Something we don’t think about enough is what makes a good console controller. Everyone has a different opinion on this, of course, because everyone’s hands are different, and some people are wrong.
While I eagerly await the experience of holding the new PS5 controller, I need to tell you about how much I love the Xbox Series X controller. It’s so good.
I’m primarily an Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 user. It’s a little heavier, with better weight distribution, feels less plasticky than the Xbox One S controller, and of course the customisation options and back paddles are great.
When I got my Xbox Series X console a couple of weeks ago, I assumed I would do what I needed to in order to review the new controller, and then pair the Elite 2 to the console. Almost all the Xbox One accessories (aside from the Kinect) are compatible with the Series X after all, and the Elite 2 is just leagues ahead of the base Xbox One controller.
But, friends, I haven’t yet felt the urge to pair the Elite 2 to the Series X. The controller that comes in the box — and sells separately for roughly a third of the cost of the Elite 2 — is just as good, even if it is lacking the customisation and back paddles.
While the Series X controller is only 6g heavier than the One S controller (241g vs 235g without batteries), it actually feels far heftier. The weight has been redistributed from the centre to the wings so it feels more substantial and less like a toy. When you first pick it up, it feels about the same as the Elite 2, even though the Elite 2 is 330g with its built-in batteries (the Series X is 287g with batteries) (yes, I did get out the kitchen scales). But over time, while the Elite 2 can start to feel a little heavy, the Series X stays at the same comfort level.
The grip and triggers are now lightly textured enough to break some contact points so you don’t sweat as much. Even after using it for 6 hours almost non-stop my hands didn’t overheat or get clammy at all. They also didn’t cramp up, which is a problem I have with some other controllers.
The new D-pad is more similar to the multi-directional one on the Elite 2, which feels much more comfortable to use and is more precise when you want to move diagonally.
And the share button is super helpful. I’ve never really been one to take screenshots or captures, other than for work, but I’ve found myself doing it more frequently now that the option is there. I really hope it’s integrated for Horizon Promo in Forza Horizon 4 once the game is optimised for the Series X later this year. It opens up a lot of possibilities for Xbox games that had always been open to PS4 players.
The shape has been re-engineered to taper up at the top a bit, which makes it comfier for both bigger and smaller hands to reach stuff. That doesn’t sound like it should be possible, and yet it is.
Before, if people asked me which the best controller was for Xbox, my answer would automatically be the Elite 2. But now, at this price point, and given that most people don’t really need or use the back paddles, I think the answer is going to be the Series X controller. I’m tempted to even buy an extra one for my wife, who usually uses the original Elite controller. Her hands are adorably tiny, so even though it’s kind of insane to buy another controller when I already own approximately eleven billion that are compatible, I think it’s worth it.
I’ll admit I was sceptical when Microsoft said they were redesigning the controller. I really liked the shape of the controller that came with the original Xbox One, and then disliked the one that came with the One S because it was smaller in a way that no longer fit my hands properly. But honestly, this is the best leap in base Xbox controller design since the Xbox 360.
What are your thoughts on the new design? Is there anything you want to know about the Series X?