This controller boasts some performance-first benefits all at an approachable price.
There's no shortage of ways to customise and better your controller gaming experience today, due to the wealth of available peripherals. With designs evolving and iterating on the base models that are delivered with each console and platform currently available, controllers have grown into a wide and unique market, where you can buy more versatile systems, more premium units, or ones with limited or special appearances. The choices are incredibly plentiful. One peripheral manufacturer that has been in the business of creating unique controllers for a while is PowerA, whose latest product is a performance-first wired Xbox Series controller that comes in a variety of different designs for a reasonable price tag. Known as the Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series, I've been testing this system for a little while now, and I have some thoughts.
First of all, it's worth talking a little about the appearance of this device. The Enhanced Wired Controller looks exactly like a base Xbox Series controller, except for a few minor differences. There is a bar that connects the two bumpers (as a cable port fits around here), the D-pad is a traditional shape and not a multi-directional one, the share button is circular and not a capsule shape, there are Advanced Gaming buttons on the back to give the user more input options, and there is a volume and mute dial embedded on the bottom centre of the controller's front face. Otherwise, this is a controller that has the same (or very similar) body shape, size, weight, button and stick placement and even button and stick appearances. The Enhanced Wired Controller, while available in black, does come in 23 unique design styles, meaning it's not as strikingly similar at first glance as it may sound.
In terms of the feel of using the Enhanced Wired Controller, for the most part the experience is very similar to a regular Xbox controller. The analog sticks feel fluid and smooth and the buttons feel clicky and responsive, as you'd hope. I will say that the triggers don't quite have the same degree of premium feel, as they are made from what seems to be a cheaper plastic and also favour a less resistant pressing action, making them louder to use. It's a minor difference that only really stands out when comparing the two side-by-side, but one that catches the eye nonetheless.
Otherwise, the clicker nature of the Enhanced Wired Controller isn't always a bad thing. There's a satisfying nature to having a more audible response to each of your inputs, and even though it lacks the subtlety or the more premium feeling materials of the base Xbox controller, this still feels like a quality controller when put in practice, which is ideal as refined performance is a major driving force for this system.
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Take the two mappable Advanced Gaming Buttons on the rear of the system. These are present to remove the necessity of having to lift your thumb off an analog stick to press a button, as you can simply have your less-used middle finger or ring finger do the job instead, which is something those who play shooters or other fast-paced games on controllers will appreciate dearly. The really ingenious part of these buttons is how they can be mapped on the go. All you have to do is hold the Program Button on the rear until the LED light flashes, then the button you want to map, then the Advanced Gaming Button you want it mapped to. It's that simple, and can be done in the middle of a game, as it's a pretty seamless and quick action with very few ways to overcomplicate it.
As for the other major component, the volume dial, this is again designed with simplicity in mind first and foremost. Assuming you have a headset which uses a 3.5mm audio jack connected to the controller (which admittedly, in the era of wireless is a bit of an issue in itself), all you have to do is move the dial left or right to adjust the volume of the headset, or press it in to mute/unmute chat in the headset itself. It's a handy feature, but as I noted a moment ago, doesn't do anything for those who use wireless headsets or peripherals that don't use a 3.5mm jack.
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This whole concept of having to use a specific wire to get maximum value out of this controller is actually one of my main gripes with the Enhanced Wired Controller. Don't get me wrong, there are minor (very minor) benefits to using a wired controller, for example wires reduce input lag, but having a response time that is fractions of a millisecond faster is hardly a trade off to having to lug around a wire just to ensure your controller is switched on. And yes, the benefit of not having to worry, or even buy batteries is a bonus, but rechargeable battery packs basically eliminates this problem anyway. It might seem like a minor problem, but to go from wireless to wired does feel like a step in the wrong direction in my eyes.
But assuming you're comfortable and willing to use a wired device, the Enhanced Wired Controller is a system that's hard to dislike. It's simple to use, comes with plenty of features that do enhance the gaming experience, and as far as controllers go these days, it's actually quite reasonably priced ($38). If you're looking for a back-up controller, or maybe a stepping stone onto a truly premium performance controller, alike the SCUF Instinct Pro or the Elite Controller Series 2, then the Enhanced Wired Controller will provide a great insight into the benefits of having rear-mounted buttons for example. Just don't expect to be blown away by this gadget.
7 / 10
Mappable Advanced Gaming Buttons are brilliant and easy to use. Reasonably priced.
Lacks a premium feel. Triggers are a bit too clicky and plasticy. Wired nature feels like a technical regression.