XBOX 360 Transforming D-Pad Controller Product Review

After five years of fans complaining about the horrendous D-Pad on the original Xbox 360 controller, Microsoft has finally listened to us and made a much needed redesign of their controller. It’s about time but is it worth it?

The old D-Pad was essentially a disk that could pivot in the eight different directions for input. It felt mushy, unresponsive and I can’t even count how many times I hit the wrong direction when trying to do a charge move in Street Fighter or took a Stimpack instead of switching to my shotgun in Fallout, where the eight directions functioned as quick selects.

Microsoft solves this problem by making the D-Pad transform. By pushing it down and turning it 90 degrees to the left, the D-Pad will pop out into a plus shape, making the up, down, left and right directions more distinct and much easier to push. This feels very similar to Nintendo’s D-Pad and is actually a clever way to avoid legal issues with their patent. As we all know, Nintendo’s D-Pad is amazing (and our many hours of playing Mario can attest to that) so the Xbox 360’s D-Pad troubles are pretty much gone.

If you push it down and turn it 90 degrees back to the right, the diagonals will rise and it’ll turn back into the old D-Pad with more defined eight-way inputs for games like Mortal Kombat. However even the diagonals can easily be pressed while it’s set up as 4-way, contrary to what you might think, by pressing the inside of the litle +. Best of both worlds indeed.

The joysticks also got an overhaul. They are not as concave as they once were with a more clearly defined center and a nice tactile ring going around the edges. This isn’t a huge difference but it should help it last longer for people like me who tend to clench when playing multiplayer games. I have smaller fingers and subconsciously clench a lot so I tend to dig my thumb into the middle of the stick in intense shooters to get more grip and subsequently ruin my joysticks within a matter of years.  It can’t be that common of a problem because none of my friends have ever had the same issue but I’m sure there are other people like me out there who do the same thing and will appreciate the subtle changes.

Other than the joysticks and D-Pad, the rest of the changes are purely aesthetic. The controller has been given a matte silver color with black triggers and bumpers. The yellow, blue, red, green colors of the face buttons have also been swapped with four different shades of grayscale. Although it makes no difference in performance, it sure does look great.

So lastly comes the value. It is still kind of pricey, sitting at $69.99 Canadian (I believe $59.99 USD) but it also comes with a play and charge kit, which is invaluable for anyone who plays a lot. Although it’s more than I would have liked to pay for a new controller, it’s relatively not a bad price when you consider one of the old wireless controllers without the play and charge kit is selling for only $10 less. At that price, why would you not get the new one with the play and charge for only an extra $10?

Ultimately, potential buyers will fall into two categories. The changes are welcome but overall pretty minimal so if you just wanted to upgrade and don’t use the D-Pad that much, I’d probably think of getting a third-party controller with more functions instead. But if you were like me and just needed another controller regardless of a new one releasing, there’s no reason not to get it as it’s only $10 more than a regular controller plus it comes with a play and charge kit.