Which Xbox Series X controller is best?

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X hit the market about two years ago, and if you were an early adopter, it might be time for a new controller. Depending on your gaming habits, you might be experiencing some stick drift, sticky triggers or the battery lasting not as long as it used to.

These are not signs of an inferior controller. Heavy gaming increases the regular wear and tear, and unfortunately, it’s bound to happen at some point. Some controllers can be fixed by a qualified technician, but it’s usually better to just get a shiny new one. An excellent choice is the official Xbox Wireless Controller: 20th Anniversary Special Edition.

What to know before you buy an Xbox Series X controller

You don’t have to buy the official controller

Most gamers tend to go for the official device from Microsoft, but there are plenty of Xbox One controllers to choose from. Third-party manufacturers use the same internal technology for connecting to the console but add their own features to the controller. While it is typically better to use the official controller, you might prefer third-party controllers that have rubbers grips, interchangeable thumbsticks or a completely modular system. 

Wired controllers are a thing of the past

In the days of the Xbox 360, you wouldn’t find it strange to see a wired controller from Microsoft. But as technology gets better, the wire has been dropped in favor of a fully wireless system. Especially for the latest version of the console, there are no wired controllers made by Microsoft. 

If you do want one, several third-party makers still keep the technology going, but PowerA is the only company to make officially licensed wired Xbox controllers.

Battery life and a way around it

Since almost all controllers are wireless, there is no way of getting around rechargeable batteries. It’s a constant battle for console gamers, but at least the Xbox dashboard can quickly show you the battery level.

If you don’t have a spare battery to swap in quickly, there is another solution. The Xbox One controller has a USB-C port on the front, and by connecting the other end to the console, you can charge the battery and continue playing at the same time. So essentially, you can turn the wireless controller into a wired one.  

What to look for in a quality Xbox Series X controller

Textured grips and thumbsticks

The old Xbox controllers had a smooth surface, which didn’t feel great. After long gaming sessions, your hand tended to get a bit sweaty, too. A good-quality Xbox One X controller has textured grips that prevent it from slipping out of your hands. The thumbsticks also have a textured lip around the top so that your fingers remain in control at all times.

Platform compatible

Microsoft uses a proprietary wireless system for its controllers and headset. That’s why many gaming headsets aren’t compatible with the console. But a good-quality Xbox One X controller also has Bluetooth connectivity so you can use it on mobile devices or your computer. Bluetooth also lets you pair the controller with an Apple Mac.

If a Windows-based machine doesn’t have Bluetooth, you can connect the USB-C cable to use the controller for PC games.

Button mapping

Everybody has a different playing style, and some buttons are just not comfortable in the default layout. That’s why it is a great feature if the controller lets you map functions to other buttons. For example, through software, you can bind a trigger’s action to a face button, or have a dedicated button to mute your microphone.

How much you can expect to spend on an Xbox Series X controller

The price depends on the maker, additional functions and enhanced features. A wired controller from a third-party or licensed provider costs $25-$30, while a limited-edition official wireless controller costs $150-$250.

Xbox Series X controller FAQ

How do you update the firmware of an official Xbox controller?

A. The console will notify you onscreen when a firmware update is available. You then need to connect the controller to the console through a USB-C cable and the download will start automatically.

Can you change the controller’s color?

A. Yes and no. There is no way to change the default color after purchase, but there are several third-party faceplates you can buy. These clip over the controller to add a bit of personality and a pop of color.

What’s the best Xbox Series X controller to buy?

Top Xbox Series X controller

Xbox Wireless Controller 20th Anniversary Special Edition

Xbox Wireless Controller: 20th Anniversary Special Edition

What you need to know: To celebrate two decades of console gaming, this controller has a see-through black body with a “20” etched into the handle.

What you’ll love: Using the official colors of the original Xbox, this anniversary controller has an accentuated green guide button, grips, and directional pad. It is compatible with Xbox Wireless and Bluetooth devices. 

What you should consider: Other than the nostalgic colors, the controller doesn’t add new features. Nevertheless, it remains an excellent choice. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Xbox Series X controller for the money

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X

PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X

What you need to know: If you don’t want to battle with rechargeable batteries, this officially licensed wired controller is perfect. 

What you’ll love: It has all the features you would find on a regular controller, but with a few additions. It has a dedicated switch on the front to mute your microphone and a program button on the back to remap some inputs. 

What you should consider: The controller doesn’t need batteries, but it has a 10-foot detachable cable. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Razer Limited Edition Boba Fett Wireless Controller and Quick Charging Stand Bundle

Razer Limited Edition Boba Fett Wireless Controller and Quick Charging Stand Bundle

What you need to know: You’d better grab this “Star Wars”-inspired controller quickly, as it is only available for a limited time.

What you’ll love: This controller is inspired by Boba Fett’s helmet, complete with the recognizable “T”-shape and colors. It comes with a quick charging stand with the colors making up the lower portion of the helmet.

What you should consider: While it is compatible with all Xbox One models, you’ll need an Xbox Wireless Adapter for a PC or Mac.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
 

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