Skip to main content

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Review

Custom gaming controls comes to the Xbox One for big price tag, but it is worth every penny.

Xbox Elite Controller

Windows Central Recommended Award

When it comes to the world of gaming, serious gaming, you don't mess with the controller. Every time a next generation console comes out the controller gets a lot of attention. And with good reason. Delayed signals, a stuck thumb stick, or a button that intermittently stops working can cause you to lose a game. Or a tournament. Or let your online teammates down. Heck, there are people who refuse to use a wireless controller and instead plug them in due to potential latency issues. That's a whole other level of gaming.

I'll confess that I am hardly a serious gamer mostly due to lack of time. Nonetheless, even a casual gamer like myself can appreciate the new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller from Microsoft. Going on sale on October 27 this is Microsoft's stab at attempting to woo the pro-gaming fanatic with their best controller yet.

So how is it? I've been using it for the last week, and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is hard to put down once you get it in your hands.

Origins

We spoke with David Brian, Project Manager for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller back at E3 about why Microsoft is making this accessory. The story behind the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller goes back to Microsoft getting feedback on their current controller from top gamers around the world. They wanted something more from Microsoft.

Microsoft listened. Instead of assuming what those gamers wanted Microsoft went to their houses and studied those elite players. Once there they took notes, recorded what they did and took it all back to the lab. From there Microsoft prototyped various controllers, tested, and evolved various designs until everyone was happy.

The result is a controller with four additional paddles on the back, configurable firing mechanisms, and custom button mapping. To top it off the controller is made out of highest quality, most wear-resistant materials around. The goal here is to create the ultimate controller, one that will also last and never degrade with hardcore wear and tear.

Cost

The price of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is $150. To put that in perspective, it is near $100 more expensive than the regular Xbox One Wireless Controller. That is a substantial price tag especially if you want two of them. Luckily, Microsoft appears to have made this controller worth the money.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

What you get

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller arrives in a handsome black box that gently slides open. Inside is the clamshell case that houses the controller. Sure, you can just toss it on a charger or your TV stand, but if you take it with you, it might as well travel in style.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

The clamshell unzips to reveal the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller in all its glory. Inside you get

  • Set of 4 paddles
  • Set of 6 thumbsticks: standard (2), tall (2), and domed (2)
  • Set of 2 D-pads: faceted and standard

All of those parts are housed in a jewel-like holder at the bottom complete with custom cutouts. The thumbsticks, paddles, and D-pads are all high-quality machined metal that have some weight to them. Indeed, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller has an unprecedented heaviness to it. Not in a bad way, but more like "this is a quality device".

How it works

All of the interchangeable pieces are magnetic. That is how they stick to the controller. Microsoft seems to be a fan of magnets these days (see the Surface) and it is an ideal solution for keeping things premium. Screwing things on, latching paddles or more would take away from the novelty of just snapping on a new thumbpad. For some reason, there is just something satisfying about a magnet snapping on to metal, and it works here.

The oddest part of the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller comes down to those optional four paddles on the back. For novice and casual gamers, these will likely stay in the clamshell as they can easily interfere with just basic gaming. Even worse, they can come loose and get kicked under the couch or lost in a seat cushion if not careful.

Those paddles are pre-configured as mapped X, Y, A, B buttons but can be reconfigured in the new Xbox Accessories App. That is where the real magic happens as gamers can now basically make their own controller.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

Likewise, you can change out the D-pad for a metal domed one (which feels amazing) and put on some faceted D-pads for more grip.

One of my favorite features is the ability to adjust the RT and LT firing buttons. With a simple switch, you can shorten the button travel. Such a setting is ideal for rapid fire games as reducing the button distance not only saves time but energy too. Playing a racing game? Leave the RT on for the accelerator for slow, gradual control and toss the LT on short for quick breaking. Or don't. The point is it is your choice.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that you can use this controller - like all Xbox One controllers - with a Windows 10 PC or Surface for Xbox One game streaming or playing PC games. The Elite Controller is also compatible with Windows 7 and 8 in wired mode. You can connect via a USB cable to the PC or by using the new Xbox One Wireless Adapter ($25).

Amazing quality

So the important thing about the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is just how good it feels. There are no creaks, it has mass, and there is cool to the touch metal all around it. Although it costs $150 it at least feels like it should.

It looks elegant, too.

Back to my earlier point about casual gamers this controller is something everyone can benefit from and given the choice, I could not imagine anyone passing on this controller for regular one if all costs were equal. Of course, justifying that $150 when you just want to play Peggle 2 is a tough challenge unless you just have money to blow. But hey, assuming you had money to blow you'd be crazy not to want this in your living room.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

Xbox Elite Controller

There are lots of other tweaks to the controller too including the angle of the grips and the resin used in the joysticks, which won't degrade over time. That latter trick ensures that the controller is as smooth on day 300 as it was when you first took it out of the box.

My bet is Microsoft learned a lot about controllers and materials in researching and building the Elite Wireless Controller. That's good news as it means some of that tech could trickle down to their basic wireless controller. If you compare a Day One controller to even a current-gen basic wireless, you can already see how their manufacturing process has improved as the newer creaks less and has more consistent triggers.

So even though you may have to pass on the Elite Wireless Controller due to cost, it should benefit everyone, eventually in some way.

Long term bet – Mapping profiles

The other half to the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is the ability to map custom controls to it. Users can store up to 250 unique configurations on their Xbox (and their profile) and using a switch on the controller they can toggle these mid-game. An example would be in Call of Duty where one mission you are sniping and another you running a defense – you can now have different setups for each scenario.

If that sounds like much to think about, no worries. Microsoft is teaming up with game publishers to let them recommend mapping profiles for their games. Indeed, in the Xbox Accessories App there are already:

  • Gears of War – Ultimate Edition (x2)
  • Forza 6 (x2)
  • Halo 5 (x4)
  • Sunset Overdrive

The number in parentheses is how many configuration options are available. Microsoft says more mapping choices are coming including ones for the new Star Wars Battlefront.

The idea behind this app reminds me very much of modding communities who tend to share skins and config files for apps and hardware. In the future, you may even be able to share your own controller configuration for your teammates. The point is, this stuff is just starting, and Microsoft will be watching the community to see where they want to go next.

There is plenty of potential with the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, but it will be a few months before that all comes together.

I think this community-driven approach with high-level of customization is a rather big move to win over hardcore gamers, and it could be a great long-term play for Microsoft.

Should you get it?

I think if you are a heavy gamer who participates in online matches, runs teams, or joins tournaments then the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is worth every penny. Forgetting the customization stuff the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is just a premium piece of hardware that feels amazing. But controllers aren't things you just touch and let go of. You hold on to them for hours at a time, so this "it feels good" thing is not trivial.

Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

Still, $150 is not cheap, so only the pros should apply. Microsoft knows this, which is why everything here is aimed at that crowd. The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is even great for casual gamers, who will appreciate the overall better triggers and D-pads. Like I said, given the choice, everyone would choose the Elite over the normal wireless one. It's a no-brainer.

I look forward to using the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller on Halo 5: Guardians and Star Wars Battlefront in the coming weeks. You should too (just don't shoot me).

When and where to buy

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller will be available on Tuesday, October 27 for $149.99. Best Buy, http://Amazon.com?tag=hawk-future-20&ascsubtag=UUwpUdUnU35106 and the Microsoft Store are taking pre-orders, but due to popular demand some controllers may not ship until later in November. However, many retail locations should also have some stock locally, so best to check.

Daniel Rubino
Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

64 Comments
  • Cool
  • Why isn't the review available in the app????
  • Why? Why is it so hard to use edge for a few min?
  • Well Mr wiseass, maybe because that's where we are logged in and can get the youtube video, share, save, subscribe etc..
  • Thank you. Additionally; edge is janky right now.
  • Well, what's the point of the app if I have to go to the website?
  • I agree that going to the website defeats the purpose of the app. This is not the first post that requires us to do that.
  • I don't know much about Xbox one. But on 27th I'm getting my prize from Microsoft store. I was going to ask you that can I connect my gaming keyboard to console?
  • That feature is coming
  • Good
  • Coming soon.
  • I think keyboards are supported, but not mice.
  • I held this thing at the Events Party on the 6th. Price tag naturally seems high but man does it feel good in the hand. Triggers, layout, everything about it felt great. So over all of it's up to me, worth it.
  • you can't buy this at amazon right now. temporarily not available   what about the long usb cable? i did not see that in your video and you should state, that this controller also works fine with the windows 10 adapter on pc (even including profils and the fast switching ability)
  • Good point about PC gaming, always forget about that.
  • Can't wait to get this, even just for the hair triggers
  • What happened that we have to see it in browser?
  • I'd get one of these, especially for durability. When the wireless receiver for PC comes out, of course. Xbox 360 controllers are great but they break. Two of my 4 controllers have developed calibration bias to the left, one gets the LB press by itself, and one of the wireless ones can't use or charge battery packs (the rechargeable ones, not individual batteries). They are expensive enough too, here they cost around 100 dollars. So I hope they get fixed. I also noticed that the oldest ones have a better built.
  •  I always buy the $10 replacement insurance from best buy as i am hard on controllers. Bes money you will ever spend.
  • Can't we have a point system for reviews,yes there are different awards given we need a proper rating from WindowsCentral as to how they rate it.
  • Working on it.
  • great, also for different windows products that are featured on the site, you can have a rating button for the product also so users can vote so at anytime a user can check out a product that was reviewed by WCentral and also see what users on WCentral rate it in comparison to WCentral and of course users can only vote once and are required to login ;-)
  • I see no need for the point system in reviews. Read the review and make an informed opinion. Make your number based on that. Otherwise, the discussions for these reviews will turn mostly into debates about how you (this product) an "8" but this one is so worse but you gave it a "7" or whatever. It creates more complaining and detracts from good discussion about the product.
  • lmao, did the pillows come with the controller?
  • Unfortunately, no ;)
  • Preorder cancelled then.
  • How is this for casual gamers? Does it make aiming easier? I find the current one hard to fine tune
  • Everyone could benefit from it, including casual gamers. As I mention, given the choice and equal costs, everyone would choose the Elite. Precision for aiming and moving were a big focus for Xbox in making this controller.
  • Excellent video Daniel, great stuff!
  • Can it be used on Windows 8.1?
  • wired yes, wireless, no
    not sure about the profile app and other stuff. could be win10 only
     
  • Ty for the info, I am cool with a wire.
  • Preordered mine and got 6 Friends to order as well. Even casual gamers can make the mapping more universal for all games instead of memorizing a new control layout for every game. Its more gaming freedom and durability. And costs less than other controllers that can offer the same as the Elite. Tuesday can't come fast enough
  • Seems almost everything Microsoft makes these days have a wait time due to demand.  That's a good thing.
  • Xb1 app was released on 20th
  • Do the buttons have the same feel as regular Xbox one controller's? I wonder whether they did anything to also make those buttons more durable.
  • Generally, yes, but just slightly better feeling when you push them.
  • I want it, but that price is SO tough to accept. Maybe we'll get lucky with a Black Friday sale.
  • Like the review, like the video. What i did not like was the part where the paddels fall off the back of the controller and go under the couch. Reminded me a little of those teleshopping ads :D
  • That was my intent ;)
  • This controller looks great - I'll probably get one nearer to Christmas I think as I'm eyeing up trading up to a Band 2 from the original first. In the meantime I got the Lunar White limited edition controller, and it's obviously nowhere near as good as the Elite, it does feel like a nice upgrade from the controller that came with the console - Feels better built and has a nice rubberised diamond grip on the back
  • /sighs I would love to have one... but I can't justify the pricetag. Is not that I do not think the controller is not worth 150$, it's more like "Why should I buy a Ferrari to drive to the quick-E-mart that's 10 meters away?" It's a weird feeling... I love my xbox,I love playing videogames and I do want an elite controller, but I don't feel like spending that amount of money on it. Yes, it's a sort of contradiction haha. One thing is for sure: I will envy the one able to get the controller.
  • triple negation FTL. I meant "Is not that I think the controller does not worth 150" because I do believe it worths every penny.
  • You might consider the Power A Fusion Controller. It offers many of the same features in a wired controller and costs $80. We'll be reviewing it soon.
  • Surfacebook, Band 2, Halo 5, Lumia 950. If I buy this my girl is going to break my arm. Maybe I can throw it on the xmas list but if I buy it myself my life could be in danger. 
  • No mention of the shoulder buttons?  They're my biggest gripe on the regular controller, feeling stiff and awkwardly angled to press.
  • This was fixed in the newer controller that included the headphone jack. The bumpers are no longer a pivot mechanism and actually function as a quiet button now. Less noise and easier to press in all positions etc.
  • Ah, nice.  I'm still rockin' a Day One controller, along with a second original recipe one.  I guess it's time for a controller upgrade.
  • Yeah, there's a significant change in quality in current controllers from Day One. New ones are much better builds.
  • My Day One controller is starting to go. Triggers starting to double fire, not good on a 4-shot shotgun on Destiny. Pre-ordered the controller about 3 weeks ago & I can't wait until it gets here. I didn't see the spec on the braided USB cord; how long is it? What is the expected battery life?
  • Preordered one a couple weeks ago also. I'm excited and can't wait to get it.
  • Something doesn't feel quite right when Daniel doesn't end a video with "take care everybody"...
  • hah, sorry :P
  • He could always borrow "Don't hate; appreciate" from someone I know... ;)
  • How do the grips and bumpers compare to the Lunar White controller?  The Lunar White controller has spoiled every other controller for me, it is the standard for gaming controllers at the moment, for me.
  • How are the shoulder buttons? I'm in the market for a new controller and am so on the fence on this after being let down by the transforming d-pad controller on 360. Honestly the shoulder buttons on the X1 controller are so un-ergonomic that it really brings down my experience on the system
  • The one thing I've found with the original One controller is how the plastic shell flexes when (for example) I'm squeezing a trigger and a thumbstick at the same time. It feels like the top & bottom half are separating at the seam in opposing directions. I wonder if this Elite controller will be firmer in this regard. I also wonder if the battery charge life will be just as good as the original. I guess I will find out when mine arrives next week....
  • Major Nelson had a podcast a few weeks ago where they talked about the design of the controller.  For example, the magnets in the components are not there to hold them in place.  They're there for guidance.  The pieces are mechanically connected, and the magnets help things line up properly so that they go in and connect smoothly every time.
  • Not long now and I'll have my mitts on one of these when my Elite bundle arrives on Nov 6th. My launch conroller is wearing badly around the left stick, but it still works so will see me through until the elite gets to me. I'm only a casual gamer, but I can see how this controller is going to benefit even myself.
  • Are the analog sticks going to fuck up like on normal xbox one controllers? If so, count me out. I'm not made of money for repairs.
  • You touched on this issue very briefly in your article, but do you feel that the latency with this controller would be superior to the latency experienced with a wireless Xbox 360 controller when being used on the PC? I switched to a wired 360 controller for PC gaming because of this issue, but if the dongle/elite controller could cut down on the input lag I would gladly switch back.
  • Yesterday, I was convinced that I would not buy the controller. Today, while typing on my ergonomic keyboard, I realized that the reason why I bought this keyboard and mouse is reason enough to buy the controller (and quoting Daniel: "But controllers aren't things you just touch and let go of. You hold on to them for hours at a time, so this "it feels good" thing is not trivial.") So, while I will not be able to buy one this year, I do can save  some 10-15 bucks a month and buy me one next december... it's a long timeframe, I know, but I'm basically using the same logic we used with my brother when the xbox one was anounced. We saved money for 1 and a half year. Will do the same this time and will tell him to do the same. :)
  •  The controller looks great. Hopefully, the cool folks here at Windows Central will have a contest where one lucky participant will win one of these Elite controllers.
  • Will it work with Surface Duo??? 😊😊😊