An elite Xbox One controller without the cost.
'Elite' gaming controllers are all the rage nowadays. Whether it's the official Xbox One Elite Controller (the cream of the crop) or alternatives like the Razer Wildcat, these controllers all tend to offer programmable rear buttons for serious gamers. Japanese manufacturer Hori has its own entry now, too: the Hori Pad Pro for Xbox One.
The Hori Pad Pro shares the same basic shape as its predecessors, the regular Hori Pad for Xbox One, and the Hori Xbox 360 Gem Pad. The shell is a bit thinner and smoother than Microsoft's Xbox One controllers.
Visually, it stands out with circular areas surrounding the D-Pad, sticks, and face button areas; a translucent front shell; and shiny "gem" patterns on both palm grips. The bumper buttons on the top of the controller have a hard angular shape that contrasts with an otherwise smooth design.
Hori has been making third-party controllers for over 20 years. During that time, they've established some strengths and weaknesses. On the positive side, Hori D-Pads are some of the best in the business. The Hori Pad Pro features a traditional Nintendo-style D-Pad that should excel at 2D games, fighting games, and menu selection. The official Xbox Controller and Elite Controller's D-Pads are no slouches, but it's always nice when affordable options like the Hori Pad Pro get these things right, too.
On the negative side, Hori's analog trigger buttons tend to fall short of first-party offerings. The Hori Pad Pro's triggers reportedly don't have much travel, making it difficult to partially press them. Not an important feature in many games, but racing games and some first-person shooters do take advantage of the analog nature of the triggers.
The main selling point of the Hori Pad Pro is that it offers four programmable buttons on the back side of the controller. The Hori Pad Pro only costs $50, whereas the next cheapest controller with that feature, the PowerA Fusion Pro Controller, retails for $80. For fifty bucks, Hori's offering gets you a wired pad with extra buttons that could potentially improve your gaming performance.
The programmable buttons on the rear are labeled FR1, FR2, FL1, and FL2. An 'Assign' button and LED will help users program any desired button to these extra buttons. If you want to be able to jump, reload, or switch buttons without removing your thumb from the right analog stick, that could be very handy.
My only concern with the programmable buttons is their horizontal positioning. It might be difficult to differentiate between FR1 and FR2 during tense gaming moments. PowerA's vertical positioning on the Fusion Pro Controller seems more intuitive to me.
Small price, big features
The Hori Pad Pro is a good general-purpose controller with the bonuses of programmable buttons and a great D-Pad in its favor. It's also compatible with Windows 10.
Like all third-party Xbox One controllers, it can't be used wirelessly due to restrictions from Microsoft. It does support 3.5mm headsets, but won't work with the Chatpad or Stereo Headset Adapter due to its shape and the absence of a data port on the bottom.