Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro Controller Reviewby Josh Morgan
Full disclosure: Thrustmaster was kind enough to provide me with (1) eSwap X Pro Controller, (1) eSwap X Green Controller Pack, (1) eSwap X Blue Controller Pack and (1) eSwap S5 NXG Mini Stick Module for review.
9' braided USB to micro USB cable
1 Set of domed thumbsticks
1 set of indented thumbsticks
1 soft cotton carry bag
Mini phillips screwdriver
I usually play games using the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, so I was very excited to give this bad boy a whirl to compare, because they share some similar features. Controllers are the most important part of gaming, just ask any younger sibling that gets shafted with the broken controller that has one working thumbstick. It's what brings you into the game and makes your thoughts extend to your actions in game. So it's very important that you have a controller that feels right. Thrustmaster has a long history of gaming peripherals including flight sticks, racing wheels, headsets, and they have been a long time maker of controllers for PC and past consoles. The eSwap controller was made for the Sony Playstation 4 about a year ago and the eSwap X for Xbox is identical in features.
The eSwap X Pro Controller is officially licensed for the newly released Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, and it works perfectly fine on the Xbox One line of consoles. A quick rundown of features includes trigger stops, mappable rear buttons using two built in profiles, the new share button that is on new official Xbox controllers and built in mic and headset volume controls. There are three openings on the face of the controller that are for the swappable NXG Mini-Sticks. You can position the sticks in the correct offset placement that is traditional with Xbox controllers, or you can be a weirdo and use them in parallel like those Playstation savages. The choice is yours, but I think you know the right layout.
Firstly, let's get the look of the controller out of the way. I think the controller looks fine enough. I am a flashy peacock when it comes to my controllers and I usually prefer brighter colors or highlights that really stand out. The matte black finish with glossy black features gives it the more traditional look that most people go for. Luckily for me, there are lots of color kits available to add a signature look and even lights to the controller. They are all easily swappable by removing the mini stick from the port and popping in the color of your choice (sold separately of course), all held together by magnets. The side grips are also swappable for colors and textures and those too are also held together by magnets. The only part that needs any type of tool (there is an included screwdriver) are the triggers, and those are held in by a very tiny phillips screw. Don't lose it, as there are no extras and finding a replacement of that size will be difficult.
While you can go crazy with the look and feel of the controller itself, the customization of the controller settings seems to be lacking compared to the Elite Version 2. Firstly, and the most obvious is that it is a wired controller, and in 2020, that's a major strike against it. There are some purists that prefer a wired controller to minimize latency, but for me a wired controller is a deal breaker when I game on my main screen. I usually sit farther than 9' from my 75" TV and my kids and dog are usually running around, so wires are problematic for me. But, when I game on my PC or closer to a screen like at a LAN then the wire becomes less of a hidrance.
There is also no adjustment of the tightness of the analog sticks. I prefer to have my sticks a little more stiff for precise movement, but also the ability to loosen them up a bit if I am playing something that doesn't require as much control. The sticks on the eSwap X seem a little loose for my liking when playing shooters like COD Warzone or Apex Legends. You can swap out the default thumbsticks for domed ones if that is your preference, but I prefer the indented ones. The trigger locks only have two settings, full motion and half motion, but I don't feel there is enough of a difference between the two. I would have preferred them lock the motion to a quarter of what it is on the trigger. Trigger locks have become essential for me in shooters, as I usually play on the shortest setting on my Elite, so I was disappointed to feel the two settings on the eSwap had similar motions.
I have been using the Elite controller for Xbox since the day the first one was released, and the most used feature for me was mapping buttons to the back paddles. The eSwap X has a similar feature, where you can easily map face, stick, bumper or trigger presses to the buttons on the back of the controller and it's all easily done on the controller itself. You don't need to have an app on the xbox or hook the controller up to a PC to map the buttons. It's all very easy and very fast to do, and you can store up to two profiles to easily switch back and forth between the two layouts.
My problem with those buttons are the size and shape of them. The Elite has trained my brain to place my middle fingers on the top paddles and my ring fingers on the bottom paddles. However, the much smaller (and no paddle sticking out) buttons of the eSwap make it impossible for me to continue using that grip style on this controller. The rear buttons are so small that I have to focus on using my middle finger only to press both buttons, because the placement of them on the back of the controller makes it impossible to rest a finger on each button like I do the Elite.
One thing that I found odd during my time using the eSwap X is that my brain thought I was using another console. Anyone that mostly plays games on Xbox but also on the Switch knows the struggle of where the A, B, X and Y buttons are. After hours and hours of switching back and forth my brain finally caught on and now I can use both consoles with no problem and I don't have to really think about it. While playing on Xbox using the eSwap X, I noticed that I was constantly pressing the B button on the eSwap when I was supposed to be hitting A. This is NEVER a problem for me while using an Xbox controller, that is by far my most used platform and controller. But, while using the eSwap my brain noticed that it didn't feel exactly like an Xbox controller and muscle memory took over and forced me to press the wrong button a lot. It didn't last very long and I was able to adjust and start pressing the right buttons, but it was weird to experience. Obviously, this is not a fault of the controller, but that the eSwap feels different enough from the Xbox controller that I definitely noticed.
I think the controller is made very well and can stand the test of time. The button presses feel very mechanical and the sticks can easily be replaced if you start to experience the dreaded stick drift. If you are looking for a change because you have been plagued by repeated stick drift, broken bumpers, mushy buttons or peeling grips of standard xbox controllers and Elites, then you might want to check out the eSWap X. If you are still on the fence if you should get this or the Elite Version 2, then I will say I don't think the eSwap matches the versatility that the Elite V2 offers when it comes to the settings that you can customize to fit your gameplay style.