Phantom Black Xbox controller review: The sexiest accessory Microsoft ever made

Windows Central Recommended Award

Microsoft makes a lot of special edition Xbox controllers, some to celebrate games like the Sea of Thieves controller, and others to show off your favorite brands, like these NFL Design Lab (opens in new tab) options. Microsoft also sells an array of cool custom designs simply because they can, often with unique patterns and gradients.

The Phantom Black is a little bit special though, with a sexy fading translucent gradient that gives it a quality I haven't seen before in a controller. Let's take a closer look.

What you'll love about the Phantom Black Xbox controller

This is the same third-generation Xbox One controller you know and love. 3.5mm jack for your headsets, large base port for chatpads and sound mixers, USB charge port at the top, battery door at the back, and so on. The third-gen version sports textured grips, joining Bluetooth and the 3.5mm jack from the second generation, making the controller a little more tactile in the hand. There's nothing new with the features or overall specification here, but you're not here for that.

The Phantom Black stands out in a crowded Xbox One controller market for its unique fading translucent shell. The controller is coated in a very fine shimmering grey dispersion pattern. It's fitting as a "Phantom" controller, that it should reminisce of the haunted TV static from the movie Poltergeist, as the gray tone disperses towards the top of the controller, allowing you view the internals of the device through the translucent plastic Microsoft used for the shell.

It might sound simplistic in writing, but the subtelty of the pattern gives the controller an ghostly quality. The way the light hits the controller effects just how ethereal the shell appears. When viewed in direct light, it's bright and fully translucent. Viewed at a low angle or in shadows, the translucent parts fade almost completely black.

"Phantom" is absolutely the correct designation for this controller, it's stunning. So stunning, in fact, I'd love to see an entire range of accessories, and Xbox console itself, using this haunting paint job. It's great.

What you'll dislike about the Phantom Black Xbox Controller

There's nothing to dislike about the Phantom Black controller specifically. It's a little pricey at $70, which might seem steep if you already own an Xbox controller. With no new features, this is firmly a collector's item, or a great gift for a friend with Christmas on the horizon.

Final Thoughts

Xbox controller

Xbox controller (Image credit: Windows Central)

The Phantom Black controller is a unique special edition Xbox gamepad that deserves a place in your collection, if you collect controllers that is. There are no practical features that elevate it above a regular, slightly cheaper $46 Xbox controller (opens in new tab). That said, the Phantom Black's design is a real head-turner. The way its delicate dispersion pattern reacts to different angles and lighting gives it an elegant, haunting quality that you won't find in another gamepad.

See at Microsoft Store (opens in new tab)

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

  • It's just like the switch pro controller, and I say that in the best way possible because I have one of those and I love the look. Guess I'm gonna be buying one of these to match it.
  • No way, sea of thieves is def the best one they have made.
  • Reminds me of my first-gen XBOX MadCat controller
  • "Sexy" is exactly how I described it when the preview images came out. I love it, don't get me wrong, but it was described as having a "champagne" color, and the official shot of it shows similar: translucent black gradiating(?) to a slightly off-white.
    It reminded me of concept art for the endoskeletons from The Terminator, but I was disappointed that it's more of a reflective "milky white" towards the bottom that reflects whatever color your room lighting happens to be.
    The marketing is a little deceptive, and forget about trying to find a display stand that will match that, either.
  • I want Alcantara controllers!
  • That would get pretty disgusting, pretty quickly. Especially with the greasy palms of us gamers. You would have to go with 10 coats of polyurethane!
  • Barf! Elite v2 or bust!
  • Microsoft really needs to slow down on redundant gaming accessories and focus on good, unique gaming experiences. The platform has been a drag for more than half a decade.
  • I whole heartedly agree with this. Right now it's just Malibu Stacy with a new hat.