as if it was molded just for your hands. Luckily, you won’t sweat a lot with this controller, which is a substantial change from past controllers that felt like cheap plastic that was tacked together in a hurry.
It’s a controller you grow rather familiar with rather quickly, however, it will take a bit to adjust to the back paddles themselves. They feel a bit… Unusual at first. They aren’t exactly something you’d have thought of as something you’ll come to enjoy, quickly forgetting about those once colorful turned monochrome face buttons the controller actually has.
It’s a sense of depth that adds to that premium feel, a feeling that comes with that added sense of durability I discussed just a bit ago. Now, that also means you’ll be wanting to know a bit more about those newly added features, you know, the interchangeable parts.
Usability well exceeds the overall experience
Since we are discussing usability in-depth, I want to go further in-depth than we did in the last section because of the fact there is a lot more to this piece of hardware than you might expect. With that being said, one of the best features is one that may not be as noticeable as you might expect: Selecting the tightness of your triggers.
As someone who bounces between first-person and third-person shooters to racing games or ARPGs such as The Surge 2, Code Vein, and Skyrim, I like the ability to have one of my triggers soft, allowing it to fully go into the controller while the other is tightened, only needing me to technically lightly pull it in order for an action to actually happen.
Because of this, it’s a quick and secure feeling, it adds to the sense of customizability that Microsoft boasted about with the Series 1 and hopefully the newly released Series 2. Another is the ability to swap out the D-Pads and analogue sticks to something you prefer. These little guys are made of metal, allowing the built-in magnets to hold the thumbsticks snugly into place.
Out of all the parts, you can choose what D-Pad and what Thumbsticks you actually want, each one offering a different type of experience. Want one that feels like a classic Xbox One controller? Go for the shorter thumbsticks. Want to be able to play a racing simulator or flight simulator with a little more ease? Go with the taller. Want to do an FPS where you feel like you have the best movement control and highest aim? Go for a tall one with a short one, one for whichever finger you feel needs it most.
Want to dial back and play a fighting game? Go for the circular D-Pad, it’s great for that and allows you to roll out special attacks in fighting games like Soul Calibur VI, Tekken 7, and even Mortal Kombat 11.
Both the D-Pad and analogue sticks are interchangeable, with the current option attached by magnets. While you’re playing, they feel safe and secure, but if you want to change them out for a new version, it’s quick and simple to do. Unfortunately, the rear paddles don’t feel near as secure when you play. I have managed to knock them out a few times by accident when going through an intense match in Overwatch.
Heck, I’ve even knocked them out playing games like Killing Floor 2 and DOOM. It’s easy to do if you aren’t careful.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the Xbox One Elite Controller
One of the biggest problems with the Xbox One Elite Controller isn’t that it’s not a solid piece of gaming hardware. Truth-be-told, it’s magnificent, but I’m still dumbfounded as to why Microsoft opted for a battery slot on the controller, which has seemingly been fixed with the successor (which we will review) to this controller.
I ended up, to improve my experience with it, purchasing an official Microsoft Play and ChargePack for my controller. Part of this was due to the simple fact that the Xbox One Elite’s braided charging cable, for some reason, wore out within the first year of use. I rather quickly found the tip of the USB-C cable having worn out rather quickly considering my Play and Charge Pack’s cable is still in a rather good shape.
The other drawback is that you can’t just go and order replacement thumbsticks, D-Pads or paddles if you accidentally lose one or the other. It doesn’t seem that’s changing either if you go to the Microsoft support site or Microsoft Store itself. That is something to consider if you decide to take the dive into one of these controllers and perhaps, considering to ensure you keep everything you can, in its case.
Also, Bluetooth. This controller won’t work wirelessly with your computer. Unfortunately, it does need a connector of some kind whether it’s the wireless adapter for computers or even a USB-C cable. It’s unfortunate that a controller that costs as much as this doesn’t have Bluetooth capability, I’d love to have seen that feature implemented, making it easier to use without being hardwired to a PC itself.
While the shortcomings do seem rather hefty, let me make this clear: They aren’t. While I would have loved to see an onboard battery, Bluetooth capability, and the ability to replace any missing parts if they were to go missing as options, I’m not going to let that hurt my overall experience.
After four years, I’m convinced that this is by far, one of the best controllers on the market that I’ve yet to use. That comes from having used various controllers from Scuff, Steel Series, Steam, Sony, Sega, and many other companies over the course of 33 years of gaming, but at the end of the day, for a current-gen piece, this is a monster in its very own right.
The Xbox One Elite Controller is hands-down, the best controller Microsoft has released and it seems, it could be the very best controller line they’ll ever make for hardcore gaming enthusiasts.
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Final Score: 9 out of 10
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.