Which Xbox Series X/S Controller Is Right for You?
Purchasing a new Xbox controller is a commitment. You’re going to spend a lot of time together. This guide walks you through what to look for and highlights some of the best Xbox controllers on the market today.
When to replace an Xbox Series X/S controller
You’ll know when it’s time to replace your controller. Signs include obvious wear and tear, buttons or analog sticks that don’t respond and faulty ports, among others. Also, you’ll want to replace your controller if it’s unpleasant to use. If your hand cramps or fingers blister, seek out a new controller, as the best Xbox controller is a comfortable controller.
Can a new controller improve my game?
Yes! If you’re comfortable, you’re confident, and that’s half the battle. But for certain games or use cases, controllers also have functionality that makes gaming easier. One important tip: Heavy use degrades your hardware, so make sure you purchase a warranty, as some controllers are quite pricey. (Don’t forget that fast internet can up your game, too!)
What are some new features?
The world of Xbox Series X/S controllers abounds with features like programmable buttons, which let you remap controls to suit your game or play style; button sensitivity adjustments, for games with high-stakes controls requiring precise timing; headphone jacks for voice chat and audio; and Bluetooth.
Series X and Series S and compatibility
According to GamesRadar+, most new controllers are compatible with both Xbox Series X and Series S. If you have friends with different systems or you upgrade from S to X, you shouldn’t need new controllers. Most controllers from the previous generation, meaning Xbox One S controllers, are compatible with Xbox Series S and Series X as well. Note that some previous-gen controllers, like Microsoft’s, have micro-USB ports, while newer ones tend to use USB-C. You’re likely to already have cords for each.
Some controller options
According to The Verge, because Microsoft’s wireless protocol is proprietary, most manufacturers cannot use it, so several great new controllers are wired, and the only wireless third-party controller is very expensive. Players report that there is no discernible difference or added latency in using wireless controllers over wired ones. The main issue with wireless, then, is having to charge controllers or replace their batteries, but for most people this is likely outweighed by the convenience of playing anywhere and eliminating the risk of tripping on the cord.
Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Controller, the one that comes with the Xbox, comes highly rated by The Verge, and both IGN and GamesRadar+ agree: This is the best Xbox controller for most people. The $50 controller features Bluetooth, allowing you to connect to the console itself, PCs and even mobile devices. On top of that, its 3.5mm headphone jack enables listening and voice chat. Solidly built, warranty-supported and equipped with modest bells and whistles, the Xbox Wireless Controller (aka “Xbox Core Controller”) is one of the best Xbox Series X/S controllers money can buy.
This is a popular budget pick. Starting at $38, it’s frequently on sale, according to The Verge, and comes in designs ranging from solid colors to Cuphead to camouflage. It’s backward-compatible with Xbox One and usable with PCs. The Enhanced Wired Controller also features two mappable buttons, a share button, vibration from two motors and a headphone jack.
If you need lots of custom buttons, this controller offers them in spades. IGN describes it as “a joy to hold” and lauds the smooth action of its thumbsticks. The two triggers feature Hair-Trigger Mode, useful for games that require quick action on those buttons. And finally, the Wolverine V2 Chroma boasts six mappable buttons.
Nacon offers two well-reviewed wired controllers. The Pro Compact is a smaller controller with customization options like trigger sensitivity, stick settings and programmable buttons. Its small size offers superior ergonomics for those with smaller hands, and the price is budget-friendly. Meanwhile, GamesRadar+ called the costlier Revolution X Pro “one of the best controllers.” Among other trappings, it features programmable buttons, RGB backlighting and a dedicated button for switching gaming profiles.
These are controllers the pros use. With great in-hand feel and the ability to change the trigger buttons’ responsiveness to mouse-click sensitivity, the SCUF Instinct Pro provides mechanical advantages that esports players rely on. It also features well-positioned remappable rear paddles, meaning you can “move” the X, Y, B and A buttons to the underside of the controller, freeing both thumbs for moving and aiming while other fingers jump and fire—a huge advantage in games like “Call of Duty.” These controllers are also highly visually customizable, with many faceplate designs, button colors and even analog stick heights. The performance and customizable design come at a high price point, but it’s the only wireless non-Microsoft controller money can buy.
If you want a wireless pro controller, but blanch at SCUF’s prices, the slightly less-expensive Xbox Elite controller could be right for you. This rechargeable controller is what gamer BennyCentral uses. The Verge’s 8.5-star review applauds its short hair-trigger locks, high-quality rubber grips and four customizable rear paddles. You can even assign a button to act as a “shift key,” to enable other buttons to take on even more functionality. What’s not to like? Some gamers say the SCUF Instinct Pro may have the edge in durability.
What about internet?
If you’ve already splurged on a top-of-the-line controller, mapped your buttons and honed your practice, the only thing left is making sure you have the connection you need to compete. Think about signing up for gigabit fiber for those fast upload speeds you need to keep winning.
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