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White Xbox Elite Wireless Controller review: Same great performance, new look

As rumors of a sequel to the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller began to swirl last summer, Microsoft surprised us with a white variant instead. Has anything improved? And is it worth upgrading to?

Xbox Controller
(Image: © Windows Central)

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The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is arguably one of the best video game accessories ever made, with high-quality materials, precision sticks and triggers, and unrivaled customizability. Sadly, the original black Xbox Elite Wireless Controller came with a variety of flaws. Many users reported failing bumpers, and perhaps more prominently, rubber grips falling off due to poor adhesives.

Has Microsoft improved the situation with the new Elite controller? Let's take a look.

What you'll love about the white Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

When it comes to features, this is exactly the same as the previous Elite controller. That means you get a sleek, high-quality hard carrying case, along with four additional paddles on the reverse of the controller for extra inputs. You get hair-trigger locks, allowing you to fully activate the trigger without pressing all the way down. You also get a choice of two different types of d-pad and three sets of joysticks, all connecting magnetically.

The paddles can be mapped to any button on your Xbox controller, and they allow you to access ABXY buttons without moving your finger from the movement stick. This can be great for shooters, allowing you to hit X to reload without having to take your thumb off the movement joystick. The trigger locks are a huge benefit, too, allowing you to fire pistols more rapidly with faster activations.

Advanced users can take advantage of the elongated joysticks. Since the top of the joystick is further away from the pivot, you can turn up the sensitivity for faster turning and still maintain extra precision over finer movements, which can be a boost for precise aiming as a sniper, for example.

The controller looks great, too, sporting a bone white shell that matches the white Xbox One S and white Xbox One X console, making it ideal for those who want all of their gaming stuff to match up.

Otherwise, the design is completely identical. Rubber grips feel ergonomic to hold, and the package comes with AA batteries to help you get started. (If you want rechargeable batteries, you'll have to buy those separately.)

What you'll dislike about the white Xbox Elite Wireless Controller

It's hard to tell whether the rubber grips on the new Elite suffer from the same issues as the previous one, falling off over time. Slipping a tooth pick under the grip certainly gives the impression of an improved construction process. Even when attempting to pry the rubber grip away from the controller's plastic, I found it quite difficult without being overly forceful.

Microsoft told us that its manufacturing processes are "always improving," when we asked about this problem. It's a less definitive answer, perhaps to avoid liability for the issue with the grips from before. Without testing the Elite controller for several months, it's simply hard to test a genuine, real-world failure rate for the adhesive. At least when comparing it to my old Elite, the situation seems to be improved.

Additionally, it still feels a little pricey. The standard Xbox One controller retails for around $60 but can often be found cheaper.

The features on the Elite do grant you an edge, but the carrying case and additional accessories will, in most cases, probably just sit around in a drawer once you've found your preferred configuration. The Elite is very much a premium accessory for enthusiasts. And that's OK.

Should you buy the white Xbox Elite Wireless Controller?

Whether or not the Elite controller is for you depends on your needs. The configurability can most definitely grant an edge in shooters and other types of competitive games, but I wouldn't exactly call it necessary. Plus, there's still a question of longevity. Microsoft will offer repairs in most territories for up to a year on wear and tear, but spending $150 for something that might not last longer than that feels like a hard sell. After a few months of use, we'll come back to report our experiences in that area.

As someone who spends a lot of time playing competitive shooters, I highly value the hair trigger locks for better pistol and rifle handling, and I value the extra buttons in games like Overwatch, where there are lots of action buttons that can otherwise draw your thumb away from the movement stick. It ultimately depends on how much you're willing to spend to gain that edge. If you fancy a premium experience, you won't be disappointed.

Jez Corden is a Senior 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!

8 Comments
  • You are 100% correct about the controller being great and the grips being horrible. I have had my Elite controller replaced 5 times for the grip issue while the rest of the controller worked great. I have NEVER had a mechanical problem with the controller. I still prefer my Elite over the standard controller any day. I am a bit surprised that the price of the controller hasn't come down yet.
  • The price won't come down until gen 2, presuming there will be a gen 2 or more.
    Although personally, I'm not sure how else they can improve the controller without drastically changing the layout and mold (controller shape). The only improvements they can make are manufacturing improvements if they stick to the same layout and mold.
    Other than adding Bluetooth LE support, which may very well make it a gen 2 upgrade lol,
    (Yes, I'm aware of the latency issues with Bluetooth, but to spend £150 on a controller that is not feature complete doesn't sit well with me. As why on earth would you spend more and buy a dongle just to achieve compatibility with your gaming rig for VR and consoles).
  • You kinda answered your own question - latency. I'd take a dongle keyboard/mouse/controller over a Bluetooth any day. There's a reason my G900 has a dongle as its wireless connection method, you know?
  • Never had a problem with my grips on the Elite after years of play.
  • I've had THREE all screw up, two regulars and the Gear of War one. This is absolutely a widespread and common problem, but MS just tell us to piss off. Totally unacceptable for such an expensive device.
  • My early Gear, day 1 Xbox One (not X) and Xbox One X gamepad are still kicking tho.
  • I've ben lucky enough to not have a issue with the grips on my Elite controller, for me it's been the bumpers, had to get them fixed twice. I have had the controller for nearly three years though and given the amount of use I put into it, it's not a bad result.
  • My grips are fine, my bumpers are fine, but my paddles have eventually broken on every controller and I've needed to replace it. It's basic engineering that you don't have something metal rubbing against something plastic, but that's exactly how the paddles work, and eventually mine bore a hole into the green plastic "buttons" underneath them. It should've been metal on metal so that I wouldn't have to worry about how hard I squeeze. Also I like using extremely low dead zones, like below 5%, which gives me a real edge when I use the tall sticks and a high sensitivity in games like Battlefront 2 and Battlefield 1/V. Unfortunately I've gotten a stick drift on 3 out of 6 controllers when I set my deadzone that low, but the others were perfect, so it seems like Microsoft is using cheap switches for the analog sticks. Sometimes they're great, sometimes they're not, luck of the draw. If they release a real V2 with Alps switches or something else really good, so that I don't have to waste time playing the "controller lottery", that alone would be worth the trouble. My favorite feature of the Elite is how precise it is and an Elite V2 could be even more precise if they gave a ****.