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Xbox One Elite Controller Hands-on: Modular Bliss

Design

Microsoft made a pretty comfortable gaming controller. The Xbox 360 controller is still widely used for PC gaming. However, the Elite might just have the 360's number. My hands were greeted by the kiss of the black soft-touch finish covering the front of the controller. The grips along the back of the device are covered in a gray rubberized plastic with a raised diamond texture. The materials help ensure a secure grip. 

The top of the controller is made from stainless steel along with the thumbstick shafts and included D-pads and rear paddles. Although no one at the event I attended would disclose the weight or dimensions of the controller, it had a nice solid heft that I appreciated.

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Triggers and Thumbsticks

In order to deliver the feedback that professional gamers prefer, the Elite's trigger buttons are equipped with a hair trigger lock. Activating the lock prevents the buttons from depressing fully allowing for faster input which comes in handy for first-person shooter where precision and speed count.

The stainless steel thumbstick shafts and d-pads aren't just for show. Microsoft claims that the metallic parts will prevent the parts from wearing down. The tops of the analog sticks are outfitted with reinforced rings that gently gripped my thumbs. Although the face buttons haven't been specially modified, they still provided firm feedback.

Modularity

The Elite's key feature is its modularity. The controller ships with three sets of analog thumbsticks, a pair of d-pads and two sets of paddles. The bundled sticks include a tall, short and domed set. Of the three options I preferred the tall ones ,which felt best on my thumbs.

Although it looks strange, the faceted d-pad was my favorite. It provided a level of articulation that's difficult to achieve with a traditional pad. I can see myself using this pad for fighting games like Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct; making half and quarter circles to perform moves should be easier to pull off.

If the controller isn't comfortable enough for you, the Elite also has two sets of paddles that fit along the rear of the peripheral. Once attached, the paddles can be programmed as input devices.

Attaching parts is a quick and painless process, thanks to the powerful magnets. The pieces quickly and securely snapped into place when swapped out. Removing parts was as simple as giving a quick upward.

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Button Mapping

Although physically swapping out parts on the controller is cool (and fun). nearly every facet of the Elite can be modified to a particular gamers taste. To accomplish that goal, Microsoft created a button-mapping app that will be available on both Xbox One and Windows 10.

Using the app, gamers will have to ability to tweak a plethora of settings, including setting thumbstick sensitivity and mapping the buttons and the d-pad.

Bottom Line

The Xbox One Elite controller is a tempting piece of tech. Not only can your program every input on the controller's frame, you can literally swap out pieces. The $150 price tag is high compared to the $59 Xbox 360 controller, but if you want to experience one of the best controllers on the market, Microsoft's new peripheral seems worth the splurge.