I'm no hardcore or 'pro' gamer. Far from it.
But I do enjoy gaming. I enjoy kicking my feet up on the sofa, relaxing and playing some of my favorite Xbox One games.
So then, the Xbox Elite Controller isn't really targeted at me. I'm not the sort of person who has a particular reason to hand over $150 for a controller. Right? Wrong.
The first time I laid my own eyes and hands on the Elite was back at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany this past summer. That first encounter was all that was required to set the desire to have one in motion.
So, now I've had a little time to get to know it, am I happy? Was it worth the outlay? In short, yes.
This isn't a review, as such, we've already done one of those. You can check it out here. This is a more personal story, my own thoughts and experiences having lived with the Elite as my primary Xbox One controller for a little while.
One thing I've always been a little critical of on the Xbox One is the cheapness of the regular controller. I love the design, and I love how comfortable it is to use for extended periods of time. But that doesn't change the fact that it feels like it's made from some cheap, nasty plastic.
The included controller with my 1TB console was a prime example. Some of the pieces didn't line up completely, and if you gripped it even slightly tight, you could feel a creak. Maybe I just got a bad one, but it wasn't much better on the previous two regular controllers I've had.
All of this goes away with the Elite. From the second you pick it up, you know this is a quality product. The development time, money and effort are immediately noticeable. There's an added heft over the standard controller; it's reassuring. Without examining it, you just get the feeling that it's well made, built from quality materials, and it isn't going to disintegrate when you start getting down to some serious gaming.
There's no doubting the Elite feels more premium
All of this is part of the 'pro-gamer' qualities. If you're that type of Xbox player, then you want a reliable, sturdy controller that you can trust to get the job done. The Elite fills you with confidence in being the tool for the job. I've had the chance to get hands-on with Razer's Wildcat, and there's no doubting the Elite feels more 'premium,' if that's the right word to use.
The difference between the Elite and the standard controller becomes more apparent when you put down the $150 option and pick up the cheaper one again. It's hard to put into words, but those machined sticks, the bumpers, the soft touch coating and rear grips, the sum of the parts is extremely good.
I'm still finding my way with customizing my Elite and utilizing button remapping, the paddles and trigger stops, but what I love is how easy it all is. Microsoft may well be targeting the serious, pro gamers with the Elite, but it's also made the experience most welcoming for newcomers to the scene.
Everything is magnetic, so swapping out the analog sticks or attaching and detaching the paddles is a breeze. It takes just a couple of seconds, and you've completely changed the feel and the performance of the controller. Compare to some alternatives, again using Razer as an example, where you'll need a screwdriver to remove rear paddles, you appreciate the simplistic elegance of Microsoft's solution.
The magnets do the job just fine, as well. I was a little nervous of some more vigorous gameplay resulting in the sticks just flying off because it doesn't feel like you need to apply much effort to remove them. Thankfully this isn't the case, and even a little frenetic Killer Instinct hasn't managed to remove anything yet.
The companion software is another credit to the Elite
The software provided to remap buttons and decide upon custom layouts is also another credit to the Elite. It's not at all confusing and for the noobs out there like myself, there are even some handy pre-loaded suggestions. And thanks to Universal Apps it's the same experience on either the Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC. It's so easy to use it's encouraging me to start experimenting.
I want to touch briefly on the PC aspect, too. I'm not a big PC gamer by any stretch. I'm just not a keyboard and mouse kind of guy. I like my controller, and I'm not afraid to admit it. The included braided cable with the Elite controller is super useful in this regard, especially since my PC is below the desk. Sure I could fork out the £20 for the wireless adapter (and probably will at some point) but it's touches like this that show Microsoft has thought about every aspect of the Elite.
I've played a couple of games on the PC with the Elite Controller and the experience is very much as you'd expect it to be. The same as if you're on the couch in front of the Xbox. I used it mostly on Portal 2 and encountered no issues. But then I also wouldn't expect many, since Xbox One peripherals should just work on Windows 10.
I should probably comment on the price, too, before closing out. Yes at $150/£120, it's expensive. It's not an impulse purchase, and you absolutely should consider it carefully before picking one up. But is it worth that extra outlay? I think so. If you're a competitive gamer, it's probably a no-brainer.
Everything about the Elite screams quality
Everything about the Elite screams quality right down to the carry case. This thing is designed to last. It's made from premium, hard wearing materials. It lives up to the price even more so when you consider it compared to the 'special edition' standard controllers and what they cost. The regular price of the Lunar White is around $65. But the Elite will no doubt last a hell of a lot longer.
The biggest negative right now, if you can even call it that, is availability. Microsoft simply cannot keep up, and you're looking at a wait on both sides of the Atlantic to pick one up. The last I saw, the U.S. Microsoft Store said shipping will recommence after Christmas. Oh, and I wasn't overly thrilled at having to go out and buy Microsoft's own Play and Charge kit. Necessary, perhaps, but because the battery door has been redesigned to allow for the rear paddles (I assume), my third-party battery packs didn't fit.
So, am I happy with it. As an enthusiastic but still firmly casual gamer? Very much so. It's one of few products this year I've been lucky enough to use and find nothing to fault. I certainly like the Elite more than what I've seen of the Razer Wildcat so far, and while I've yet to use a Scuf Infinity1, I've little reason to believe it would sway me from continuing to use the Elite as my go-to Xbox One controller.
And if you're looking for one, keep an eye on the links below. And don't pay silly money at resellers. Please.