Xbox Elite Wireless Controller: The Kotaku Review

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller: The Kotaku Review

The first thing you’ll see upon cracking open the box containing Microsoft’s new premium modular Xbox One controller is a carrying case. You’re going to want to keep that.

The care and handling of video game controllers in the Fahey household generally involves trying not to leave it on the floor. Packaging is torn open and tossed. Any included cables are relegated to the cable drawer, a dark and dangerous place from which there often is no return.

I’ve got video game controllers on my desk. Some feature a fine coat of dust. Others have torn analogue stick caps I’ve not seen fit to replace. There are controllers under the couch. One lives on top of the washing machine. There are a pair of PS3 controllers under my bed that I’m certain are spawning more while no one is looking. I use them when needed, then I set them down wherever I might be and forget them until next time.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller will not be joining their ranks. It will be released reverently from its cloth case, played with the utmost care and respect, wiped down with a dry cloth and returned to its resting place until its powers are needed once more. Unless it is in my hands, it will look like this:

Announced at E3 earlier this year and mocked viciously for its high price point, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller (let’s just call it the Elite) is an exquisitely engineered nod to the console’s hardcore gaming audience. Folks picking up the Xbox One to watch Netflix and play Frozen Free Fall don’t need three sets of interchangeable thumb sticks of different heights and shapes, two different directional pads or four detachable metal paddles.

If we’re being reasonable, no one really needs any of these things. The standard Xbox One controller has been just fine for the past couple of years, and it will continue to be perfectly acceptable until people stop giving a damn.

Unless they spend any significant amount of time with the Elite. It makes the original controller feel like a hefty toy.

With its impressive weight and the luxurious, velvety feel of its outer housing, the Elite oozes premium quality from the moment you take it in your hands. It’s housed in plastic, but it’s that buttery sort of plastic that feels almost as if it’s slightly fuzzy to the touch. The rubber grips are strong and reassuring. The only unsure surface is the metal paddles on the back of the unit — they take a little getting used to. Or you can just take them off while not in use.

What’s amazing to me is that the interchangeable components are held to the controller’s face with magnets. Pull straight up and they come off easily.

Yet when in place they’re just as strong as the connected parts on the traditional controller, if not a bit stronger. The analogue sticks snap to center position with more authority. That strange directional disc registers movement more tactfully than anything Xbox d-pad before it.

I’ve been using the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller for several day now in all sorts of situations. I’ve played through a sizable chunk of Halo 5’s campaign using it — I had to, as it’s the game Microsoft is launching the controller with — and I am incredibly pleased with its responsiveness.

The hair-trigger switches on the back of the unit were particularly helpful here, halving the distance your pointer finger needs to take a shot.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller does not however, make one immortal.

Meanwhile in Forza 6, those little metal paddles on the back of the unit acted as gear shifters, something I am becoming increasingly familiar with these days.

And all of this is without any additional configuration. Should you choose to go deeper, there’s an Xbox Accessories app available that let’s you do all sorts of technical things with the Xbox Elite Wireless.

For starters, you can name it.

The app comes preloaded with multiple configurations for the most popular games, up to and including next week’s Halo release.

Incredibly picky players can go deeper still, adjusting the reaction times and behaviours of pretty much every input the controller has to offer.

Those the look at the screenshot above and feel their hearts start to race will get the most out of the Elite. The ability to fine tune, tweak, and modify everything and then save it to one of two custom profiles stored on the controller itself is one of its biggest strengths.

The other the feel. The comfort. The heft. The snap. The click. The included braided USB cord. OK, maybe that last one is just me.

It’s not for everyone. Anyone who plays with younger kids should enjoy the controller until they figure out how to take the sticks and directional pads off. It will be neat finding them in the couch years from now.

And then there are the folks who look at that cost — a little bit under the price of three standard gamepads — and wonder why anyone would bother paying more for what is technically less. They do have a point. One controller is significantly less than three.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is a luxury item. It won’t completely transform the way you play Xbox One games, though it may tweak it significantly. No one needs metal and rubber and magnets and satiny plastic. No one needs the extra paddle buttons, or the ability to fine tune every input on the controller. No one needs a zippered carrying case packed with interchangeable parts.

But damn if having those things isn’t lovely.


  • I’ve got video game controllers on my desk. Some feature a fine coat of dust. Others have torn analogue stick caps I’ve not seen fit to replace. There are controllers under the couch. One lives on top of the washing machine. There are a pair of PS3 controllers under my bed that I’m certain are spawning more while no one is looking. I use them when needed, then I set them down wherever I might be and forget them until next time.Had to stop reading here, couldn’t take any more without getting up and going off to do something orderly for a while.

  • Pretty sure that the customisation app will be available for everyone (although obviously the programmable paddles won’t be). I’ve ordered one as I figure I’ll be using my XB1 for several more years so the actual cost per hour will be measured in cents so is worth it 🙂

    • Actually, those that are dashboard preview members can remap the button layout on controllers.
      Not quite as in depth as what the ELITE controller app is, but you can change button configs around. Dare I say it’ll be in the public release in November too!

      • You like that it requires batteries instead of just being able to pug it into a USB when you are not using it?

        • I just whack a pre charged battery in, no cables when playing required.

          The only time I need to plug in and charge while playing is if someone else is using my other controller (where the spare battery lives) at the same time.

        • Yep, just like @jimmydanger said. It’s a standard power supply, you can get a pair of AAs *anywhere*. Plus you can get rechargeable ones, and keep a spare set in the draw. If your current set dies, swap ’em out and you’re good to go. Plus then later down the line if your rechargeables are starting to have shit all life, you just go out and get a new pair. No need to hunt down for that specific proprietary model that only works with that particular controller – and that’s assuming that you can even replace it in the first place, without having to disassemble the entire thing. And, if your controller is dying, you don’t need to rid yourself of the freedom of wirelessness just to keep playing.

          Literally the only downside I can think of at all is that standard batteries might take up a little more space and weigh a little more than an inbuilt one. Which is a minimal issue, if it even is one at all.

        • I prefer to use Superior Eneloops LSDNiMH than cheapo LiPOL batteries, I always have 4 on my charger and swap them out when needed ( i have 5 controllers and two xbox ones)

        • Yes. We live in a world of wireless controllers now. In built batteries mean having to regularly WIRE your WIRELESS controller or being forced to buy 2 controllers for hot swapping should you wish to remain wireless. Not ideal.

          Rechargeable AAA batteries are the best option to have. Once they’re dead, I swap in a fresh set. Bam.

          Not to mention, what happens if you happen to have an internal battery that completely dies outside the warranty? Go buy a new one and use nothing until then? Sorry, but this is one of the rare instances where “older” technology is the better option.

          • I guess I must not play as much as some here as I have never run the battery flat in one gaming session so it’s easy just to charge it. Also have never had an internal battery die in a controller.

        • a) What if it dies during a session? It’s a WIRELESS controller. I should never under any circumstance need to play wired with a wireless controller

          b) I like to let my batteries completely die before recharging them. So I don’t always plug in when not using. I have 2 of each PS Controller type so I can hot swap. Which I also shouldn’t have to do

          In conclusion, batteries are superior.

      • Same. For me being able to remove an empty battery and replace it with a charged one, without having to play with a cord while it charges – is a bonus.

        That – and not having to physically take apart a controller when its internal battery dies (and source a replacement) – is another bonus for me.

        Extra functionality!

        • The rechargeable battery pack for the Xbone controller is removable… like a normal set of AA’s just packed into a plastic housing.

          Just means you dont have to keep changing out batteries you can just plug it in with the USB. I dont get why using AA’s batteries; rechargeable or otherwise is more convenient? I guess each their own though.

      • Yea it would be a deal breaker if it was built in battery. I have so many devices including ps controllers with built in batteries that are pretty much useless. After so many charge cycles they just don’t hold a charge for more than a few minutes. I won’t purchase any tech with built in batts

    • But it is compatible with the play & charge kit, so y’know..

      Still it should come with the rechargeable battery & the option for regular batteries.

      • Isn’t the RRP for most controller/play and charge combos about the same as the RRP for a PS4 controller anyways (both about $80-90)?

        • Yeah 80-100 depending where you shop. The damn thing alone is like $30, which is a lot of a micro USB cable & a rechargeable battery…

      • AgreeD, loving the 6THGEN

        Eneloop technology: 6th generation high capacity NiMH batteries with superior charge retention makes Eneloop batteries ideal for virtually all situations where alkaline or lithium AA / AAA size batteries are currently used.
        Pre-charged and ready to use straight from the pack.
        Recharges up to 2100 times. You’ll use hundreds of alkaline batteries just to match the overall life and performance of Eneloop batteries.
        Low self discharge means eneloop batteries are still ready for use even after long periods of storage – up to 65% after 5 years!
        Environmentally friendly – Eneloop batteries and packaging are completely recyclable.
        Rechargeable on most standard & fast chargers designed for NiMH batteries.

        Also you can get them cheap in Perth from Master-instruments, they are a wholesaler but if you ask for the xbox guy (just pretend you got some question) well it worked for me 🙂

  • I really don’t see why so many people are complaining about it not having a rechargeable battery? Its a controller made for hardcore and pro-gamers. News flash – they don’t tend to use wireless in tournament situations (for obvious reasons). Hell i don’t even use wireless at home most of the time. It’s not like they shipped it without a battery compartment or anything either…

  • Wow. I didn’t even know it was possible to change the sensitivity curve on an analogue stick!

    And this beast works for the PC as well (Wired only until the wireless receiver is available. Windows 10 already includes drivers and driver downloads are available for 7 and up. Customization app is only available on Windows 10 (And, obviously, Xbox One))

    If you are even remotely serious about gaming and your controller never feels right then this would be a good investment.

  • Look at these fanboys or execs working for microsoft convincing everyone that its ok that there are no rechargeable batteries, the point is you’re already paying top dollar and all you get is some AA batteries are you serious!

    • Like many others have said… the lack of a bundled rechargeable pack doesn’t faze me in the slightest. I am personally not a fan of the play and charge kit, as the rechargable battery drains pretty quickly, while a pair of AA batteries lasts 3x or more, and given that I buy IKEA batteries that cost about 30 cents per battery, or can even get IKEA rechargables for $1 each.

      I have always loved my xbox controllers the most, and have been looking forward to this premium quality Elite model since its announcement… so $199 is fine to me, given the amount of time I will actually be using this controller over the coming years.

    • That’s a bit of a reach. Fanboys just trying to point out negatives and failing at it. That’s all you could muster up? Batteries?? Where’s the creativity nowa days

  • Got my elite controller on Friday of last week, assumed it would have a rechargeable included and was indeed disappointed when I figured out it didn’t. Now, I work in electronics and know that that battery and cable in the charge kit cost about $4 to MS, especially when it’s not in separate packaging, so now this just looks…greedy. I just so happened to have had a brand-new charge and play kit on my desk that I purchased for one of my kids regular controllers. So, I put that into the Elite and guess what…Playing Destiny with a full charge and vibration ON, the brand new battery from MS lasts less than an hour on a full charge. I haven’t swapped batteries with a different controller that I know is good yet, so there’s some room for a bad battery here…but this is just abysmal performance if true. Standard controllers last about 4 hours in this situation…what could have changed? Also, don’t tell me that this is Pro Controller and Pro’s only use wired so you’re a moron for expecting that the wireless/battery works equivalent to the non-pro pads…this is PRO and should work BETTER in ALL RESPECTS, especially when you consider the price.

    Just my $0.02…discuss away fanboys.

    • “Standard controllers last about 4 hours in this situation”… yep, that pretty much sums up why I don’t even bother with the play and charge kit. Regular AA batteries are really cheap and will last 10 hours or more in a standard controller, with full vibration enabled. I would much rather put in fresh batteries every couple of weeks than be constantly charging my controller every couple of days.

      I am sure for many this is a big issue… but I think most people who are keen for this controller are barely even considering the battery situation.

      • Don’t know what play and charge kit you have been using but my Xbox contoller at the very very least last 8 plus hours per change. And I’m being modest with that estimation

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