Written by Paul Hunter
At this year’s E3, Microsoft announced an expansion to their Xbox Design Lab custom controller program, including options for new colours, metallic finishes, and rubberized grips. I had the chance to try out, and the results are below. Pretty cool, right? Find out how the Xbox Design Lab gets even better.
To create the controller, I went through the Xbox Design Lab online process and found it fun and easy. To start, you can either design your own controller from scratch (which I did), or use a pre-made controller template and then customize from there.
There are nine different aspects of the controller you can customize, which are: Body, Back, Bumpers, Triggers, D-pad, thumbsticks, ABXY buttons, View & Menu buttons, and the option to add a custom engraving.
Here’s what I ended up going with:
Body: Mineral Blue
Back: Zest Orange with Rubberized Grips
Bumpers: Ash Gray
Triggers: Warm Gold
D-pad: Sterling Silver
Thumbsticks: Zest Orange
ABXY: White on Black
View & Menu: White on Black
Engraving: NextGenPlayer X (my Twitter handle + “X” to express my excitement for Xbox One X)
What’s cool is as you choose controller customizations, the online preview updates in real-time. There’s a default front/back 2D view, but I opted for the 3D perspective that allows you to spin the controller 360-degrees. This gives you a good look at the controller from multiple angles to see if your colour scheme looks nice and meshes well.
With dozens of colours and customization options to choose from, the whole design process can take awhile, especially if you’re picky like me and want a design you’ll be proud of for years to come. And if you don’t like the design choices I made ― that’s the whole point. Every controller is supposed to be unique and represent you as a gamer.
Feel free to take your time designing your customized controller, too, as Xbox Design Lab allows you to save creations and edit them later. There’s also an option to share your creations on social media to get feedback from your friends and family. The sharing options include Xbox Live, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and email.
Microsoft says there are “over a billion design combinations” possible using Xbox Design Lab. This breaks down to 19 different colours for the body, back, bumpers, triggers, D-pad, and thumbsticks, 5 ABXY choices, 4 View & Menu choices, and the engraving option. While the options are vast, everyone has their own particular tastes and for me that immediately ruled out about half of the colours.
This year Microsoft has added 4 new colour options, which are Ink Blue, Mineral Blue, Sierra Brown and Desert Tan. Mineral Blue for the front is what I went with, and you can see what the colour looks in the image below:
As well, Microsoft added 11 new thumbstick colours this year: Glacier Blue, Zest Orange, Retro Pink, Electric Green, Robot White, Lightning Yellow, Ash Gray, Ink Blue, Mineral Blue, Sierra Brown and Desert Tan. I went with the Zest Orange and I thought that looked cool next to the blue face of the controller.
The two new features I was most excited about this year are the premium metallic finishes (D-pad and triggers) and black rubberized grips. I play a lot of competitive gaming online over Xbox Live and having a firm grip on my controller is essential for performing well.
I’m happy to say not only do the premium metallic finishes look great (I picked Warm Gold triggers and Sterling Silver D-pad), but they also reduce slipperiness. Traditional Xbox One controllers have a glossy, smooth finish on the triggers and D-pad, whereas these new metallic finishes are matte for a more consistent hold.
An even bigger improvement can be found in the black rubberized grips. These give the Design Lab controllers a warmer, more natural feel, and are very comfortable during competitive gaming. The tighter grip is immediately noticeable when you hold it, and the rubber coating locks in moisture to further reduce hand slippage. Frankly, the improvements are so huge it feels like a step backwards when holding a non-rubberized Xbox One controller.
It’s also worth noting that controllers purchased through Xbox Design Lab are the new, improved Xbox One Wireless Controller model. Microsoft has made several enhancements to the Xbox One controller since the 2013 launch edition, and all new features are included in the Design Lab controllers.
Most importantly, this includes Bluetooth functionality and the ability to connect your Xbox One controller to a Windows PC without using a clumsy Xbox wireless dongle. It also comes with a 3.5mm jack on the bottom of the controller for easy headphone connection. As well, the front of the controller has a unified plastic face, and the Xbox logo is now flush with the controller.
From a game performance perspective, the latest Xbox One wireless controller features slight shape adjustments for a more ergonomic grip. Even better, Microsoft vastly improved the bumpers, which are now softer and make less noise.
I love what Microsoft is doing with Xbox Design Lab, and this year’s additions makes designing even better. This is my second time designing a controller, and in the image above you can see the Superman red, blue, and yellow controller I made last year.
Have you made an Xbox Design Lab controller or seen a cool design? Let us know some of your favourite designs in the comments below!