The original Xbox Elite controller showed us the optimal way console manufacturers could approach the issue of a lack of consumer options. We're all different, and while it's certainly acceptable to launch a console with a "standard" controller, there are those who consider their daily, weekly or even monthly game time as sacred and thus deserve an experience that's, simply put, superior. This "premium" versatility is crucial, and Microsoft built upon this versatility, starting off with the launch of the Xbox One X and then by giving consumers the opportunity to purchase a better, more robust, heavier controller.
The Elite Controller was designed to fulfil this specific role. It wasn't designed for esports, not for semi-professional use. It was designed to be the perfect Xbox peripheral, it was designed for a mother or a father at home who had finally put the kids to bed, in want of some well-deserved escapism in the world of Gears 5. It was made for everyone looking for a premium controller.
And the release of the Elite Controller was a success. The versatility made it the go-to controller for many, and Microsoft managed to sell well over a million units. Its success made the upgraded Elite Series 2 reveal feel like a no-brainer.
The most apparent change visually and grip-wise is the texture of the controller. The surface of the two handles has been adorned with a rubberised grip, making the controller rest better in the hands during use. Apart from this, you get a small aluminium tool which you can use to directly tweak the resistance of each analogue stick. This resistance is tweaked by tightening or loosening the spring in the joysticks, making it a manual customisation option rather than a software-controlled one. There's also a new setting at the back that allows you to further manipulate the triggers of the controller (i.e. LT and RT). You'll get to choose from three predefined settings, the last of which is so tight that each button is just that, a button.
The controller has Bluetooth integration, which makes sense as Project xCloud is soon to be landing on our mobile devices, and it ships with USB-C. The battery in the controller gives you approximately 40 hours of playtime in one charge, and the case for the controller has USB pass-through, so you can charge it without taking it out of the protective case if you wish. There are also three LED lights on the controller that indicate which preset you're currently using and these can be switched around from game to game.
We're talking about relatively landmark updates here, yet things that at the same time don't change the identity of the controller. It's still heavy with its weight of 340 grams, it's still extremely robust, there are still various alternatives when picking your analogue sticks and D-pad - in other words, it's still the fantastic luxury controller that Elite users have come to expect, it just adds more reasons to invest in one than its predecessor.
The mechanical resistance of the analogue sticks makes a huge difference, though it may feel subtle at first. When testing it out with Forza, for example, either looser or tighter analogue sticks can give players extra opportunity to fine-tune, and we can't praise this particular feature enough. It would have been nice to be able to tweak it all manually instead of switching between three presets, but it's great nonetheless. In addition, having LT and RT turned to the tightest setting is something that shooter enthusiasts will appreciate, and tweaking the resistance is remarkably fast and easy when switching between games. The three LED lights that mark your user profiles are switched between by simply pressing a button and it's relatively straightforward to create them in the Xbox Accessories application. It's also easy to switch back to the default settings if you just want to play around with what the game itself recommends.
The results are amazing. No matter if you're the kind of player who tweaks with your gadgets to fit your specific play-style in each and every game, or if you just want a more luxurious-feeling controller than the standard one, the Elite Series 2 is a wonderful gadget. We would like to have the option to design our own Elite Series 2 controller through Microsoft's Design Lab, which lets you design standard ones, but when it comes to build quality and performance, the Series 2 is a true gem. Sure, buying one isn't cheap, but it's also a luxury product that outperforms the competition.