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Microsoft Xbox Elite Controller review: Luxury gaming and customization, at a price

Even the controller's back triggers can be altered. A lever underneath each trigger can activate hair-trigger mode, which prevents a trigger from needing to be fully pulled. The idea is that you don't need to wait the extra half second or so it takes for the trigger to spring back to its resting spot and instead it can be fired rapidly. It definitely appears to make shooting that much quicker, but only if you're firing in bursts or single-round shots from a weapon that will fire as quickly as you can pull the trigger.

Finally, the controller lets you remap buttons to a set of four detachable paddles, which can be programmed through a free Xbox app specifically designed for the controller. Some players find the option to bind a command to the back of a controller beneficial, be it the gas on a race car or a quick grenade toss. I found some success making a back paddle the button for switching weapons in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, as I didn't have to remove my thumbs from the sticks.


I'm not used to having paddles on the back of the controller, however, so I found myself accidentally hitting them more often than not. It's probably something I could get used to with practice, but for someone who's been playing a certain way for decades it might be tough unlearning that.

The free Elite app not only lets you program the back paddles, but it can also let you remap any of the 14 digital inputs from the controller. Two control scheme profiles can be stored on the controller itself, which can be accessed via a switch below the Xbox Guide button. Microsoft says that developer-created alternate control schemes for specific titles will be offered through the app down the road as well.

A $150 controller needs some added value, doesn't it? So it's good to know the Elite plays nicely with Windows 10, as does the free app. It's ready to use on your PC right out of the box with an included USB wire. You can even use it wirelessly with your PC too, you'll just need the Xbox Wireless Adapter -- another $25, £25 or AU$30. But at $150, I wish there was a rechargeable battery inside the Elite. Unfortunately, it only takes AAs.


It's tough to justify spending $150, £120 or AU$200 on a video game controller, especially one that won't necessarily make you "better" at games. The Elite provides plenty of functionality improvements over a standard Xbox One controller, but a lot of these benefits are luxuries. If money isn't an issue, yes, the Elite controller is the best one for your Xbox One and PC gaming needs. But if you're not a pro gamer, that $150 could likely be spent on more exciting items, like a regular controller and a game -- not to mention you'd still have $30 left over.

If owning the Elite is a must, but you just can't come to terms with spending $150, you may want to look at the Elite Xbox One bundle. Of course this only applies if you don't already own an Xbox One. The bundle goes for $500, £400 or AU$600, which knocks about $50, £20 or AU$100 off the price of an Elite controller, making it a much easier pill to swallow. Plus, the console also comes with a 1TB solid-state hybrid drive, which presumably increases loading speed, but we'll still need to check that out to know for sure.

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