Microsoft Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller (2019)

Hardware Review Nov 21, 2021

Back in October 2015, Microsoft sold a $150 controller. Everyone scoffed at the audacity of throwing that much money down on a single controller. It could never be worth that much, and the extra bells and whistles it had seemed like a bunch of gimmicks to justify and insanely high price. Things like paddles on the back to make it seem like a racing wheel, hair trigger that stop the pull so it’s easier to make 360 no scope kills in the latest Call of Duty… It all seemed so pointless.

I justified the massive controller purchase on the principal of it being like a bed. If you spend so much time using it, why not splurge for something nice? So I ordered it from Amazon and had the UPS guy shlep through the snow to my house after waiting for like a solid week because of the weather. When I opened the package and got my hands on the controller, it didn’t feel like a normal one, it felt like something precious, and it was. I took great care of it and it lasted me years.

In November of 2019 the updated version of that Elite controller came out and lives up to the name incredibly well. Everything that was an issue with the first controller has been fixed. One of the biggest issues for me was the inclusion of Bluetooth instead of Microsoft’s silly proprietary wireless technology that required you to have an external dongle to sync up the controller to a PC. Microsoft has been trying to right the wrongs of the Don Matrick era of Xbox for the last several years, and came out with a revised version of the original controller that opted for Bluetooth around the same time as well. How this wasn’t in the original Elite but on normal controllers that came out is beyond me.

The build quality of the controller is just superb, there is a weight to the controller that you get when dealing with parts made of metal instead of plastic, which also adds to making it feel less like a child’s toy and more like a nice piece of technology that you are proud to own. The parts being made of metal also adds to a feeling of reponsivness and stiffness that makes everything sturdier and solid. This thing is not going to bend or warp or crack over the years of use.

The sticks can be swapped out due to the magnetic system, for higher sticks (for the weirdos who like that sort of thing) or even ones that feature a convex shape at the top. I have always preferred the rigged bumpiness on the outside of the normal concave shape the comes preinstalled on the controller. The D-pad can also be swapped out for concave disc shaped D-pad, which is preinstalled as well. I opted for the normal D-pad on the original Elite for the first few months, since Nintendo dropped the D-pad patent, allowing us to never have to suffer the awful 360 era D-pad ever again. But after several months of playing emulated versions of Street Fighter 2 or Neo Geo’s King Of Fighters ‘98 I tried out the weird half shaped disc and fireball motions are now so much easier to pull off.

The Paddles were the one feature that I really didn’t care for all that much on the original Elite. They could be reprogrammed to the face buttons, but the paddles always got in the way of my gripping the controller the way that felt natural to me. They were also a tad too long, which always got touched and registered button presses that I didn't mean to make. Along with the fact that placing the controller down usually caused issues of the paddles being pulled off by the weaker magnets, it just felt like a gimmick more than something super useful. But on the Series 2 version, the paddles are smaller, resulting in a better grip for me. It still is taking a bit to get used to, but being able to map the paddles to something like left and right stick clicking allows me to make is a simple input instead of something a bit more cumbersome. The remappable design of the controller also allows for making one of them a shift input, which gives the paddles or any other button more than one functionality. I am still messing around with what I want each paddle to do, but for using Dead Eye in Red Dead Redemption 2, these paddles make it so much easier and less hectic while in the middle of a shootout.

The Series 2 also added a third slot for profiles. I never really used the profiles much on the original Elite, except for making the default have an inverted thumbstick layout. I grew up playing inverted and it was the only way I could play FPSs or any game for that face. Back in May of 2017, there was a game released called “The Fidelio Incident” and it had a weird control scheme that messed with my mind somehow. Ever since that game, I couldn’t use inverted controls in games (except for flying games since that’s how it is in real life) and now I don’t even use the profiles anymore. However, again with certain games, like Red Dead I actually would like to dig into those options a bit more and setup a few profiles, maybe for something like emulated games and things of that nature and really test it out.

But, my favorite part of the new Series 2 Elite controller, and the main reason why I bought the thing is the internal battery and charger in the case. The original Elite came with a nice little hardened case that zipped up. For those who travel around with controllers to their friends houses I guess. I thought it was a bit stupid but once I got the thing in my hands, I realized this couldn’t just sit on a couch on on the table out in the open, it’s a fancy controller and needs to be placed lovingly in a special protective case. I always had mind on the floor next to the couch, that had a USB cable next to it. To charge it though, I could never have it sitting in the case, zipped up. The case would just be opened and made it feel like the controller could be damaged by something falling on it, or someone or an animal accidentally stepping on it. Add to the fact that instead of the braided 10’ cable that came with it, I used the magnetic adapter and USB cable that is always plugged into the couch. This would allow quick plug and unplugs if the battery was draining and to charge it. But the magnetic connection is not super strong so the cable can be easily unplugged during normal use.

The new Series 2 has an internal battery which is so much better than the original plug ‘n charge kit ones that came out in 2013 (which you had to pay extra for, so I opted to just buy like 4 at once thanks to amazon and haven’t dealt with AA batteries in forever). But the inclusion of that internal battery is just another thing that is a nice upgrade from the original Elite. It also features basically the same case, but instead of a small foam piece to hold the controller in place so it doesn’t rattle around during transportation, it is replaced with a charging dock and a small hole that allows the cable to fit inside and allow you to close the case while charging. No longer do I have to have a magnetic cable and the controller sitting out after playing, I can place the controller in the case, feel it vibrate to indicate it’s charging, and close the case up leaving me to use the other cable to charge headphones or a tablet or my phone.

All in all, the Series 2 controller is leaps and bounds better than the original Elite. But that is not to say the original is a bad controller. I’d take the original over a plain controller every day of the week, ten out of ten times, but there are meaningful additions and changes to this new one. There are several other added features to this one, like changing the tension of the sticks (I doubt I’ll ever actually use) which does add to the price, but again it’s like a bed. My philosophy for this controller is, if you play games as a main pastime, it’s your hobby and you border on the enthusiast level and you can sleep well at night spending a premium price on a better version of something you already have, this is the absolute best thing you can buy. It’s the only real tangible thing you use when playing a video game. So if you can afford it, “Treat Yo’ Self!”


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