Xbox One Controller: A Step Forward and Another Backward

Microsoft officially launched the Xbox One late last month. We’ve already given it a good look-over in our full review, saying that it’s a good console that’s full of potential. But one thing that still bothers us is the Xbox One controller. At first glance, it’s an obvious upgrade from the Xbox 360 controller, with the biggest change being the all-new triggers that now have force feedback.

Aside from this, though, the new controller has stayed relatively the same. Yes, it has an ever-so-slightly different design with new thumbsticks and the new View and Menu buttons that replace the Start and Back buttons of the Xbox 360 controller. Other than that, the XYAB buttons remain, as do the joysticks and D-pad. That’s certainly not a bad thing, but we’re just not overly impressed by the new controller.

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A Few New Features

The Xbox One controller isn’t a complete overhaul of the Xbox 360 controller, which is partially a good thing. Instead, it takes what makes the Xbox 360 controller great and added some subtle improvements to it. There’s a new Xbox button design that does away with the ugly green LEDs, and the joysticks have been ever-so-slightly updated to provide better thumb-grip. Also, the trigger buttons have been completely overhauled, sporting a more ergonomic design, as well as integrating their own vibration motors for even more force feedback and immersion in games.

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The battery compartment has also been redesigned completely and is now recessed into the controller instead of just bulging out like it did on the Xbox 360 controller. This makes the new controller lighter than before and makes it look better overall. However, I didn’t really mind the extra weight with the Xbox 360 controller with battery compartment sticking out; it never got in the way, so it’s not really huge deal for me. I actually prefer a heavier controller for better control when I play games anyway, and it’s why I could never use a wired controller on the Xbox 360.

The Start and Back buttons have also changed to “View” and “Menu” buttons, but they also still act as Start and Back in some games, as well as on the Xbox Dashboard in some cases (like when entering in text, the Menu button acts as the Enter button, just like the Xbox 360 Start button did). The new buttons are a bit confusing at first, but it’s obviously something that takes a bit of a learning curve to get used to.

The Downsides

One major thing that bothers me with the Xbox One controller is that Microsoft clearly didn’t focus on small details when designing and manufacturing it. Both the microUSB port at the top and the proprietary port on the bottom expose the circuit board on the inside, making the controller look extremely cheap. I know this sounds very cliche, but Apple would’ve never let this kind of poor design happen if it ever made a gaming console of its own.

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Furthermore, I had to send back my Day One Xbox One controller because the left joystick kept making a really annoying clicking sound every time I would pull it to the left. Sometimes it would stop, but once I clicked down on the joystick, it would come back, so I’m pretty sure the clicking mechanism inside of the joystick is messed up somehow. I haven’t heard any other complaints about this specific issue, so I could have just gotten some bad luck, and it doesn’t seem something like this has become widespread like the faulty disc drive problem has gotten.

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It’s an Improvement, but Not by Much

It’s obvious that the Xbox One controller is an improvement over the Xbox 360 controller, but there were certain things that Microsoft left hanging that make the new controller not as big of an improvement as it ultimately could have been. It somehow feels cheaper than the Xbox 360 controller, and for the first time, I feel like the PS4’s DualShock 4 controller is tons better than the Xbox One controller.

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I’ve never been a big fan of the PlayStation controllers over the years, but the PS4’s controller feels way more high quality and robust than the Xbox One controller, and considering it connects through Bluetooth, you can use a DualShock 4 controller for things other than just the PS4, making it quite a versatile option.