Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are now available. The more powerful Xbox Series X rocks a 12TF spec sheet, alongside a more affordable Xbox Series S at 4TF, complementing our earlier exclusives. One thing we did not know about, though, was the revised controller.
Microsoft has built a brand-new iteration on its current-gen Xbox controllers, evolving its existing ergonomics and features while also adding new ones.
Here's everything you need to know about the Xbox Series X/S controller.
If you're in a hurry, here's everything you need to know about next-gen controllers at a glance.
- The controller for the most part feels similar, but there are some key differences.
- There is now a share button, which lets you create clips and screenshots without opening the dashboard.
- The shoulder buttons have been improved and refined to be more ergonomic and tactile.
- The D-pad has been revamped to be easier to use.
- The triggers are now textured.
- The controller uses USB-C instead of micro-USB cables for charging.
- Accessories, docks, and batteries designed for previous Xbox One controllers will still work.
- The controller uses AA batteries by default.
- The controller costs $60 RRP, and is available to buy here.
Refined hardware features
First and foremost, Microsoft has revised some aspects of its design, making it slightly smaller to accommodate a broader range of players, while also changing up its D-pad.
The new D-pad takes some cues from Microsoft's popular Xbox Elite Controller range, with a cross-segmented style format, which should be a boost for directional movement, as well as menu selections and so on. Microsoft is also putting textured grips on the new controller triggers, likely giving those triggers pull a more tactile feel. After going hands-on with the controller myself, I also found that the shoulder buttons have been vastly improved, with better tactility and improved materials.
Perhaps the most significant update pertains to the share button. Microsoft is joining Sony and Nintendo by adding a share button directly on the controller, between the view and menu buttons in the center. Xbox lead Phil Spencer commented on the inclusion in an interview with GameSpot.
"We're not the first ones to do a share button, so we're not going to say that we invented that, but we've heard feedback that sharing is such a part of a gaming experience now for many of our players. I wanted a dedicated button to share, so you'll see that."
This new button allows you to share clips and screenshots across social networks more easily without having to jump through the Xbox guide menu functions. The functionality is already included on the Xbox Elite Controller Series 2, but you have to configure it to one of the paddles via the accessories app.
Dynamic Latency Input
Confirmed on the Xbox Series X/S website, Microsoft built Dynamic Latency Input into the next-gen pipeline, giving developers an extra tool for making games more responsive.
Dynamic Latency Input (DLI): We're optimizing latency in the player-to-console pipeline, starting with our Xbox Wireless Controller, which leverages our high bandwidth, proprietary wireless communication protocol when connected to the console. With Dynamic Latency Input (DLI), a new feature that synchronizes input immediately with what is displayed, controls are even more precise and responsive.
This allows developers to more accurately synchronize what happens in your hands with what's happening on-screen, using Microsoft's existing 2.4GHz wireless signal that currently connects your controllers to your console, compatible PCs, and dongles.
Speaking of previous consoles and Windows PCs, the Xbox Series X controller will also be compatible with past-gen hardware, thanks to updates heading to Microsoft platforms. This means you will be able to take advantage of the new features and updated ergonomics on previous hardware if you're a PC gamer or an Xbox gamer not ready to upgrade your console. Additionally, all existing Xbox One controllers will work on the Xbox Series X as well. This also applies to all the best Xbox One headsets, which work with Xbox Series X and Series S, thanks to the same ports on new controllers.
How the share button will work on PCs remains a bit of a mystery, but it will likely tie into the new Windows 10 Xbox Game Bar, which has many of the same features.
AA batteries return
Microsoft also retains the AA batteries found in the regular controllers for Xbox Series X. In an interview with Business Insider, Microsoft said this was because Xbox gamers are fairly evenly split about whether they want the option for rechargeables or not. Indeed, AA Eneloop batteries are generally the best rechargeable battery solution for controllers we've found so far, outside of the crazy-expensive Xbox Elite Series 2 Controller, with its similarly crazy 40-hour battery life.
The Xbox Wireless Controller uses AA batteries to offer choice to players. As with all our work at Xbox, we place the player at the center of the gaming experience, and so we decided to maintain AA batteries for choice. This way, gamers can choose whether they use disposable AA batteries, rechargeable AA batteries, or a rechargeable battery pack.
The controller will also use a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging its optional charge kit battery pack, likely to be sold separately. The Xbox Series X itself still uses only USB-A ports.
As of writing, the Xbox Series X/S controllers come in three colors: in black to match the Xbox Series X, in white to match the Xbox Series S, and in "Shock Blue," as the first color option.
The Xbox Design Lab has come back online as of June 2021, and you can customize the updated Xbox controller in a huge variety of ways. You can access the Xbox Design Lab over here.
Launch date and price
The new Xbox Series S/X controller went on sale on Nov. 10, alongside the next-gen Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X consoles. The new controllers come in at $49, and they're available to buy right now.
Is it worth the upgrade for Xbox One owners?
If you're an Xbox One owner who is thinking about upgrading to the Xbox Series X/S controller, you might want to hold off. While it is compatible, I'm not sure the differences are enough to warrant paying $60, especially when they're included for free with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.
What you get with the Series X/S controller is a share button, which makes sharing clips marginally easier. You get superior shoulder buttons, which feel easier to use and more tactile. You get a slightly better weight distribution and a slightly more balanced feel. You'll also get superior latency, although the difference is negligible, and may require an Xbox Series X or S to fully appreciate.
I would personally recommend simply upgrading your Xbox One to an Xbox Series X or Series S get the new controller rather than buying one outright — unless you specifically need to get a new controller. The previous-gen Xbox One controllers likely won't be manufactured for much longer anyway, meaning that eventually, these will be the only official Xbox controllers available to buy.
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