My thoughts on the Xbox One controller

My wife surprised me by telling me she wanted to head to a sale at the Florida Mall. "We can even go to the Microsoft Store after we're done." Well now... you've got my attention. Would this finally be the day that I would get to hold an actual Xbox One controller in my hand and not just stare at the display through glass like I have for the past two months at Best Buy? The answer is... YES!

I've heard rumors that Microsoft invested tens of hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of dollars into this thing. I sure hope that's false! Overall, improvements in some areas are absolutely diminished by poor design choices in other areas. My thoughts are broken up in each component, the best I can remember.

The D-Pad: The D-Pad is actually a D-Pad. I like it. It's responsive and springy to the touch. Microsoft definitely got the hint that the Xbox 360 D-Pad was atrocious and provided an entirely new design. But what I don't like is that it clicks when you use it (like a mouse button). I don't recall seeing that in any review. Yep, it clicks every time you depress a direction. I guess the folks at Microsoft decided that not only would they actually make a usable D-Pad, but they would also ensure you knew it was working by making it click after every press. After my fourth defensive change on NBA 2K14, I decided I loved the feeling but hated the noise.

Verdict: Nice, but loud.

The Triggers (L2 and R2): The triggers have changed significantly from the Xbox 360 controller. They've got a longer pull (which I assume would work wonders on the throttle in games like Forza 5), they're wider, and they feel very sturdy. They aren't curved or contoured like the PlayStation 4 controller, but they still feel great. An added bonus is they fit the housing very well. There was no horizontal movement (my Xbox 360 controller has really sloppy trigger buttons; the triggers actually click if you shake the controller from side to side) at all. A worthy change, and considering a majority of the time you'll use these, you will not be disappointed.

Verdict: Very nice construction and feel. Longer pulls means greater accuracy when analog matters.

The Shoulder Buttons (L1 and R1): Oh man. These are horrible. They are elevated so you can't roll your finger off of the trigger onto the shoulder. It requires you (well, me at least) to bend your index finger like a hook and actually lift up. This causes your index finger bone to raise up on the back of your hand, and to cramp almost immediately. This design is what really gave the controller a smaller feel as it made the controller feel more compartmentalized. I actually had to think about transitioning between R2 to R1, and was unpleasantly reminded when my hand stung. As well as the D-Pad, they make an audible click when depressed. I don't like the click here either, but that's good because I'd avoid these buttons whenever possible. For what it's worth, my wife tried it she cramped up almost immediately too, and her hands are much smaller than mine.

Verdict: What's with all the clicking? The transition from the trigger to the shoulder is unnatural and extremely uncomfortable.

The Face Buttons: Not much to stay here, they are smooth and responsive. I had zero issues with the spacing, the force required to depress them, or my finger sliding off of them. They have a great, vibrant finish too that really stands out well.

Verdict: The color really pops against the controller, and they worked without clicking! A win in my book.

The Analog Sticks: Similar in contour to the new Dualshock 4, the analog sticks have a nice texture and feel to them. My hands weren't accustomed to the split axis on the Xbox One as opposed to the straight axis of the PlayStation 4, but once it was, they felt great. My only complaint is they seemed a little closer together than I remember. When I moved both sticks towards the center of the controller, my thumbs were hitting one another. I tried altering my grip slightly, but this was to no avail. I went home and checked out the Xbox 360 controller and I didn't have that issue, so it seems to me the controller is just a bit smaller.

Verdict: Smooth, responsive and very comfortable analog sticks. My thumbs crashed into each other on extreme movements (both sticks towards one another) but it wasn't enough to diminish the experience.

Motors: These things definitely have some kick to them. I could actually hear the motors vibrate. This was kind of surprising to me because the controller had such a sturdy feel that I wouldn't expect any rattling to occur, but somewhere, it did. The only demo was basketball, so I can't comment on the varying levels of vibration. As a note, Killer Instinct didn't have any vibration, unless somebody turned that setting off.

Verdict: Throaty little things. You'll feel it, but hear it, too.

Overall Verdict: Every gain seems to come with an unexpected loss. I'm not sure of why the D-Pad and shoulder buttons needed to have such a loud click associated with their use; it becomes obnoxious quickly unless you're wearing a nice pair of phones. If that wasn't bad enough, the shoulder buttons are incredibly uncomfortable and protrude out of the controller, resulting in some serious discomfort. The analog sticks and the triggers really feel really good and, had I been able to try them on different games, probably make a world of difference when that extra precision counts.

For those of you who own an Xbox One, what do you think about the controller? Do you eventually get used to the elevated shoulder buttons or do you find that extended play sessions result in unnecessary cramping?

14 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by Damodar

I seem to recall Jeff saying something that the idea behind the new bumper design is that you don't actually press them with your fingertips and the intended use was something more like rolling your finger to press the bumper with the middle section of your finger, with the point being that your fingertips stay on the triggers. Haven't tried one(One?) myself, so I can't speak to the actual efficacy.

Posted by SomberOwl

The Shoulder Buttons (L1 and R1): Oh man. These are horrible. They are elevated so you can't roll your finger off of the trigger onto the shoulder. It requires you (well, me at least) to bend your index finger like a hook and actually lift up. This causes your index finger bone to raise up on the back of your hand, and to cramp almost immediately. This design is what really gave the controller a smaller feel as it made the controller feel more compartmentalized. I actually had to think about transitioning between R2 to R1, and was unpleasantly reminded when my hand stung. As well as the D-Pad, they make an audible click when depressed. I don't like the click here either, but that's good because I'd avoid these buttons whenever possible. For what it's worth, my wife tried it she cramped up almost immediately too, and her hands are much smaller than mine.

This is definitely my biggest issue with the controller by far. I get pissed every time I go to play COD.

Edited by Village_Guy

I don't get the fuss about the bumpers, they seem perfectly fine in my opinion. I just slide my finger from the trigger and up to the bumper and press it...

Posted by Nasar7

Try holding the controller so that the trigger sits between the 1st and 2nd knuckle on your index finger. Then, all you have to do is move your finger up slightly and hit the outside edge of the bumper just under your second knuckle. Very comfortable, imo. I agree that the clicking noise makes it feel cheap, though.

Posted by Samael2138

You must have super long thumbs, because I can't make mine hit each other unless I place the sticks underneath the knuckle of my thumb. The only controller I ever had that problem with was the dualshock 3. The Dualshock 3 was the only controller that ever gave me cramps, too.

I have 0 problems with L1 R1. As stated above, you roll your finger, hitting the button with the side of your finger, meaning you never take your finger off of the triggers. I think the the X-1 controller is fantastic, and a slight improvement over the 360, which was my go to controller. I've had an x-1 since right after Black Friday, so maybe I'm just used to it. I'm just glad the Dualshock 4 is a VAST improvement over the Dualshock 3, because I honestly can't say which controller I prefer now. They are both great.

Posted by Jim_Efantis

Next time I try one I will roll my index finger as suggested. I am used to depressing the button from the top as opposed to the side. For those with Xbox Ones, do you like depressing the shoulder buttons from the sides as opposed to the top?

Posted by Captain_Insano

My main gripe is the way that the batteries simply 'sit' in the power area. I've had a few occasions where the batteries have come lose and I need to 'reconnect' my controller from the controller vibrating or having to shake it in games like Dead Rising.

Posted by DoctorTran

As far as transitioning from the triggers to the shoulder buttons goes for me, I have no problem. The way I hold the controller is in a way that I can not only stroke the triggers with my finger tip, but also hit the bumpers with the middle or my finger.

Posted by Dr_Perscitus

I don't get the fuss about the bumpers, they seem perfectly fine in my opinion. I just slide my finger from the trigger and up to the bumper and press it...

Completely agree, to be honest I don't think there is that much of a difference between the XBOXO and the 360 controller (I am fliiping between BF4 MP one the XBOXO and Dark Souls on 360). People just seem to want to find faults.

Edited by lowestformofwit

Can't believe someone did a post on their thoughts after holding the thing in a store for a few minutes… I've held a PS4 controller in the store, didn't like the triggers but until I buy a PS4 and play with it for a few weeks I am reserving judgement.

L1 and R1 buttons are actually very good on the Xbox One controller when you get used to the new layout. As explained before you just roll your finger up to hit them and therefore you can actually have the same finger hit the trigger simultaneously while you press the bumper.

The controller is a lot better than the 360 as it feels more refined, especially the triggers. The triggers are amazing.

My only gripe is that the left hand side of the casing on the controller is a bit loose. Jeff did mention this briefly in a video once but he wasn't sure if he was imagining it or not. He's not. When I hold mine in just my left hand you can feel it come away a bit (tiny bit) under the weight of the controller. Maybe it's just mine though and maybe there are batches out there which are more solid.

Edited by Jim_Efantis

@lowestformofwit: Just my first impressions...by no means a definitive "guide" or "review." I was honestly more excited to actually hold one as none of my friends have one and none of the stores around me have an Xbox One available for demo. After reading everybody's comments on how you slide your finger up as opposed to lifting and pushing your finger back down I am tempted to go back to the mall today as I loved the 360 controller. I won't budge on the clicking Dpad though. ;)

Posted by bigjeffrey

my only problem with it is one back panel is squeaky when i squeeze it hard. But that's probably a manufacturing issue that isn't noticeable at all. Other than that better than the 360 controller.

Posted by Deranged

My main gripe is the way that the batteries simply 'sit' in the power area. I've had a few occasions where the batteries have come lose and I need to 'reconnect' my controller from the controller vibrating or having to shake it in games like Dead Rising.

Yup, that's happened to me a few times as well and while it's not frequent, it is annoying.

Also, the way my hands fit with the Xbox One controller was so odd after using the smaller 360 controller for years that I actually felt uncomfortable with how to position my right hand with the thumbstick. I'm used to it now but man, going back and forth with the controllers is a (literal) pain.

Posted by DwigtK

I haven't had any issues with the L1 or R1 buttons and I have been able to use them in the traditional sense, no rolling fingers or altering my grip. I wonder if the issues with the L1 and R1 buttons are based on hand size.

From the base of my hand to tip of middle finger is 8" and with a spread open hand, pinky tip to thumb top measurement is 10". I would be curious to know the hand measurements of people having the L1/R1 issue,