Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 vs. Elite Core: Is it worth the $50 saving?

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2
(Image credit: Future)

Microsoft has made its signature Xbox Elite Controller lineup a little more affordable, with a discounted “Core” variant now on shelves at a $50 saving. It’s the latest revision of the firm’s best-in-class gamepad, designed with advanced features and premium materials to improve how you play.

The revised Core shares its fundamentals with the existing Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, including the same design, configurable settings, and support for interchangeable parts. However, the cheaper Core controller strips down the controller to its fundamentals, making this a lucrative choice for any budget-conscious buyers. Here’s how the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 "Core" compares to the original Series 2 and which version you should buy in 2022.

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 vs. Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 'Core' — price and availability

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Microsoft has sold two revisions of its flagship Xbox gamepad over time, with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 introduced as its first major overhaul in late 2019. The revised controller broadened its feature set with adjustable-tension thumbsticks, shorter hair trigger locks, plus a rechargeable battery. The controller launched at a $179.99 retail price, demanding a slightly higher price than its $150 predecessor.

The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 was praised at launch, offering a stellar line-up of much-welcomed features. It remains one of the best Xbox controllers money can buy, offering a customizable gamepad fit for almost any gaming enthusiast. It’s an accessory that looks and feels the part, offering a premium alternative to the standard Xbox controller — quality control concerns aside.

Microsoft now offers a more affordable “Core” variant of its Series 2 gamepad, stripped down to its essentials, and priced at $129.99. The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 (Core) remains identical to the former model, minus the range of extra accessories. The $50 reduction removes its metal paddles, spare thumbsticks, and alternate D-pad alongside the wireless charging dock and carrying case.

The changes make the Core Series 2 ideal for those wanting the premium feel of the Elite Controller line while sacrificing some luxuries of the original. However, buying the additional components for $60 down the line is an option, even if offsetting any prior savings. It’s also the only way to buy the new white color until it arrives in Xbox Design Lab later this year.

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 vs. Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 'Core' — what's different?

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Core

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Microsoft introduced the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 (Core) as its cheapest entry in the line to date, shaving $50 off the usual cost. The controller was pitched as a new option to meet the “core needs” of gaming enthusiasts, offering the same foundation as the pricier Elite but stripped back to the essentials.

While toned down, the slick all-white “Core” controller still represents a considerable leap over standard Xbox gamepads. It has the same fundamental design, with a wrap-around rubberized finish and an overall premium flair compared to the base model. The Core Elite comes in white, whereas the original Elite Series 2 ships exclusively in black.

The latest Xbox Elite Controllers all ship with a handful of shared features that differentiate them from traditional Xbox controllers. Features include hair lock triggers, making the RT and LT buttons more sensitive when enabled, and reducing travel time in competitive scenarios. The thumbsticks support adjustable tension, with an included tool to tweak resistance on a per-stick basis. The controller’s internal battery also saves on AA batteries, conveniently rechargeable via USB-C.

The Elite line also integrates closely with the “Xbox Accessories” app, where users can virtually remap various buttons and inputs around their preferences. The controller ships with three virtual profiles, quickly toggled on the fly, providing the option to save and revisit custom layouts.

It offers the framework for the most customizable controller on the market, offering features and quality beyond the standard Xbox gamepads. While the “Core” gamepad is missing some of what makes the classic Elite Series 2 great, it’s still highly configurable, with options to fine-tune your gaming experience.

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Components

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

The standard Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 ships with various spare components, offering further opportunities to customize the hardware. Its interchangeable parts are a highlight, with four rear paddles for extra inputs, plus multiple thumbsticks and D-pads. The modular design allows you to tune the controller around your preferences and the games you play.

However, the “Core” reduces this to the basics, with just one pair of thumbsticks, one D-pad, and no rear paddles in the box. It means you’ll be stuck using the out-of-box setup, and with no rear paddles, you’re losing the extra inputs, often praised among the controller’s signature features.

The controller also doesn’t have a wireless charging dock and carrying case; otherwise standard with the Elite Series 2. The former unlocks a handy alternative to USB-C charging, while the accompanying case is an excellent addition for frequent travelers. While both welcome luxuries, neither are essential beyond the added convenience when away from the console.

The “Core” Elite Series 2 does precisely as its name implies, offering the core functions of the standard Elite Series 2, extra accessories aside. It’s a more affordable alternative for those who ultimately want a simple, premium controller, especially if its competitive-geared feature set doesn't sway you.

Upgrading the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 'Core' is pretty easy (and in some cases, cheap)

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Core

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

Microsoft does provide the option to upgrade the “Core” Elite Series 2 with all those missing parts via its Complete Component Pack. The bundle includes everything excluded in the cheaper model, including more thumbstick models, a new D-Pad, and the missing paddles. You also get the charging dock, carrying case, and an extra USB-C cable, packaged as a $60 upgrade.

The bundle, with the initial investment in the Elite Series 2 Core, takes the total price up to $190 in the U.S. However, existing Elite Series 2 Core owners can also opt for a variety of third-party add-ons which undercut Microsoft’s own.

Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Paddles

(Image credit: Jez Corden | Windows Central)

While we recommended the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 "Core" in our review, the absence of the paddles was among our primary gripes, given how much they elevate the product. "If the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Core included the paddles, I feel like it would be a far better value proposition than they're offering right now," said Windows Central Senior Xbox Editor, Jez Corden.

"To omit a huge amount of this product's core functionality of the box (and accessibility value, I might add) into a separate product seems like the wrong decision at best. That being said, there's no denying that this is a superior Xbox controller regardless, with the added configurability and that monstrous battery life that I love oh so much."

However, those who just want the paddles can also find solid unbranded options for as low as $10 on Amazon. It's a smart way to add a ton more value to the Elite "Core" without buying the entire component set.

It’s also worth noting the standard Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 is regularly on sale, complicating comparisons between the models. While Microsoft has undercut the RRP by $50 with the Core, the Elite Series 2 has seen frequent discounts since 2019. Prices have dropped as low as $140 at retailers like Amazon in the past, closing the gap between the models.

Current Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 sales put the controller near its lowest-ever price, making it the full-fledged package a little more lucrative. If you’re on the fence and considering the extra parts, it’s hard to recommend the Core, with the regular Elite Series 2 only demanding a small premium.

That’s not the say you won’t be happy with the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 Core. Those on a strict budget won’t find a cheaper Elite controller, offering an affordable entry point that undercuts similar products. It’s also the only way to buy a white Elite Series 2, and if you want upgrades down the line, Microsoft and a range of third parties will be happy to serve. But when considering overall value, regular Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 models come out on top, especially with current discounts.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.