Xbox Series controller main image

Xbox Series Controller Review

With the launch of a new console generation comes some new controllers. After our Zack wrote about the DualSense for PS5, I’m going to talk about Xbox. The controllers for the Xbox Series consoles to be specific.

So let’s get straight into it!

What’s new?

This will be the biggest disparity between the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series Console. A Lot of the internet is focused on the DualSense. Claiming it’s pretty much the only thing that feels “next gen” so far this console launch. My personal opinion is that PS has pretty much always been behind Xbox in terms of controllers. With that being the case they had a lot of room just to catch up to Xbox. So they took this as their opportunity to go above and beyond to make up this gap.

That’s not to say that things haven’t changed on Xbox’s side though. Xbox have gone for a more subtle iterative approach to their new consoles. My feelings on this is that they’ve gone for a familiar and compatible option, which I’m a fan of.

So the first thing is the controller’s material, or finish. The whole controller is closer to a matt looking black to match the new consoles. Instead of the much shinier finish of the previous ones. This comes with a textures hand grips and textured shoulder buttons and, without knowing I needed it, this offers a much better grip in the hand.

Xbox Series opening

Then they’ve changed the D-Pad, likely to make it closer to the Elite Series component. Now it’s not as good as it is on the Elite Series but it’s definitely better than the previous generation. It’s more of a circle configuration which allows for better diagonal controls.

One of the biggest changes is the addition of a share button, taking after the PS4’s controller. This is now a one button click to take a screenshot, or hold to record a video. The functions of this button can be configured but that’s the default I believe. 

And theeeen?

Arguably a smaller change but still worth noting is the inclusion of a USB-C port, this is grand. I’m glad to see the stock controllers for Xbox and PS completely adopt this standard versus the old Type A.

Then there’s also the 3 base colours available from launch. With the Carbon Black coming with the Xbox Series X. The Robot White controller comes with the Xbox Series S. Then there is an extra, in the form of the Shock Blue controller which you just have to buy.

I will say that the Shock Blue looks incredible! If I didn’t have an Elite Series 2 I would have bought it.

Xbox Series set up

So I know that’s not as many additions or noticeable features as the DualSense. I do however very much like the additions that have been made for this new iteration.

What do I like?

So probably the thing that I like the most about the new controllers is the share button. As Zack and I are doing reviews and try to use our own screenshots this is invaluable. I’m really bad at remembering to take screenshots as it is and the old implementation was clunky. Now though, I just have to press a button and I get a notification instantly saying it’s taken. Without any interruption to my gameplay at all. This feature was taken from the PS4 but is a much more refined process over that implementation.

I really like the new D-Pad, at least I like it for a standard controller. It’s probably the best standard D-Pad of any controller that I’ve used. The only one better is the one on the Elite Series controllers. These are quite expensive overall, with the Series 2 at £160, but I’m glad they took inspiration from them.

The material, the finish, and the extra texturing is a surprisingly massive improvement. If you just use a regular Xbox One controller all the time then you wouldn’t notice this need. However the moment that you hold that controller and the new Series controller at the same time. Well, it’s actually night and day, there’s that much of a difference. This is again a homage to the Series controllers which I am very much a fan of.

Xbox Series laying down

Then there’s the USB-C connector, which has been a long time coming for the Xbox controller. Just ignoring any efficiency they might have added it’s just a better port. Nothing else matters here, it’s better when putting a cable in or taking it out. It also means it’s less like to break or damage itself, so just a win all round.

What about the things they kept the same?

My opinion is that keeping a bunch of things the same was the right choice. I said above that I think the emphasis on familiarity and compatibility was the focus. This was correct in my opinion. We are at a point where you shouldn’t have to just throw everything you previously bought in the bin. So making a controller that is iterative but still has the same compatibility is perfect.

The biggest example of this is the Elite Series, these are expensive controllers. Imagine having to effectively throw away a £160 controller? That would seriously hurt!

The 2 key points that I am very glad that they kept the same is the price and the batteries.

Xbox, at least so far, haven’t raised the price of entry anywhere for their ecosystem. With the consoles at good prices, even releasing the Series S at a really low price. They haven’t increased the price of Game Pass, despite just adding EA Play and things to it. Then even the controllers come in at the same price. This is in contrast to PlayStation increasing the controller price and firsat party game prices. Warranted or not, they made that choice and Xbox have tried not to.

Xbox Series shock blue

Then there’s the use of actual batteries in the controller. Now there are those that complain or will rip on Xbox for doing this. I am not one of these people, I think batteries are the far better way to go. The main reason is cost, it is cheaper and easier to put some new batteries in a controller. As opposed to taking it apart and trying to replace an entire internal battery pack. I would also argue that it’s quicker to change a couple of batteries than it is to plug in a controller to charge.

Is there anything that I don’t like?

If I’m being entirely honest, there is only one thing I really don’t like about the controller. It’s kind of a big deal though, in that I don’t like the top of it. Specifically, I don’t like that they removed the indent from the Xbox One controllers. Now it’s just kind of flat at the top and I don’t actually like that very much.

I will say that this is mostly a problem for the black controller. The Robot White and Shock Blue colour schemes don’t look as bad with this flatness. This was actually the first time I didn’t want a black controller for my Xbox.

What does it all mean?

In the end, I think the main takeaway here is that this is the best standard Xbox controller yet. I’ve not used the DualSense so I’ll save judgement, I’d be surprised if it’s better than the Elite Series 2. Meaning that, at least in my eyes, Xbox still actually has the best controller. It is just much more expensive.

Xbox Series propped up

My personal opinion is that Xbox has almost always had the best controllers. In terms of ergonomics, quality, and feel. With that, they didn’t need to go above and beyond to reinvent what a controller is. Instead making small improvements to just make what they had better.

So slightly better ergonomics and weight distribution, the share button, and the textured grips and shoulder buttons. All of this a very noticeable improvement over the previous controllers.

If I were to compare Zack and I as gamers, I’m more analogue whilst he’s more digital. So the new PS5 DualSense is more up his alley than mine. 

My personal opinion is that Xbox made the correct choice in terms of controller interaction. Keeping it familiar and compatible is much more important to me than a new doodad or gizmo.

At the end of the day though, this is just my opinion. What’s yours? Do you like the new Xbox Series controller? Or would you have preferred them to do a bit more like Sony?

Let us know in the comments below!

Xbox Series Controller Review.
Written by Kyle Munn.

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