After ample hands-on time with the Xbox One Elite controller, it's obvious that it's a front-runner for the best gaming controller I've ever used – albeit spendy.
As the first ever first-party controller made with pro gamers in mind, the Xbox One Elite controller had a lot riding on it in the build up to its release. While some may have been initially concerned by whether or not Microsoft could nail down a tournament-ready controller for its more game-savvy consumers, I'm happy to report that the peripheral is, undoubtedly, the best gamepad currently available on the system – and probably any other.
Every inch of the Xbox One Elite controller makes it feel like the luxury product it's been marketed as, and as soon as I held it in my hands I knew it was something special. Immediately noticeable is the weight and texture of the peripheral, making it feel like a true evolution of the now infamous input device. As many are sure to immediately point out, however, there's more to a pro-level controller than something that simply feels nice in your hands. Fortunately, there's a lot more to it.
As one of the trademark features of the Elite, the controller features an interchangeable D-Pad, thumb sticks, and rear paddle buttons. All of these components come packaged in a suave case that allows users to both transport their tech and keep their controller parts organized when they're not in use. Having swappable buttons is one thing, but the magnetic clip-in and clip-out functionality of each piece is without parallel. It's incredibly easy to change parts on the fly depending on which game you want to play, and the end result is incredibly intuitive with – at least for the time being – no hinderance on the gameplay experience.
The paddles will stick out to many as some of the more radical differences about the controller, but they do serve a rather important purpose. In terms of competitive players, it allows them to access the 'A', 'B', 'X', and 'Y' buttons without removing their fingers from the sticks or triggers – permitting them to best the competition by milliseconds in the process. Admittedly, there's a slight learning curve to using these paddles correctly, but the end result is a much more fluid option for shooter aficionados in particular.
Of course, those that don't want to use the paddles can simply detach and store them, or even turn them off altogether by double-tapping the 'bind' (or sync) button on the top of the controller. The same care has been applied to the individual triggers, which allows users to reduce the distance each one has to travel before the controller registers it as being fully pressed.
The entire purpose of the Elite-branded peripheral is to allow fans to play how they want, and that's exactly what it does. Swapping inputs is incredibly simple, ensuring minimal downtime between each bout of play. That said, the remote costs a rather pretty penny at $150 USD, which will be an immediate deterrent for those that would rather own a pair of Xbox One controllers for less than that price. Considering the cost, it's also a shame that Microsoft opted not to include rechargeable batteries, which would have added a little more value to the product.
Those negatives aside, this is easily one of the best controllers on the market, and anyone that's using an Xbox One Elite controller will immediately be aware that they are doing so. In the end, it comes down to just how serious players are about their games. If they are head-over-heels for Microsoft's current-gen platform then this seems like a no-brainer. If they only play it casually, however, then it'll require a bit more thinking on the part of the player given its price tag.