The Xbox Series X and Series S have been out for nearly ten months, and if you’ve been lucky enough to pick one up for yourself, you may just be ready to ditch the batteries and up your controller game. Before looking to a third party, Microsoft has its own premium option with the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, the latest revision of one of the most popular premium controllers from the Xbox One era. It recently received a price cut down to $157.99, so we took it for a spin to see if it’s capable of upping your game.
Current Price: $157.99 (Amazon)
Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 – Overview and Key Features
It’s hard to believe that the original Xbox Elite Controller made its debut way back in 2015, but since then, it’s been one of the go-to options for Xbox and PC gamers looking for an upgrade. The controller was refreshed in 2019 with the Series 2, which we’re looking at today, and with a current price of $157.99, it’s at its one of its cheapest prices ever. It normally retails for $179.99, so it’s a good time to buy if you’ve been on the fence.
Customization is the name of the game when it comes to Microsoft’s Xbox Elite controllers, and that much has stayed true into this second series. You can remap any button using the Xbox Accessories app, engage trigger locks for faster firing, swap joysticks and D-pads, and even adjust stick tension until it’s pitch perfect for your playstyle. There are also four customizable (and removable) paddings on the back that can each be remapped to a face button or Xbox shortcut, so jumping and drop-shotting doesn’t force you to take your thumbs either stick. When it comes to customization, the Series 2 is up there with the very best aftermarket controllers.
The Series 2 is more than a minor refresh, however. Microsoft has added features and functionality that make the controller more versatile than ever. The trigger stops are shorter than the original Elite Controller, for example, and it now supports USB Type-C. If you’re gaming on a tablet with xCloud, you’ll be able to connect your Elite Controller and have full access to your controls. Likewise, the textured grips now wrap around the controller to solve the peeling problem some users experienced on the first version while also offering a heartier grip. There’s also a profile indicator LED, so you’ll know from the Dashboard which profile you’re playing with.
Compared to the included Xbox Series X/S controller, the Elite is a big improvement in every way. It’s all about the small details, like how each of the buttons feels more tactile and rattles less when press. Or how the default concave joysticks have a more noticeable edge and the trigger buttons have ever-so-slightly more scoop to cradle your finger. The D-pad is also an improvement and feels more accurate (and the mechanical feedback great through the new material).
Other improvements aren’t so subtle. The controller It features a built-in battery, so the days of swapping batteries in the middle of a match will officially be a thing of the past. The new wraparound textured grips make long gaming sessions more comfortable and help it to feel more secure in the hand. The original Series X/S controller was also pretty good in this regard, but having a textured finish everywhere your hands touch just feels nicer.
Taken as a whole, Microsoft also did an excellent job of making this controller feel like a premium package. The controller has subtly more heft, which immediately makes it feel like a more substantial device. It also comes with its own hardback case that doubles as a charging dock. You can run a USB cord through a cutout in the back; it plugs into the charging cradle, so your controller is safe throughout the charging process and will always have a full charge (though, you can let that slide thanks to its 40-hour battery life).
I also like the style Microsoft went with here. This is a stealthy controller. It’s black, like the stock Xbox controller, but drops the colored face buttons for dark gray legends. The bumpers, triggers, paddle, and D-pad are also trimmed in metallic gray which looks great.
Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 – Performance
I’ve spent the last week using the Elite Controller Series 2 as my daily driver after nine months of using the standard Xbox Series X controller. To be honest, I was a big fan of the stock controller and didn’t expect to be as impressed as I was with the Elite 2. It’s an expensive upgrade but it’s hard to go back now that I’ve lived the good life.
For starters, as a parent of small children, I can’t overstate how much I like the charging solution. My toddler loves to grab my controllers and with one as expensive as this, baby drool is a risk I didn’t want to take. Being able to set the controller in its case, zip it up, and know that I’ll be good to go is peace of mind I didn’t know I was craving.
Gaming with the controller has been sublime. It feels great in the hand, and the customization options allow you to really dial in in the feel and level of control you’re after. The package includes four alternate joysticks (including one that’s extra tall), a separate D-pad (that’s a traditional cross instead of the circular grid), and a tensioning tool. I found that using the tall stick for aiming with medium tension made aiming easier in Call of Duty. Add to that hair triggers and being able to map jumping and prone to rear paddles, and I can confidently say that this controller made me a better player. I wouldn’t have expected that going in.
I also found the customizations to be easy to apply. Using the Xbox Accessories app, you’re presented with a diagram of the controller. You simply select the button you want to remap and choose the replacement button or application shortcut you’d like from a pop-up menu. Likewise, swapping sticks, paddles, or the D-pad is literally as easy as pulling them off and pressing the new component into place.
The benefits are limited to shooters either. I spent a good amount of time playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and Forza Horizon and the rear paddles were game-changing there, too. Being able to spur my horse with the rear paddle, block and punch with two others, felt more natural than the face buttons. The same can be said for the e-brake in Forza. All controllers should have a paddle system like this.
I also found another big improvement versus the standard controller: headset audio was much better. My stock controller would regularly cut out while gaming. It was so bad that I stopped using my wired headset entirely and stuck to a lower-quality wireless set I had. The Elite Series 2 worked as the original should have and delivered consistently stable audio. Hallelujah!
At this point, you’ve surely noticed a lack of negatives here. The fact is, there really aren’t many other than its high cost of entry. This is an incredibly well-done accessory. It’s intuitive, well thought out, and eminently premium. At $179, it costs a pretty penny, but even then it includes built-in charging dock that’s integrated into a travel case, so there’s even more value there than it first seems. If you have the extra cash to spend, this is a satisfyingly excellent accessory for your Xbox or PC.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.