PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S impressions — Spectra Infinity

Tom West - May 21st 2022

PowerA regularly launches new designs for its Enhanced Wired Controllers for Xbox Series X|S, so we've given you our first impressions of these affordable third-party accessories and its Spectra Infinity design.

With the cost of living rising rapidly, it's becoming harder to justify spending large sums of money on our favourite hobby, especially if you have a tendency to purchase controllers and accessories to display on your wall after using them — or not use them at all in some cases... we're not admitting anything! Controllers, especially the official Xbox Wireless Controller for Xbox Series X|S, come with a fairly hefty price tag that's becoming a little more difficult to justify.

PowerA is a third-party company that offers many Xbox accessories for mostly affordable prices. Its Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S is its 'budget' offering that is regularly updated with new designs for prices that range between $30-$40 and is part of the Designed for Xbox program. You can see the full range on the PowerA website, and while they are wired controllers for when they're in use, the cable is detachable, so you can display it if that's what you're into.

We'll update this article as each new design is released, but you'll find our impressions of the controller's features under the updated designs; just click 'Features and usability impressions' in the contents box below. So, let's take a look and see if this controller is worthy of our collection, whether that be on the wall or in our hands.

Recent designs and styles

PowerA regularly updates its styles for the Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S, which just like Xbox's official controllers, changes the colour schemes and detailing of the entire controller. If you're anything like us, collecting the various styles of Xbox controllers is part of the hobby, and it inspires a sense of pride when your friends and family catch an eyeful of the displayed accessories when visiting, and light-heartedly tell you you're a nerd.

One of the most noticeable aspects of PowerA's controllers is their almost identical design to that of Microsoft's offering, which, at least for us, is what we would want when displaying it alongside the official controllers — only a couple of slight inconsistencies on the controller's face are distinguishable from the official accessories, by way of the mic controls and power light, but that's it. The mic controls, while transparent in design, are still a bit of an eyesore and let the controllers' aesthetic down a bit. While it is convenient, the Xbox dashboard itself allows you to quickly control your audio levels, so the cost for the mic controls could potentially be better spent adding a rubber stopper to the triggers (more on that towards the bottom of this article. The aforementioned power light's form factor is tiny, so you'll not really notice it, but you might notice that the Xbox sphere doesn't light up... but does that matter? Not really.

Here you can find the latest designs that have been released.

Spectra Infinity

While it is technically part of the Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S range, the Spectra Infinity seems to have a far superior build quality to it compared to the other models, but it will cost you just under $10 more — which is still $10 less than the official Xbox controllers, minimum. Build quality-wise, the Spectra has a lot more weight to it compared to its siblings, to the point where it feels a little heavier than the official offerings. The entire housing is coated in a rubber finish that provides a ton of grip and makes it extremely comfortable to play with. The buttons make far less noise compared to the other models, putting them on par with Microsoft's controllers, but the triggers and toggles, while still far quieter than PowerA's other models, still produce a fair amount of noise when pressed. On top of the other improvements for the slight jump in price, the Spectra also features a ten-foot braided cable and three-way trigger locks.

The obvious visual design of the Spectra Infinity is the programmable LED lighting that surrounds the perimeter of the controller's faceplate, toggles, D-pad, and buttons. Considering this controller is only a little more expensive than its counterparts, you're getting quite a bit for your money here. The LEDs are split into three 'Spectra Zones': Zone one contains the outer lighting, zone two contains the button and left toggle rings, and zone three contains the d-pad and right toggle ring. Each zone can be customised with different colours — five shades each of blue, red, green, and yellow — by using the button on the rear of the controller, as well as separately offering both static and pulsing themes.

Visually and functionally, the Spectra Infinity is a cut above the other models in the Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S range, but its price does stop it from being a 'budget' option. We love the LED customisation this model offers, and the increase in build quality makes it a much nicer controller to play with — although you'd need to be pretty creative if you want to display this one!

The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S — Spectra Infinity is available on the PowerA website for $44.99.

Cuphead: Ms. Chalice

If you've been enjoying The Delicious Last Course Cuphead DLC, or Luke's Cuphead edition of BS GS, then PowerA's Ms. Chalice design might be the perfect addition to your setup. Everything about the controller is bleeding in Cuphead style with an orange and mint green colour scheme reminiscent of Ms. Chalice herself. The entire faceplate of the controller has a matt orange colourway, with various cartoon-esque markings like explosions, stars, and hearts. It's a real eye-catcher in person, and the addition of Ms. Chalice on the left arm is a really cool touch. The aesthetic is complimented with mint (Chalice's dress) green detailing on the D-pad, toggle tops and rings, the menu, back, and share buttons, as well as the triggers, bumpers, and entire backside of the controller. One of my complaints with the Pastel Dream controller was the fact that the rear seemed out of place, but on this Ms. Chalice controller, it blends with the design perfectly. There is even a mint green surround to the Xbox button, which is slightly less noticeable than the other highlights but is a lovely addition. Finally, PowerA has given the A, B, X, and Y buttons a white background alongside the inner toggle sticks to help add a small break from the overarching theme. It's definitely a beautifully designed controller worthy of any Cuphead fan's collection.

The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S — Cuphead: Ms. Chalice is available on the PowerA website for $39.99.

Pastel collection — Pastel Dream

The latest collection of PowerA's Enhanced Xbox Series X|S controllers come in five pastel-coloured designs: Cotton Candy Blue, Lavender Swirl, Pink Lemonade, Purple Camo, and Pastel Dream, which is what we're looking at now. The colourway blends blues, pinks, whites, and greens in a very pale matt finish on the front faceplate. It's not as bright as we had expected, but it's subtle and compliments the rest of the controller nicely, especially the white toggle caps, white back, menu, and share buttons, and the white backgrounds of the A, B, X, and Y buttons. The inner toggle sticks and balls offer a darker blue/purple colour scheme that helps them pop compared to the rest of the controller's style. The nicest part, though, is the D-pad, which comes in metallic pink, and it adds a tasteful shine to an otherwise subtle controller. The only thing you could say lets the controller's design down slightly is the off-white backing, triggers, and bumpers. It's only the rear of the controller, but for something with such a nice design, it would have been nice to have it in a clear white like that on the centre of the faceplate. It's definitely a lovely design that is subtly highlighted with the pastel shades without it looking like a washed-out mess of colour.

The PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S — Pastel Dream is available on the PowerA website for $37.99.

Features and usability impressions

Update: We've been using an Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S as a primary controller for the last couple of months. After seeing some of the previous comments about the durability of PowerA's controller, we were keen to find out how well it could stand up against hours of continuous and regular use, and while we're happy to say that the controller is still going strong without stick drift, the buttons and triggers are now annoyingly loud. Overall, it's been pretty smooth sailing, with everything working just as it should, but it's now been put to the side. Is it a bad controller? Most certainly not, but consistent use has worn out any form of button cushioning that may have been there before, and it's not the most pleasant experience to have to turn up your TV in an attempt to drown out the noise your buttons make.

These controllers cost around half the price of an official controller, so they're perfect as budget backups to your main controller. If you're looking for an affordable secondary controller to use when your primary needs charging, or your friend comes over for some couch co-op gaming, then this will serve you well, but consistent use will wear it out quite quickly.

Original: The Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S offers an affordable way to grow your controller collection. It's suitably close in shape and detailing that it won't stand out too much as a third-party controller when displayed alongside the official offerings. While there are a few design elements that could definitely do with being tweaked slightly, there haven't been any issues during the long gaming sessions we've subjected the controller to.

Material design and feel

The toggle surrounds, triggers, and bumpers are made of smooth gloss-finished plastic, so no textured grips on the triggers. If you're planning to display the controller it's not an issue, but if it's something you like on a controller when using it, then you might just miss the feeling. While the texture-less triggers aren't so much of an issue, the plastic-on-plastic clicking of the triggers is a bit of a design flaw as they could do with a rubber buffer to soften the blow and remove a large part of the noise the controller produces. The other buttons feel solid in design and only feel slightly more resistant to your presses than the official controllers, but much like the triggers, they're rather noisy. One part of the PowerA controller that feels almost identical to the official controllers is the toggles, which are tightly placed in their sockets and are safe from misclicks, while still requiring the same pressure as the official counterparts. The toggles on PowerA's offering, though, are pretty noisy compared to the official controller, but they're not too obnoxious.

The toggles themselves, though, have a rough grip edging to them, which is susceptible to dirt. Even the cleanest hands in the world won't stop these from needing a very regular clean, so we're loath to know what state you Dorito-eaters will cause the triggers to look like. They're the same design as Microsoft's offerings, but the grips themselves could do with being filed down ever so slightly to remove much of the roughness, while still offering the same level of grip without the level of grime collection. The rear of the controller, on the other hand, has a diamond-cut design to offer an extra bit of grip when you're latched onto the controller, but it's more aimed toward style than usability. Unlike the toggles, though, the back could do with a slightly deeper diamond cut to allow the textured surface to enhance the grip's effectiveness.

It is a Designed for Xbox controller, and for the price, it definitely feels worthy of the label. It is extremely light, however, which is great for long periods of playtime, but does leave us questioning its durability. How well PowerA's Enhanced controller will handle being dropped — or thrown for that matter, as some of you might have a habit of doing — is questionable and we haven't attempted to find out, but for regular use, the build quality feels more than sufficient. It's also very close in size to the official controllers, with only the arms offering around an additional three centimetres in length more than Microsoft's offering when you place the two back-to-back. As such, the PowerA's controller feels just the same as Microsoft's when you're playing a game, if only much lighter, for better or for worse.

Features

As we mentioned before, these are wired controllers, which have a ten-foot detachable USB Type A to Mini USB cable for tidy storage, or for putting the controller on display. The cable, while not braided, still feels like the inner wiring is well protected, and when attached to the controller there is zero wiggle room for it to fall out. It can also be folded up nicely for storage using the attached velcro strap.

The controller itself features dual rumble motors — which have a subtler vibration than the official controllers — the now common share button, and a standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack, the last two of which work just like they're supposed to, so there isn't a whole lot to say. On the front of the controller, there is a "one-touch" mic mute and volume dial to save you from heading into the settings on your console or fiddling around on the headset itself mid-game. Aside from it being slightly garish, it is a functional and convenient feature. You simply flick it to the left to turn your headset volume down by one point, while flicking to the right increases the volume by one point. By clicking the toggle you can mute your mic, and while the controls are transparent, when your mic is muted it lights up in red so you can easily see when you've muted yourself — as we've all done, I'm sure.

As an added bonus, the PowerA Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S comes with two remappable buttons on the rear of the controller, which makes this an affordable accessory for those that rely on the rear buttons. They're located on the rear of the controller's handles, right where your middle sits, so they're comfortable to use. You can remap both buttons on the fly by using the central button as well, which means no fiddly third-party apps are needed. All you need to do is hold the rear middle button for a couple of seconds, watch the power LED start to flash, click the button you'd like to remap to a rear button, and then click the rear button you want to assign it to. It's a great feature that works exceptionally well without any large paddles or the need for third-party software to assign the functions.

If you're looking for a new controller, this is certainly worthy of your attention, thanks to the number of features you get for your money. There are a couple of slight design changes that could be made to improve it but it's certainly worth the money you'll be paying for it. How long it'll hold up for, we can't say, but we've had one in semi-regular use for the last couple of months (mainly long weekend sessions) and it's operating exactly how it did when we first took it out of the box — plus, it looks really nice on display, so it's a winner either way.

A test unit of the Enhanced Wired Controller for Xbox Series X|S was provided by PowerA for the purposes of this article.