Xbox, you broke my heart: Elite Series 2 Core controller review [video]

Elite Series 2 Core

Microsoft has released the new Elite Series 2 Core controller. Available in white, it’s a more affordable option for a “pro” Xbox controller, but it loses most of the accessories like paddles and swappable thumbsticks. Those now come in a separate optional package. After reading over the release and checking the website listing and seeing “re-engineered components,” I decided to pick one up and see how it performs. So far, for better or worse, it seems like it’s more of the same. Be sure to hit the video below to see all of the details. 

I’ve been a fan of the Elite series since launch – rocking a first gen Elite for years without any issues. For some gamers, though, this line of controllers has been a massive headache. Every time I talk about how much I like them in one of my controller reviews, the YouTube comments section fills up with gamers who have had problems with them.

So when Microsoft announced the Elite Series 2 Core with the statements that it had re-engineered components built to last, I knew I had to pick one up. Is it still plagued with the face button issues or bumper woes that so many reviews have previously mentioned? 

At $130 for the controller itself and $60 for the accessory pack, my grand total came to $203 with tax. That’s more expensive than the older Elite Series 2 non-core, which comes with all of the same accessories for $180 but can often be found on sale for less. 

Xbox Elite Series 2 Core Controller: Design

As far as I can tell, the only design difference is that the Elite 2 Core comes in a white colorway. Even though my Xbox Series X is black, the white controller looks sharp. In time, it could show more grime, but that’s not something I’m too worried about. I’ll let my kids play with the stock controller with their grimy hands.

Otherwise, the Elite 2 Core has all of the design features of the non-core. You can find my review of that controller here for more information. Rubberized wrap-around grips, three-way adjustable trigger stops, three custom profiles, and adjustable thumbstick tension are all top features of this Core controller. 

It still has a 40-hour internal battery that is rechargeable via the included USB-C cable for the core controller. 

Elite 2 Complete Components Pack

The $60 Complete Components Pack takes the Elite 2 Core to the same customization capabilities as the standard Elite 2 controller by adding a carrying/charging case, four paddles, four additional thumbsticks with different designs, and an interchangeable D-pad. 

Alternatively, if you want the paddles but don’t want to shell out $60 for the whole kit, there are third-party paddles available on Amazon for about $11 with some decent reviews. I wanted to get the full kit for this review, so I opted to go with the one from Microsoft. 

Personally, the paddles are the main reason I love the Elite controller so much. They are the best implementation of buttons on the back of a controller that I’ve tried. Once you get used to that setup, it’s very comfortable. 

Xbox Elite 2 Core controller: Video

Xbox Elite Series 2 Core: In use

When everything works as intended, the Elite Series 2 Core is still the best controller for Xbox I’ve used. The paddle setup is my favorite way of augmenting what a controller is capable of. If you’re still on an OG Elite controller, the Elite Series 2 and Series 2 Core paddles do require a bit more force to actuate than the original.

Otherwise, the D-pad is responsive, and the sticks are performing well for me so far. They’re snappy and responsive and I haven’t noticed any stick drift in the short amount of time I’ve been using them. Testing the sticks on, there is a bit of input when I snap the sticks back to neutral, but I haven’t seen any drifting sticks in-game.

Some issues persist

As exciting as it was to hear that things might be getting better for the Elite 2, sadly, it’s not all perfect. A Reddit user posted a video showcasing some serious face button registration issues. I too have had similar issues. While not as bad as what the video showed, I do occasionally notice that face button inputs are not registered. I would say that maybe 5% of the time that I hit the “a” face button or “y” face button, the input isn’t registered.

Another YouTube Channel, Gamer Haven, has also released a complete tear-down of the Core controller vs a standard Elite 2, and visually there is no difference. Everything appears to be the same. 

I reached out to get some feedback on which components exactly were “re-engineered” with the Elite 2 Core controller, but I haven’t heard back yet from my contacts. Unfortunately, it looks like nothing has changed. 

What are these “re-engineered components?”

It’s a huge shame that this issue continues to persist, considering many purchasers had issues with this on the older model. The Elite Series 2 has been around since mid-2019. It should have been an obvious area that needed improvement along with whatever else Microsoft decided to address. I would think that customers would even be fine with paying more money just to ensure that their “premium” Microsoft Xbox controller would be reliable for years to come. I know I would, at least.

Now, the Elite series is a mixed bag for most. Plenty of users have had various issues but there are equally as many who haven’t had any issues. My original Elite controller is still going strong. So there is a chance that if you get one it will be totally fine. But, it is a gamble. Considering the language used in the press release and on the Xbox website, I’m pretty bummed to see that it doesn’t look like the controller has really been updated at all. Maybe I misinterpreted it, but I also feel like the line “re-engineered components” is fairly misleading.

9to5Toys Take

I’m hoping to hear back from someone on the Xbox hardware team or their PR company to find out what exactly was changed with the Elite 2 Core controller. But, unfortunately, it still seems like there could be issues with these controllers that will plague purchasers. As the premium offering from Xbox with years of feedback and returns, this just shouldn’t be a thing anymore. 

Buy Elite 2 Core controller

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