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Xbox Series X|S Controller review: Inching towards perfection

Subtle refinements enhance the iconic Xbox controller design.

Xbox Series X|S Controller Comparisons
(Image: © Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

Our Verdict

It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but the Xbox Series X|S Controller delivers a fantastic ergonomic form factor, excellent tactile button responses, and slickly improves upon an already stellar design.

For

  • + Improved form factor and ergonomic design
  • + Satisfying, clicky button responses
  • + Added "Share" button

Against

  • No other major improvements

An enormous focus for Microsoft with the rollout of the Xbox Series X|S consoles was compatibility. From your games library to your accessories collection, the team wanted to ensure your investments into the ecosystem carried over to the new generation. This unconventional approach garnered a great deal of goodwill from players and demonstrated Microsoft’s commitment to its player-first strategy. However, fans wondered whether this decision ultimately limited Xbox’s potential to fully execute a transformative generational leap.   

A combination of software and hardware elements from the Xbox One directly transferred to the Xbox Series X|S to ensure a streamlined, uniform ecosystem. In addition to a slightly revamped user interface, Microsoft introduced a subtlety improved new controller. Unlike Nintendo with the Joy-Con and PlayStation with the DualSense, Xbox opted to offer a markedly similar gamepad with its shiny new hardware. While it doesn’t fundamentally redefine the player’s experience, the wireless Xbox Series X|S Controller presents a suite of welcomed enhancements that bring this iconic design one step closer to perfection.

Xbox Series X|S Controller: Price and availability 

(Image credit: Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

The Xbox Series X|S Controller is available from most major retailers, including Amazon, for $60 MSRP. Players looking to personalize their controller can also visit Xbox Design Labs and get a custom-tailored Xbox Series X|S controller starting at $70.

Xbox Series X|S Controller: What you’ll like

(Image credit: Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

When Xbox first joined the console space in 2001, its unique controller concept, lovingly nicknamed "The Duke," was panned by critics for its cumbersome size. While many players feel nostalgic for this iconic Xbox relic, it quickly became apparent that Microsoft's first controller wasn't appealing for all hand sizes. In its 20-year history, Xbox has worked diligently to refine and shrink its controller designs. With the launch of the Xbox 360, the company engineered a blueprint that still holds admiration to this day.   

The Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S controllers are inspired by the Xbox 360's core design philosophies. Offset analog sticks, left/right triggers and bumpers, and ABXY face buttons boldly demonstrate the signature Xbox controller aesthetic. However, the latest offering from Microsoft artfully incorporates subtle enhancements that produce their most comfortable and ergonomic controller so far. 

CategoryXbox Series X|S Controller
ConnectivityXbox Wireless and Bluetooth
Wireless range~20 feet
Compatible withXbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Windows 10/11, Android, and iOS
Battery type AA
Battery life~30 hours
Price$60

Compared to the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X|S controller is noticeably more rounded and compact. The controller's edges fall perfectly into the hand, and none of the buttons or joysticks feel awkward to access while playing. The positioning of the bumpers and triggers have also been slightly altered to provide a more natural, easy-gliding press. Delicately textured grips ensure a consistently firm hold on the controller as well. At first glance, the Xbox Series X|S controller looks shockingly similar to its predecessor, but feeling is definitely believing in this case. 

The bumpers, buttons, and D-pad all supply a delightful clicky sensation that affirms your interactions.

Another massive improvement with the Xbox Series X|S controller is its endlessly satisfying and responsive button feedback. Pressing buttons on Xbox's previous controller iteration often felt soft and listless, but the latest model springs to life with every input. The bumpers, buttons, and D-pad all supply a delightful clicky sensation that affirms your interactions. While some players may find the overall noise much louder than the Xbox One hardware, I adore the physical and auditory response delivered each time I push a button on the Xbox Series X|S controller.  

The freshly introduced "Share" button is arguably the most obvious addition shipping with the Xbox Series X|S controller. Positioned directly in the center of the gamepad is a button crafted with social content in mind. A quick press grabs a video game screenshot, and a brief hold will record a gameplay clip. This was a strange omission from the Xbox platform that both PlayStation and Nintendo offered for quite some time. Thankfully, the days of double-tapping the guide button and pressing Y or X to capture key video game moments are gone with the Xbox Series X|S controller.

Xbox Series X|S Controller: What you won't like

(Image credit: Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

The Xbox Series X|S controller is unquestionably improved over the Xbox One model. From its upgraded form factor to the addendum of the long-requested "Share" button, if you loved the Xbox One controller, there's not much to complain about. However, if you were hoping to see Microsoft push the industry and our expectations of gaming forward, this seriously safe iteration might be underwhelming, especially when compared to its console counterparts.   

With the Switch, Nintendo showcased a clever hybrid controller that enriched its motion control components while introducing noteworthy vibration improvements with HD rumble. When it comes to the PS5, PlayStation demonstrated similar dynamic rumble technology as well as adaptive haptic triggers with scalable tension resistance. And Xbox's most significant advancement this time was a "Share" button. Games still play incredibly with the Xbox Series X|S controller, but I can't help but feel left wanting a little bit more. 

Xbox Series X|S Controller: The Competition

(Image credit: Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

Due to the cross-gen compatibility, there is no shortage of options for worthwhile Xbox Series X|S controllers. However, Microsoft's hesitation to lend its proprietary wireless technology to third-party partners significantly reduces your selection of wireless models. If you're comfortable with some cables, the Turtle Beach Recon crams excellent audio features and even rear paddles into a solid $60 package.   

If you're in the market for something on the premium side, the Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller delivers the ultimate gamepad experience. With four rear paddles, customizable button presets, rubberized grips, and a convenient charging dock, this outstanding controller elevates your console gaming experience. Unfortunately, these lavish luxuries will set you back about $180.

Xbox Series X|S Controller: Should you buy? 

(Image credit: Miles Dompier/Windows Central)

You should buy this if ...

  • You want a reliable wireless Xbox controller   
  • You enjoy sharing screenshots and game clips  
  • You appreciate excellent tactile sensations  

You shouldn't buy this if ...

  • You're expecting a major transformation  

While Microsoft certainly didn't subvert expectations with its latest controller, the enhancements introduced with the Xbox Series X|S are still worth getting excited about. This is the most impressive standard controller the company has released so far. Given the pedigree established during the Xbox 360 era, that's worth commending.   

Essentially, all of my relatively minor grips regarding the Xbox One controller have been addressed this time around, and playing games on Xbox feels better than ever. The subtle tweaks to the established formula may seem insignificant initially, but the outstanding refinements to form factor, input response, and an additional button, don't leave a great deal to criticize. The Xbox Series X|S Controller is an essential accessory for everyday Xbox gamers. 

Miles Dompier is a Freelance Video Producer for Windows Central, focusing on video content for Windows Central Gaming. In addition to writing or producing news, reviews, and gaming guides, Miles delivers fun, community-focused videos for the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel. Miles also hosts Xbox Chaturdays every Saturday, which serves as the Windows Central Gaming weekly podcast.