Microsoft’s Xbox One console hasn’t changed much since its introduction two years ago. It’s still a big black set-top box that will dominate your living room, but Microsoft has a new, slightly more powerful version available this month. The Xbox One Elite console switches out the traditional 512GB of HDD space for a 1TB solid state hybrid drive, alongside a new Xbox One Elite Controller. I’ve been using an Elite console for the past couple of weeks to answer one very simple question: is it worth the extra $150?
The very basics of the console are similar to any standard Xbox One. It looks the same, aside from a matte finish instead of a glossy one, and all the ports are identical. Microsoft is bundling a standard headset in the box, a braided USB cable, and the new elite controller. I’m surprised there’s no stereo headset included in the bundle, but the real big addition is the controller.
The console itself looks the same as any Xbox One
The Elite controller is clearly designed for players who spend dozens of hours a week on their favorite games. It’s been a game changer (ba dum tsh) for me personally. If you’re used to custom controllers like Scuf, then you’ve not been missing out on the world of controller customizations, but Microsoft’s changes are all official and a little bit sleeker. The thumbsticks feel a lot better than the regular Xbox One controller, and the textured grips made the controller slide around a lot less in my hands. I’ve had issues with my regular controller thumbsticks feeling a little sticky at times, but the Elite ones feel very smooth and precise thanks to their metal construction.
You can also change the sensitivity of the joysticks and trigger buttons, and there are four removable paddles where your fingers usually rest that can be mapped to buttons. I’ve found that having four paddles is too many for most titles, but one or two definitely gives you a slight advantage in PvP games. I’ve mapped one paddle to jump, which means I never have to move my thumbs away from the thumbsticks when I’m hopping around in Call of Duty or Destiny. In games like Forza, the paddles operate your gears and clutch if you turn on manual transmissions, and it makes driving games a lot more fun using just a controller.
While the controller is certainly the big highlight of this bundle, the 1TB solid state hybrid drive is an interesting addition. The extra space is essential thanks to the sheer size of titles these days, but this drive is also designed to speed things up. Microsoft claims the Xbox One Elite console boots up 20 percent quicker from standby, and I’ve certainly noticed it’s faster than my regular console. In fact, the Elite is usually ready before my TV has resumed from standby. I honestly don’t care about the extra couple of seconds, but speed improvements can also be found elsewhere.
I’ve noticed that frequently used apps load faster with the Elite console, and games resume quicker when you’re bringing them out of standby. If you use an Xbox One regularly, you’ll notice the slight improvements, but these aren’t major speed improvements overall. Most of the big speed changes come with Microsoft’s new Xbox One dashboard, with a guide that provides quicker access to friends, party, messages, and notifications. Those are most of the features I use on a daily basis with my Xbox One, but it’s great to have games reliably and quickly resume from standby.
A hybrid drive provides a boost to load times
Microsoft is using a hybrid drive in the Xbox One Elite console, and it’s something the company has been promoting since the days of Windows Vista. Most laptops use full solid state drives these days, but hybrids were always designed to boot your PC quicker and cache regularly used files from the hard drive. That seems to be how the Xbox One Elite is functioning, and it’s understandable since it’s all powered by Windows 10.
So, should you spend an extra $150 on an Xbox One Elite? If you’re buying your first Xbox One and you’re going to be using it regularly then it’s absolutely worth the extra cash. The controller by itself is $150, so if you’re even considering it, then the full Elite console bundle is the way to go. If you already own an Xbox One, then it’s less of a must-buy. I use my Xbox One daily for TV, movies, games, and apps, but if you don’t use it often, then you won’t really notice the speed improvements and extra space. That said, Black Friday is approaching and Microsoft already has an Elite deal lined up for $449 instead of the regular $499 price, so if you’re tempted by the controller and HDD space upgrade, then now might be time to buy yourself an early Christmas present.
The Xbox One Elite Console is now available.
Verge Video: Hands-on with the Xbox One Elite controller