The Elite 2 is the foremost controller Microsoft have available, a triumph of engineering that sets a fresh standard for premium-grade gamepads on any platform. The brand new gen-two design includes more features, deeper customisation and clever creature comforts that produce the Elite 2 a pleasure to use. Here’s why we think it’s great – even though it isn’t for everyone.

To begin with, let’s address the purchase price. At £160 in the united kingdom and $180 in america, the Elite 2 costs 3 x the price of a typical controller; and it’s really actually the same ballpark price as a whole new Xbox One S All Digital. Which means it remains an extravagance item that simply doesn’t seem sensible for all however the most invested Xbox and PC owners. Thankfully, this price differential reaches least reflected in the depth of the feature list and construction of the controller, with that premium feeling beginning with as soon as you take it from the box.

As the Elite 2 will come in the same soft shell case as its predecessor, the lump of foam that supported the controller before has been replaced by a convenient charging stand – which complements the brand new rechargeable (but sadly irremovable) battery nicely. Take away the fabric cover, and pins on the wedge-shaped charger will fall into line nicely with contacts on the trunk of the controller. You can also plug a USB-C cable in through a exclusively designed flap in the rear of the case, letting you charge your Elite 2 while keeping it fully covered.

In addition to the removable charger, you’ll discover a toolkit which includes four replacement thumbsticks, four paddles, a far more traditional four-way d-pad and a curious item that appears like a guitar pick crossed with a SIM card removal tool. Pop off the thumbsticks, and you will be able to utilize this to change the strain of every stick, with three levels available: the typical loosey-goosey feel and two tighter settings that push the stick back again to centre more assertively. The replacement thumbsticks are wild too, with a set of taller, flatter and less textured alternatives, a double-height stick and one with a ridged, convex top. I swapped between these regularly throughout testing, eventually finding yourself with a set stick for movement and the convex option for precision aiming. Combined with clickier face buttons, this designed for the most effortlessly responsive controller I’ve ever tested – and the depth of options here imply that it will work for a variety of gamers.

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As well as as an evolution of the Elite line, the Elite 2 also contains the changes designed to Microsoft’s latest generation of standard Xbox controllers. This implies Bluetooth connectivity is currently up to speed, finally allowing at the very top controller to be utilized with cellular devices like smartphones and tablets – particularly useful for playing Xbox titles on the run with Project xCloud. In addition, it provides new connectivity option for Windows PCs that ameliorates the necessity for the £20/$20 Xbox Wireless Adapter – although the inherent latency of a Bluetooth connection ensures that serious PC gamers should still probably grab the faster 2.4GHz wireless dongle if indeed they can spare the money. The unibody design from the brand new controllers in addition has been carried over, with a practically flush Xbox button and a 3.5mm port allowing you to connect headphones. It had been weird purchasing the expensive first-gen Elite in 2019 and feeling that the typical controllers were more complex in some ways, so it is great to see this resolved with the Elite 2.

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Looking at both Elites hand and hand, another difference is clear: how big is the textured grips. On the initial Elite, this only extends down the trunk side of every arm of the controller, but on the Elite 2 the grippy texture is available on front and back, stretching up to meet up the sides of the shoulder buttons to cover a much bigger surface. Even the triggers are textured similarly, assisting to stop sweaty fingers slipping off in a frantic firefight. Comfort reaches an all-time high here, which is very good news for anybody that plays enough to justify reduced controller such as this one.

The hair triggers are also upgraded, with a fresh travel distance between your two extremes introduced by the initial Elite. I missed this massively useful – full distance for racing and a hair trigger to use it games like Nioh had been enough for me personally – but I don’t mind the excess option since it doesn’t detract from the look elsewhere. Finally, both profiles of the first Elite have grown to be three on the Elite 2, with the easy switch traded for an LED and button combo. There’s a good new shortcut – hold down the profile button, and the controller will go back to a bog-standard setup that disables underneath triggers. That’s useful if you are setting the controller down and do not want to accidentally slash an agreeable NPC, or you’re handing your mate the controller and do not want to confuse him together with your unorthodox setup.

The initial Elite controller didn’t earn our unequivocal recommendation.

To actually create your profiles, you will have to venture in to the Xbox Accessories iphone app on Xbox One or Windows. From here, you can remap any button on the controller (aside from Xbox, Start and choose). Each button may also change its mapping whenever a shift button of your choosing is held, allowing the paddles to be utilized for eight different functions rather than four. Elsewhere, you can adapt each stick’s sensitivity, set dead zones for each and every trigger, ignore or disable vibration in four zones and even adapt the brightness of the Xbox button. It’s a sensible package, and the one which allows deeper and more intuitive customisation compared to the first-gen Elite, which lacks Shift functionality and the capability to map buttons to system functions like starting a recording or going for a screenshot.

While nailing the physical design and delivering competent software are impressive feats that Microsoft ought to be pleased with, they managed that last time around too – and despite these strengths, the initial Elite didn’t earn our unequivocal recommendation. In the end, despite a cost tag many times greater standard controller, users of the initial Elite gamepad reported a litany of issues with these devices – like grips falling off, shoulder buttons jamming and sticks drifting. Many users experienced multiple replacements in the span of a year, suggesting these issues weren’t limited to the first batch of controllers, while some chosen third-party fixes like extra adhesive to fix what seem to be design deficiencies. Of course, some Elite controllers have stood the test of time. I picked one up to examine a year ago, and I’ve had no issues whatsoever despite periods of heavy use in racing sims, Souls-like titles and party games. Nobody but Microsoft really gets the data to say set up original Elite includes a higher failure rate than other gamepads, but reduced controller should be better constructed and more reliable than the one which includes the console, not less.

This chequered history meant that the Elite 2 faces an increased degree of scrutiny. We haven’t determined any construction concerns with this particular unit, but a thread on the /r/XboxOne subreddit with 3000 comments and counting shows that this iteration has its gremlins, with a variety of users reporting sticky face buttons and thumbstick drift that Microsoft has promised to research. These problems are covered beneath the controller’s warranty, which runs 3 months in america and Canada and twelve months in the united kingdom, but deciding on a major retailer that gives no quibble returns or replacements is actually a wise move.

With luck, these quality assurance issues will be fixed and all future Series 2 controllers made will deliver the reliability that befits reduced option. In the end, the Elite Series 2 is otherwise a standout controller with a deep feature list that delivers a class-leading feeling of precision and control – a fitting choice for another generation of Xbox consoles and PC