Xbox Elite 2 Controller: Do You Need It?

The Xbox Elite controller has always been pretty much the best money can buy (and a good chunk of money at that). Unfortunately, from a premium perspective the Xbox Elite controller had a lot of issues — ranging from peeling grip rubber to shoddy shoulder buttons. Still, it is the one to which all others are compared. Enter the Xbox Elite 2 … but do you need it?

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Serious controller … for serious players.

Opening The Box

As with its predecessor, the Elite 2 comes in premium packaging. Slice the tape on the box and you’ll lift the top off to reveal the signature Xbox storage case; a hard shell zippered case that contains the controller and its various components.

If you poke through the box, you’ll find a nice long USB C cable — braided — and various instruction and warranty booklets.

Unzip the Case

Inside the clam shell case, the controller itself jumps right out. Upon a quick inspection and holding it in your hands, you can feel the quality of the controller. Solid, weighted but not too heavy. The entire grip front and back is now textured; not just the back like on the OG Elite. It is incredibly comfortable. We’ll dissect the controller itself in a moment.

Under the controller you find the small charging base along with add-on accessories similar to the OG Elite. This includes various analog stick replacement caps (some indented, some rounded out) along with a four direction D-Pad replacement cap, slots for the four rear paddles (they are pre-installed on the controller) and finally a mysterious little pewter looking thing that resembles a guitar pick.

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Pickin’ & grinnin’ …

While we’re on the case, there is a mesh pocket on the top of the case (for your USB C cable) and there is a charging access port at the top so you can charge the controller while it is in the case. Finally, there is a small loop near the port where you can clip it to something.

Looking At The Controller

At first glance, you would be forgiven for mistaking it for the OG Elite controller. Subtle differences such as a slightly different looking Xbox button and a single button where the dual profile switch used to be. Otherwise the front looks the same.

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Not so different than the Elite OG, is it?

If you look at the top, you’ll see the bumper and trigger buttons along with the same sync button as before. The microUSB port has been thankfully replaced with the new USB C plug. You’ll also notice there is no longer a battery cover; this unit has a built in, rechargeable battery.

Flip the controller over and you’ll find the four paddle arrangement — each one can be remapped (more in a minute). Each trigger also has a three-position switch which offers three different depths for the trigger press depth (as opposed to two on the original Xbox Elite controller); full press, half press (this was the other selection on the original controller) and finally a real “hair trigger” setting which doesn’t allow the trigger barely any movement before registering a press.

Finally on the bottom, we have the 3.5mm plug for the Xbox headset as well as the standard Xbox One accessory port as per any other controller for the console.

Overall, from a look and feel, we have received a respectable bump in quality for sure.

Digging In

Microsoft claims up to a whopping 40 hours on a single charge (untested at the time of review) so let’s see how the charging looks and works.

More like a charging pedestal than a dock, this small square magnetic base features three pogo style retractable charging pins with a perfectly molded contour that sucks the controller down on it like a glove. The footprint is well under the size of the controller, making it seem like the controller is just sitting there on the desk. It is well-weighted and rubberized on the bottom to ensure the dock doesn’t move around. While charging, the small white light on the face of the controller pulses slowly. The dock has the charging plug (USB C) on the top; it is a very nice solution. No more aftermarket Nyko charging bases necessary. No more fooling around with AA batteries. A winner in my book.

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The dock is shown above — along with the contents of the clam shell case.

Analog Tension Adjustment

Remember that guitar pick in the case? That’s a key for adjusting the tension of the analog sticks.

Pop off the analog sticks and you’ll have access to the cross-head tips. Use the key to adjust the tension of the sticks in three different positions. Each partial turn represents just a few foot pounds more of resistance; the third position being maybe twice as taut as the first position.

I need to try the various tension settings during actual hardcore play before I make a determination on the usefulness of this feature. I suspect that this may be useful for the right analog stick to make it a bit easier to aim without turning down ADS sensitivity in your standard FPS.

Profiles

The real power of the Elite controllers has always been the ability to program it — especially the four paddles on the back.

The dual profile selector switch on the front of the controller has been replaced with a single push button that rotates you through three different custom profiles (designated by one, two or three little light bars under it). Technically there are four profiles; the stock one and the three programmable ones.

Firing up the Xbox Accessories app either on Windows or Xbox One will give you access to the configuration tool.

I would like to thank Microsoft for recognizing I already had custom profiles for the OG Elite and they migrated them right over for me! I didn’t have to do anything more than assign my preferred profile(s) to one of the three profile slots.

You can make tons of profiles for your games — even if you can only assign three at a time.

The editor itself is surprisingly easy to use.

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The profile editor …

You simply select what button you want to map, then select both a regular mapping and a “shift” mapping. By making one of your buttons a “shift” key, you can effectively give yourself nearly double the number of mappings!

Mapping isn’t restricted to just other buttons … you can also assign actions like LAUNCH APP or SEND MESSAGE.

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Buttons or actions can be mapped!

The profile app also lets you select sensitivity curves and calculation adjustments for your analog sticks.

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Get granular with your settings …

You can even change trigger sensitivity, vibration settings and dim the Xbox button if it bothers you.

All of these settings are stored in a single profile — and using the toggle button, you can flip through them easily without a return trip to the application.

Getting Connected

The Xbox Elite 2 controller can connect to your PC or Xbox in a variety of ways.

Of course the controller connects wireless to the Xbox One with a simple sync via two button presses. While connected you can use the same headset you were using with the OG Elite controller.

You can use the controller wired via any USB C cable to the Xbox or PC (the official website says that wired connectivity offers restrictions for Windows 7/8 users).

Finally, you can use Bluetooth to connect the controller to the PC — much like the second generation Xbox One controller could with no special dongle required. If you do have the Xbox Wireless Controller dongle, that still works too (for those without Bluetooth available on your computer).

I tested both Xbox and PC (via the controller dongle) and response was excellent as you would expect.

Should You Replace Your Xbox Elite OG Controller?

Everyone loves shiny new toys — but at just under $200, this controller is far from an impulse buy. Even at the discount prices offered by Costco and other retailers at $160, this decision warrants some consideration.

My OG Elite controller has been to Microsoft … twice … for repairs/replacement. That isn’t a ringing endorsement. Of course, others have used their Elite controller with no issues happily for years. Your mileage may vary.

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Grips falling off are the least of the issues with Elite OG. Image courtesy of Reddit.

Microsoft promises (with very little evidence or specifics) that the Elite 2 is built better … “re-engineered components”. Only time will tell if this is true. If I have to send my controller back to Microsoft in a year because the left bumper button essentially falls off? We know it was a failure.

Realistically, you’re looking at a premium recharging system, an extra hair trigger setting, an extra profile setting and some tension adjustment for your analog sticks. Oh, and a promise “it’s better inside”.

If you’re currently thrilled with your Elite …? No issues? Grips aren’t peeling? You should probably keep it for now.

Wait for the inevitable price drop on the Elite 2 next year. Or, if you’re planning to get the new Xbox next year, it will probably come with this controller.

On the other hand, if your Elite left bumper button only works half the time, your grips have been glued back on two or three times or your Nyko rechargable battery is getting long in the tooth (mine was) — this is an excellent replacement.

Is it worth it if I don’t have an Elite controller?

Good lord, yes. If you have the disposable income and the means — I highly recommend picking one up. It is so choice.

Seriously, I can’t imagine for a minute going back to a standard Xbox controller at this point. The large paddles on the back are amazing for remapping to sprint and melee (Call of Duty fan here) and are insanely more comfortable (and faster) than using the analog L3/R3 buttons.

The controller is fantastically comfortable even with long game play sessions.

No more battery nonsense. No more third party docks, add-ons and charging stations. Consider that the difference in price between the Elite OG and the Elite 2.

The wise penny-pincher may be thinking — with the Elite 2 out, the Elite OG should drastically drop in price and getting one of those for the price of the Elite 2 is a real deal … especially because the Elite 2 doesn’t offer nearly the upgrade from an Elite OG as the Elite OG offers as an upgrade to the Xbox One stock controller.

But I warn you with peace and love. Avoid the used, refurbs or any original Elite controller that is not effectively under warranty. Any sort of smoking deal you find is likely to not be new in box and is always subject to the inherent breakdowns of the Elite.

Do you have the new Elite 2? Love it? Hate it? Share your experiences with my readers below.

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I write, blog, record and review anything that interests me — including humanity, parenting, gizmos & gadgets, video games and media.

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