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What is the difference between the Xbox One, One S and Elite controllers?

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Summary

The Xbox One S controller improves upon the original One controller thanks to added Bluetooth functionality, a slightly improved texture for grip and a headphone jack as standard. The Elite differs by offering multiple customisation options, including interchangeable joy-sticks, rear paddles and a geometric disc which can be swapped for a d-pad.

The original Xbox One, Xbox One S and Elite controllers

With Microsoft’s Project Scorpio looming, there’s never been a better time to try and pick up a bargain Xbox One or One S or, if you’re determined to enjoy what could be the most impressive console gaming experience there is, start saving up for the Scorpio.

Whether you’re in the former camp or the latter, there’s plenty of choices you’ll need to make to inform your decision and questions you’ll need answering. One of the most pertinent ones is the difference between gamepads.

Gamers of a certain age will no doubt recall the halcyon N64/ PlayStation One days when a competitive advantage could be gained or lost depending on which player was lumbered with the slightly off-feeling third party controller. While that trend has died away somewhat thanks to the advent of online multiplayer, the trend has had something of a comeback with the Xbox One, which has, unusually, boasted three main ranges of officially licensed controllers over the course of its lifespan.

What is the difference between the Xbox One and One S controllers?

The Xbox One S controller

Both major versions of the Xbox One controller, the original and the One S pad, launched with their respective consoles, in 2013 and 2016.

Cosmetically, there are few differences between the two controllers, so from an aesthetic perspective, you don’t need to worry too much if you end up with both types of controller – they won’t look mismatched. Check out the section below about telling the difference so you don’t accidentally buy the wrong version.

The major difference between the two controllers is the presence of Bluetooth within the S controller, as opposed to the original which didn’t have it. This has two benefits. Firstly, you can connect your controller to your PC without the need for a dongle should you want to use it for PC games. Secondly, you can connect a pair of wireless bluetooth headphones to the One S controller.

The new, updated controller also offers a somewhat better range in terms of how far it will work from your console, although the original controller has as much range as you’re ever likely to need.

The handles on the One S controller also boast a slightly improved texture for grip when compared to the uniform plastic found on the grips of the original. One exception to this is the special “Lunar White” original controller, which features the same rubberised diamond grip as found on the Elite controller (see below for our section on that controller version).

Another difference is the headphone jack. The original Xbox One controllers didn’t come with one, however one was added to controllers that shipped with original consoles from 2015; the One S controller features one as standard.

How can you visually tell the difference between the original and the S controller?

As the One S controller has largely replaced the original One controller, it’s normal to worry that if you see a particularly good offer on an Xbox controller, you might accidentally be looking at an original rather than an updated S gamepad.

Thankfully, there’s one quick, clear way to help identify the difference between the two generations of controller.

At the top of the centre of the controller sits the Xbox logo button which calls up your home screen when in game. On the original One controller, the plastic surrounding this button is noticeably glossy, unlike the matte finish used elsewhere on the controller’s body, whereas on the S update, it’s more consistent with the rest of the controller. On white original controllers, this plastic will also be black, where on the S controller it’s white.

Another method of telling the white controllers apart is the D pad. The popular “Lunar White” controller option featured a gold D pad and triggers, whereas the S controller features the standard black.

Does the One S controller work with the original model Xbox One?

In a word, yes. Despite its upgraded internals and slight design differences (see above), the One S controller is completely compatible with the original model Xbox One.

Does the original Xbox One controller work with the Xbox One S?

Again, yes. If you update your Xbox One from an original to an S, or buy a second hand original controller, it will work with your One S console.

What is the difference between the Xbox One S and Elite controllers?

The Xbox One Elite controller

Unlike the Xbox One S controller, which was designed as a direct replacement for the original One controller, the Elite was created to coexist alongside the regular controller.

The Elite controller is one of the most expensive controller options out there for any gaming platform, which had led to many people to ask whether it’s worth the money. We’ll break down the differences between the Elite and S controllers and let you make your own mind up.

First is the controller grip. The S controller features a textured, yet still plastic, grip, while the Elite offers a genuine rubberised grip for better traction, a particularly useful feature if you’re someone who finds their palms get sweaty quickly when playing. It’s worth noting that this enhanced grip is especially important given the Elite controller weighs substantially more than the S gamepad (about 360g with all attachments against around 260g).

Second is the d-pad. The S controller features a classic-looking d-pad, whereas the Elite features a striking geometric disc-style d-pad, closer to the design of the d-pad found on the classic Xbox 360 controller. This is designed to allow more complicated and precise inputs. As with many aspects of the Elite controller, this disc can be replaced with the standard d-pad similar to the one found on the S controller. This silver disc is also one of the quickest ways to visually identify what is an Xbox One S controller and what’s an Elite controller when buying.

Speaking of customisation, this is perhaps the biggest selling point of the Elite, and sets it apart as the definitive controller for serious gamers on the system. Everything from the joy sticks (three different versions of the sticks are included) to the amount you need to press the trigger in order to register a click is customisable. The Elite also comes with four paddles designed to sit on the inside of the grips in a similar manner to paddle gearboxes in cars. Controls can then be custom mapped to these from whichever face buttons you want.

In short, if you’re someone who frequently finds the regular controller awkward to use on certain games and perhaps lacking the extreme degree of precision that you  require (particularly on games where highly accurate inputs are required at higher difficulty levels, such as the Street Fighter series), then the Elite controller may very well be the one for you.

What is the Tech controller?

Recently announced, the Recon Tech range of controllers are variants on the One S controller. The Tech controllers will offer alternate colourways with laser etched decals, the first of which is dubbed “Recon Tech” and takes inspiration from “military technology and performance patterns.” The key difference beyond the aesthetics of the controller is the presence of a diamond rubberised grip on the back of the controller, similar to “Lunar White” version of the original controller and the Elite controller.

It is possible that, given the release date of holiday 2017 (the same as Project Scorpio) that a Tech controller, rather than the One S controller, will come bundled with the new system.

What controller will Project Scorpio use?

While details remain carefully under wraps currently, it seems fairly certain that Microsoft’s upcoming “evolution” of the Xbox One, currently title Project Scorpio, will be compatible with all existing versions of Xbox One controllers.

As the Scorpio will be aimed at the more hardcore sections of the gaming community, there’s a good chance that many Scorpio users will be updating from an Xbox One or One S, rather than buying their first console of the type. This means that to ask these customers to replace the controllers they already have may put them off buying the new system.

As we said above, given the Tech controller will be released around the same time as the Scorpio, there’s a possibility that the new system will come bundled with a Tech controller rather than the standard One S controller.

Whether the Scorpio will make use of any new control methods beyond the classic gamepad remains to be seen. Microsoft have stated that they’ll be placing a greater emphasis on virtual reality moving forward, so this could have an impact on ways you’re able to interact with games in the future.

If this guide has helped you decide what you need when buying an official Xbox One controller, don’t forget to check out our deals page for them here.