Microsoft's previous Xbox Wireless Elite controller, on the face of it, seemed like a bit of an odd product. Who would want to pay $150 for a video game controller? As it turned out, Microsoft couldn't manufacture them fast enough to meet demand, for a while at least. It wasn't long after it launched that people noticed issues with the construction, with the rubber grips notoriously slipping due to subpar construction. Others reported issues with the bumpers, too. I experienced the rubber grips falling off not on one but two Elite controllers since it launched in 2015. For all of its incredible features, that isn't really the experience you want when paying a premium price.
Say hi to the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, which takes everything that made the original so great, and dials it up to 11. We haven't been hands-on for long enough to detail a full review (we really want to test the quality on the grips before assigning a score). That said, early impressions are extremely good.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 refines everything
As great as the previous Elite Controller felt, it feels like a toy compared to the Series 2. Microsoft clearly put a lot of work into addressing every fault it found with the previous effort, while also cramming in tons of new features.
The sheer amount of features makes the Xbox Elite Series 2 feel like a Swiss Army knife.
The Series 2 controller feels immaculately balanced, particularly when compared to my regular Xbox controller. This is perhaps in part owing to the internal battery, which allows for more even weight distribution than bulky AA batteries might. I've been a big proponent of having the ability to swap out my batteries if I so choose — and indeed, we won't know the quality of the Series 2's battery until we've had change for some long-form testing. But since picking up a PlayStation 4 (PS4), I have been envious of how much lighter the controller feels in hand, even if my bulky Eneloop AA batteries provided a far bigger lifespan. Microsoft says the Series 2 gets up to 40 hours on a single charge, which sounds slightly insane. I'll have to brew a ton of coffee to test that one out, I think.
Every aspect of the controller simply feels more dense, more premium than before. The soft matte finish on the body feels excellent against your thumb as you're brushing from button to button, and even the action on the Xbox nexus guide button feels more robust, with very light travel.
In my preliminary examination, I wasn't able to get a fingernail or even a guitar pick under the seams of the rubber grips this time. Microsoft seems to have paid a lot of attention to ensure they'll actually stay on this time around. It feels encouragingly sturdy.
Where the Series 2 truly ascends, though, is in its new tricks.
Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is full of tricks
Microsoft has been able to bake a lot of new stuff into the Elite Series 2, and while our tests are on-going, the sheer amount of features on offer here makes the Series 2 feel more like a Swiss Army knife.
There is some seriously impressive engineering work here.
Even the carrying case has undergone some impressive changes, picking up a unique docking bay for the new charging puck, complete with a rubber stopper, which hides a small opening for the USB-C charging cable.
Speaking of the charging puck, this is a surprisingly nifty solution that dominates any other charging dock I've seen. First and foremost, Microsoft added a ton of weight to this thing, in a similar fashion to the Surface Dock. It won't slide around when you're trying to dock or undock your controller. It magnetizes nicely against the four-pin charging port on the back of the controller, and it's reversible, which is a lovely touch. In the case, it sits angled upwards. Outside of the case, you can reverse it and lay it out flat. There is some seriously impressive, meticulous engineering work here.
The new Elite Series 2 controller also comes with three separate profiles, which you can switch on the fly with a button in the center of the controller, complete with indicator light. The reverse of the controller sports the familiar paddles but now also includes a three-stage trigger lock giving you more control over how far you have to press to activate the triggers. Finally, we now also have Bluetooth, making this a viable option for Project xCloud on mobile and gaming on other compatible devices.
One of the other intriguing features is the ability to control the tension on the joysticks using a turn-key, which we haven't had the opportunity to test this out yet but I can envision various scenarios where this might be useful in shooters. The longer stick allows you for greater control away from the pivot, which can help with precision shots. By dialing up the tension on the stick, you'd also have more rapid target acquisition without losing control, in theory. We'll be testing these scenarios thoroughly as we speed towards full review.
Quite possibly the best controller ever made
From improvements in construction, remarkable new features, and a wide array of smaller refinements, it's certainly looking like Microsoft has a huge win on its hands here. We'll have to put it through the paces in greater detail as pertains to build quality, battery life, and beyond. But early signs are very positive.
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