Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro review: A star premium pad for lovers of symmetrical controllers

Controllers are bigger business today than ever before. What is more interesting, however, is that the shape of the market for additional console input devices has changed. In particular, it feels like the age of third-party suppliers delivering feather-light plastic tat you’d give your least favorite mate to use has been replaced with the opposite: high-end, sing-all, dance-all – the sports car by controller. And nowadays there are quite a number of them to choose from.

Xbox and PlayStation obviously have their official offerings, but now third parties are getting involved too. Thrustmaster’s entry into this lucrative arena is the eSwap X Pro, a feature-rich premium pad that aims to outperform the official Xbox alternative with some unique features – although there’s one big caveat we’ve got to say will be coming soon.

Anyhow, from the moment you first lift it out of the box it’s clear that the eSwap X is a premium kit. It’s heavy, firm, and feels luscious. Even the box tries to sell that premium feel, with a magnetic opening mechanism and a soft interior to gently hold the controller and its various add-ons in place.

Before we get into the controller’s big gimmick and selling point, I think the most interesting thing we can talk about here is how the controller’s shape differs compared to what has become fairly standard on Xbox. By gently iterating from the 360 ​​until now, Microsoft has managed to pretty much perfect this particular style of controller, and most imitations have come across pretty badly as a result. So Thrustmaster has gone the other way, with a chunkier controller design with both a larger main body and longer grips compared to the official offering.


It’s a matter of taste, of course, but as someone who’s pretty long-fingered, I like it. I’ve never had an issue with the Xbox controller anyway, but this is a pleasantly different way, and I immediately see that this shape would be preferable and less of a burden for certain playstyles. So, that’s good – it’s a good shape, especially for those of us with bigger hands. It’s probably not the best controller for kids — but no kid should pay $160 for a controller anyway. This is for adults with money to burn. That is established. So what about these bells and whistles?

Well, the clue here is in the name. eSwap is about being able to exchange controller components. The main element of this is the D-Pad and analog sticks, which are relatively easy to lift out of the controller and snap back into your chosen configuration.

For example, if you play an old-school platformer or fighting game – or just someone who prefers the PlayStation-style layout – you could flip the directional pad to the top-left position, for example, and have two symmetrical analog sticks underneath. Likewise, you could have both analog sticks on the left side if you’re a total freak. It’s your decision.


There is also an aesthetic element. You can move things around for utility, but you can also buy other parts in what Thrustmaster generously describes as “an unlimited modular system at the intersection of design and performance.” What that really means is that if you want to buy flashy sticks, you can. In theory, a different shape or style of directional pad is also possible. The panels on the side of the controller are also cropped in the same way – and so you can replace the plain black with something a little more artistic if you like.

All of these interchangeable items are held in place by magnets, and they are strong, clingy. I did some drop testing on the controller and surprisingly found no pieces flew off. Dropping an Xbox Elite Analog Stick will send heads and the D-Pad flying through space. Not here. In fact, they’re held so tightly that the controller comes with a special tool for pulling out the directional pad.


The other features of this controller are pretty standard in this class in my opinion. There are three-phase settings for each of the triggers that physically lock how deep it can be pulled. So if you want a more responsive hair trigger, just set it to a flatter pressure. There are also four additional programmable buttons on the back of the controller – although I think these are small and poorly placed compared to the paddles on the Xbox Elite pad.

There’s also a headphone jack at the base of the controller, complete with buttons for volume up and down and microphone mute – useful to have on the actual controller. Three more discrete buttons allow you to set and toggle between control mapping presets.

That all sounds good though, and is pretty good value for less than the Elite controller. Except – here’s that caveat – that’s wired. The wired solution is as sleek as it gets, with a smart design that “sinks” the cable into the controller body once it’s plugged in, plus a 3-meter cable that’s a nice, braided, high-quality thing, that won’t fray or break easily – but you still have to accept that despite being an officially licensed Xbox pad, you’re bound to the console.


Thrustmaster’s rationale for this is simple enough to understand – this is a pad for those who are serious about gaming and concerned about lag. As a result, cable made sense. In fact, it all agrees – in your hands, it honestly feels like a controller built for shooters first. For example, I’m not a huge fan of the flat-feeling face buttons – but the triggers and bumpers are quite raised. This is shooter and action game-led design, and that’s fine – the eSwap is honest about what it is. Everything about its design screams esports credentials. Even the name.

Ultimately, how does it fare against its formal rival, the Xbox Elite Series 2? Well I think the answer is complicated. It depends in many ways on what you are looking for – there are things that each can do better than the other. However, the eSwap’s stick and D-pad flipping gimmick is a big selling point, especially for those who prefer a symmetrical layout or just play a lot of games that they prefer the D-pad for. It’s a great quality product – and has one feature that is absolutely unique. Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro review: A star premium pad for lovers of symmetrical controllers

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