Microsoft’s Xbox Elite controller has been the gold standard in the pro gamepad market since its release back in 2015. No pro controller has come close to the level of build quality, design aesthetics, and ergonomics that Microsoft provided with its first-generation version, and the only device to come close in my personal use of these controllers across platforms is Astro’s C40 TR for the PlayStation 4 and PC.
Now, Microsoft says it finally has an update to the Xbox Elite, appropriately called the Xbox Elite Series 2, that will bring some much-needed updates to its premium gamepad. The Verge got to spend a few minutes with a demo version of the Elite 2 here at E3, and while I unfortunately don’t have hands-on experience with how it plays during a live game, I can say that it feels like the best, lightest, and most capable pro Xbox controller. Without instant, on-device button remapping, I can’t say it’s the most capable, but it comes very close.
The key upgrades Microsoft promises with the Elite 2 are USB-C charging with up to 40 hours of battery life, Bluetooth support so you can more easily play wirelessly on Xbox or PC (the old controller used a proprietary wireless protocol), and more customization options.
Now you can switch between three profiles on the fly and have one default to fall back on, and you can also do some more granular customizations using the Xbox Accessories companion app, like adjusting the thumbstick tension. The new version also supports shorter hair trigger locks and even lets you use a “shift” option, so you can hold down one button and have it activate alternative remapped commands for any of the controller’s other buttons. As I mentioned, one feature the Elite 2 controller appears to lack is instant button remapping, a hallmark of both Scuf’s competing Vantage controller and the Astro C40 TR. But with the extra profile options, that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
As for how the device looks and feels, it still has that same premium finish that makes it feel like a high-quality gadget should, and it now comes with wrap-around rubberized grip that makes it much more pleasant to hold. I was actually surprised at how light the Elite 2 was, compared with the similarly sized Astro C40 TR. But despite the lighter build, nothing about the redesigned grips or the largely unchanged trigger system feels at all cheap.
The Xbox Elite 2 retains the four-paddle back design, which should keep it competitive with the most hardcore of pro gamepads from companies like AimControllers, Battle Beaver Customs, Evil Controllers, and Scuf. (One big downside to the Astro C40 is that it has only two back paddles.) All in all, the device seems like the perfect option for more serious Xbox players, and it should still rightly make PS4 owners jealous Sony won’t develop a version of its own.
The device launches November 4th in 24 countries for $179.99. You can preorder it now from Microsoft’s dedicated product page on Xbox.com.