I have some reservations about the new Xbox Elite Series 2 Core controller. Microsoft seems to have eliminated all the features that made the Elite Series 2 stand out, including the four rear paddles, four thumbsticks, D-pad, and the carrying case with a charging puck.
The result is a somewhat semi-pro controller that costs $189.95; much cheaper than the complete $250 Elite Series 2 but also more than double the price of a regular Xbox controller. So while you end up saving $60 off the big boy, you lose a lot of what makes the Elite Series 2, well, elite.
Microsoft does sell the Component Pack which has all those missing items for an additional $80 which altogether comes to $270 — $20 more than just buying the Elite Series 2 to begin with. See the problem?
Xbox Elite Series 2 Core Review
It is important to note that the Elite Series 2 Core is essentially the same as the Elite Series 2, but without the additional accessories that make it a fully professional controller. However, they are identical in terms of physical and functional features. The controller still boasts a sleek design with high-quality construction, textured rubber grips, and a comfortable feel in the hand.
I am uncertain of the number of attempts Microsoft made to create a controller with such a satisfying feel, but it is undeniably remarkable. It has a weighty, premium sensation without causing fatigue during extended gaming sessions. Although it is heavier than my Razer Wolverine V2 Pro, it feels notably smaller in the hand.
One main difference that the Elite Series 2 Core brings is brand-new colourways. Unlike the big boy which only comes in Black and the Halo Limited Edition green and gold, the Core comes in White, Red and Blue finishes. My review sample is red and it is stunning. The Core’s potential unique selling point is no longer exclusive due to the addition of the Elite Series 2 to Microsoft’s Xbox Design Lab, which allows for complete customization.
Design aside, the biggest point of difference between the Elite Series 2 and the Core is the aforementioned missing accessories. Right out of the box, the Core only comes with a USB-C cable and a thumbstick adjustment tool — that’s it. Looking at the back, you can see the bare back with locking points for the missing paddles.
Here’s where my confusion begins because without the rear paddles, extra thumbsticks and charging case, this isn’t all that different from a regular Xbox Series X controller. The rear paddles are essential to remapping controllers for greater play. Sure, it still has three levels of trigger stops and adjustable thumbstick tension but not much else.
Everything else is software controlled and adjustable via the Xbox Accessories app for Windows and Xbox. The app lets you remap any of the buttons on the controller though you’re limited in what you can do given the lack of extra paddles. You can however adjust stick deadzones, sensitivity, haptic strength and save individual settings as profiles for different games.
Stored profiles are accessible via a dedicated button on the controller with some LED lights to highlight which profile is in use. Another fun thing you can do is set the colour and brightness of the Xbox button. No longer are you limited to the standard white glow.
The Elite Series 2 Core works in three different ways; Xbox wireless, Bluetooth and wired with a USB-C cable. Microsoft provides a generous 9-foot-long braided cable so you can use this on your living room setup as easily as your PC desk setup. Xbox wireless works seamlessly with Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One consoles as well as Windows PC’s if you have the Xbox Wireless Dongle.
However, I’ve been using the controller on my PC with Bluetooth to play games and I’ve had no issues at all playing Diablo IV, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Red Dead Redemption 2. The connection has been rock solid and I haven’t noticed any lag. However, if you want to play competitive shooters, stick to Xbox Wireless or USB cable. Whatever the case, you aren’t short of ways to connect.
In all my time with the Core, I’ve been blown away by its impressive 40-hour battery life. This thing just keeps going and going. I’ve charged it only once in the last month. Then again, I’m not gaming for 10 hours every day. But it’s good to know that if you wanted to play games all day, it won’t die on you after 6 hours (ahem, looking at you DualSense Edge)
One thing for sure is that the Elite Series 2 Core is an excellent controller. The build is fantastic, the ergonomics unmatched and the performance top-notch. No, the real question is it worth the asking price, to which I say a firm no! Without the accessories, the Core is a crippled Elite Series 2 at best and at worst, a doubly expensive Xbox controller.
And while you can buy the accessories pack down the road, it’s not worth another $80 (again, a brand-new Xbox controller). Microsoft has not priced this controller well enough to make sense. Perhaps if it was $120 or better still, included the rear paddles and two thumbsticks.
As it is, I can’t recommend anyone buy the Core. You’re better off saving up the extra $60 to buy the complete Elite Series 2 or even waiting for regular sales on it. Alternatively, just go buy the extremely gorgeous Starfield Limited Edition controller for $110 instead.