Tech Up! Thrustmaster eswap pro x Review

By Neil Flynn 23.12.2020

Tech Up! Thrustmaster eswap pro x Review on Nintendo gaming news, videos and discussion
Since the dawn of gaming the input device on each gaming console has aimed to perfect its predecessor in every way. Atheistically, the Xbox controllers over the generations have seen only very incremental changes made to them, slightly refining the look and feel of the controller each time. A newer trend over the past decade is the dawn of pro controllers, or Elite controllers, which cater for the upmarket dedicated gamers who want the competitive edge over those simpletons using their default standard controllers. Pioneers in the accessories field, Thrustmaster, have turned their hand to making a dedicated, officially licenced, Xbox pro controller to add to the range of options for millions of Xbox gamers. Does the Thrustmaster eswap pro x controller live up to the high price tag attached to it? Read on to find out.

Thrustmaster have spared no expense with the premium packaging for the eswap pro x. The upmarket packaging has a magnetic folding tab, which has foam protectors on them keeping the controller in place during transit and another foam holder over the control sticks and D-pad to help protect them while in the packaging. The box also includes a screwdriver, a soft carry bag, convex thumbsticks and a braided micro-USB cable.

Discernible differences can be felt immediately upon removing the controller from the box, especially for those who are immediately familiar with Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S controllers. The eswap pro x is slightly weightier, bulkier and the button placements are ever so slightly different. By no means is this a negative comment, in fact, rather the opposite, as this should fit into bigger hands comfortably and the extra weight is always the hallmark of a longer-lasting and sturdier product. The face button placements are almost identical to the default standard Xbox controller, although rather than the spongy press of the standard controller the Thrustmaster eswap pro x have opted to go with flat, clicky buttons. These feel incredibly sublime when pressed, and are much more preferred over the spongy default Xbox controller.

The true USP of this controller is the innovative modular concept of being able to switch various components of the gamepad, including the D-pad, the control sticks, grips and triggers, all of which are locked in place by strong magnets, except the latter which are held in place by screws. The joysticks can also be interchanged from their default concave thumbsticks with the aforementioned convex variant. Thrustmaster dubs this as T-MOD technology, allowing users to have a swathe of customisable flexibility options when setting up their preferred controller setup. Configurations can be made on the fly if need be as many of the modules are magnetic, which is strong enough that it doesn't fall out of place during game play but easy enough to remove by pulling on the appropriate piece. The D-pad and triggers do need the additional included tool and screwdriver to hot swap these customisable modules but this is hardly an issue. 

The added benefit of having swappable modules is not just out of preference of having the D-pad in the top left quadrant, like a PlayStation controller, but also serves the purpose of being able to buy individual replacements for worn out parts of the controller. Thrustmaster state that the next generation S5 NXG joy sticks should have double the lifespan of a standard Xbox controller allowing for over 2 million activations, which is an enormous amount of game time. If sticks do get worn out over time, or develop issues such as stick drift due to excessive force or use of the controller then these modules are easily replaced with the individual items being sold on the Thrustmaster website. The joy sticks themselves stand slightly taller than the default Xbox controller, admittedly this feels slightly detrimental, mainly as the travel time between the right hand joy-stick to the face buttons is now slightly increased, and those playing games that require fast interactions between the face buttons and the right analogue stick may find themselves needing to re-adapt their instinctive movements between the two. A similar experience can be said about accessing the View Button from the left analogue stick, which is familiar enough to do on standard controllers but the eswap pro x moves the button placement to the top left of the pad, which is largely inaccessible if needing to access this button in a rush, as it would almost certainly mean brushing the left analogue stick in the process. Those already familiar to the new Share button placement on Xbox Series X/S being underneath the Xbox Button will also feel a little lost to see that the placement for these buttons have been reversed on the Thrustmaster eswap pro x, although this is most likely not going to raise too many issues for users to have to re-adapt. These few minor issues aside, the joy sticks feel versatile and precise leading to an incredible feeling when they are in use.

The D-pad is not in the same style of the newer "dish" Xbox Series X/S controllers and rather adopts the standard 4 directional pad style, however this is much preferred compared to the standard Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S controllers. The D-pad almost has defined buttons to it, not so dissimilar to the PlayStation 5 Dual Sense controller and has definitely been a god send to help get higher scores in Tetris Effect Connected, especially as the D-pad can be moved on the controller using the included tool to help slot it out of its current position and re-inserted in the desired top left module. Fighting game fans are difficult to please, and Thrustmaster haven't gone all out to promote this as a benefit to fans of games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Tekken so if this controller is to be used for these purposes then perhaps take these glowing compliments about the D-pad with a pinch of salt. 

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The Xbox Series X/S has improved upon the palm grips by adding a matted texture to them, drastically improving the tangibility of the controller, unfortunately the eswap pro x doesn't really have this option, although it could probably be added in later down the line as an optional add on. This is probably the only part of the customisable elements that is perhaps more vanity rather than practicality, nonetheless, players do really love to make their controller their own, so having the option to add different colour palates to this part of the controller was absolutely necessary and from a visual perspective can look very pleasing to the eye with other alternate colours attached.

The triggers are also swappable, by using the included screwdriver, although be careful not to lose the screws as they are absolutely tiny. The grooves on the triggers feel like a somewhat half-step from Microsoft's proposition on the Series X/S controller but the eswap pro x is a step up from the rather slippery Xbox One triggers. The eswap pro x triggers have a textured groove on half of the trigger, right where the tip of an index finger would be placed. The triggers feel comfortable to use and added grip definitely helps when it comes to FPS' and needing to make reflex-based movements, which are only helped on more by the customisable trigger locks, improving reaction times and a shorter travel time. The trigger locks, which stop the travel length by up to 50% means that triggers do not need to be pulled all the way back to function. This is vital for those needing quick reaction times in competitive gaming landscapes and it can be further customised in the Windows/Xbox App to how each individual would prefer to use this function.

There are button paddles on the underside which are slightly placed too central and can be accidently hit now and again, conversely, they are well placed for those who do want to use them. The paddle buttons are satisfyingly clicky, even more so than the face buttons and can be mapped to any of the other buttons allowing for maximum flexibility.

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Further customisation can be done via an app which is free to download on Xbox (or PC) and is easy enough to use, allowing for button mapping, analogue stick sensitivity (including modifying the shape of the dead zone curves), trigger travel distance and vibration strength. The button mapping allows for any of the buttons to be swapped around with any of the other buttons on the controller, with the exception of the central Menu, Xbox, Share and View Buttons. Likewise, the triggers can be changed to replicate a 100% of the button press in less than 10% of the trigger being touched. For pro players, having the ability to change trigger sensitivity in such a way is an absolute game changer, particularly when needing to having lightning quick reflexes on first person shooters. Alternatively, there is a quick mapping tool on the controller itself by holding down the map button on the bottom of the controller and pressing the two buttons that need to be swapped.

There are 5 additional buttons on the bottom of the controller next to the mapping button, these are for volume control, mic control and quick profile swapping between profile 1 and profile 2 (which can be programmed using the aforementioned app). Having the buttons for volume control and mic control are handier than initial impressions, that is because these buttons are more intuitive to press, when needed, than finding the controls on cable.

Finally, the micro-USB cable is braided and comes with a clip at the end of it to ensure that it locks into the controller, thus reducing the likelihood of it being disconnected during a heated battle. The cable is 2 metres long which should be long enough for most gamers, but given the exuberant price of the eswap pro x it would have been even better if there was a wireless functionality. It understandable that for top end performance having a cable is the best method to ensure no input lag, but there are instances where the eswap pro x could be used a little more casually, and thus could have allowed for a wireless functionality. It is also a shame that the base model of the eswap pro x can't be customised from the moment of purchase, similar to Microsoft's custom-building tool on the Xbox website, especially given the steep price point of additional colour packs.

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10
The Thrustmaster eswap pro x is a sturdy, weighty and premium controller, totally befitting of its titular name. There are a few nuances that need to be overcome, namely the height of the joysticks, the lack of textured palm grip options and no wireless functionality. These issues aside the Thrustmaster eswap pro x is a really comfortable controller to behold that offers a large suite of customisable modules and options to personalise the controller. If competitive first-person shooters such as Call of Duty and Fortnite are going to be the primary motive to pick up a pro controller then having the customisable trigger locks as an option is an absolute clear-cut reason to purchase the eswap pro x.

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