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Xbox One Elite Controller review: I'm finally replacing my wired 360 controller

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 23, 2015
I don't need a US$150 Xbox One controller. You probably don't need one either. But that doesn't change the fact Microsoft has built a gorgeous piece of hardware.

Xbox One Elite Controller

“Ohoho, a $150 Xbox controller?” I said. “What needless luxury will you try to sell me next, Microsoft? Gold-plated toilet paper? A dolphin that sings happy birthday? Socks that clean themselves?” For months I’ve laughed at the Xbox One Elite controller, with its 300-percent markup price and all its removable metal bits. Such extravagance. Such indulgence.

Then I got my hands on one, and damn, I think I actually like it. A lot.

To know it is to love it

Some people need a $150 Xbox controller. I am not one of those people. You are probably not one of those people either.

Which is why, traditionally, this type of controller has been exiled to the fringe. The Xbox One Elite controller is not the first high-end, “tournament-grade” controller. It’s merely the first to be labeled as a first-party accessory instead of coming from SCUF or Razer or Mad Catz or any of the companies that typically build this stuff.

The connotations are different. Third-party controllers, no matter how reputable, always seem to carry this “illicit” reputation. I think it’s because everyone’s gone to a friend’s house at one point and been saddled with the cheap, off-brand controller where one of the buttons sticks and the triggers are half-broken.

Xbox One Elite Controller
The Xbox One Elite controller in its little carrying case.

But a first-party controller? That’s an official endorsement of high-end gaming hardware. With the Xbox One Elite controller, Microsoft is saying “We recognize there’s a significant niche for this, and we hope other people will randomly buy one too.” Like buying Air Jordans even though you suck at basketball.

I do not think you should buy it, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did. The Xbox One Elite controller is a gorgeous piece of hardware. And this is coming from someone who dislikes the stock Xbox One controller and, up until this week, continued to use a wired Xbox 360 gamepad on the PC.

This week I swapped out that well-worn and well-loved wired 360 controller for the Elite (which comes with a nine-foot braided USB cable), and I think it might be a permanent change.

The sticks

The Xbox One Elite’s obvious changes—the D-pad, the paddle buttons—draw the most attention, but the analog sticks are the biggest improvement. And not just the interchangeable stick caps, though we’ll get to those. It’s the way the sticks glide.

I know that’s maddeningly vague, but there’s no good way to describe it. The Elite’s analog sticks simply move smoother than the stock controller’s sticks. They roll smoother, they flick side-to-side smoother, they’re just a pleasure to move.

 

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