Does The Xbox Series X Controller Have Adaptive Triggers?


Having recently bought a PS5 I’ve come to one conclusion: The controller is amazing. The adaptive triggers paired with the next generation haptics provide a level of feedback that blew me away.

Bowstring pulls, springs filling with tension, tires bouncing across gravel: every action you can think of can be simulated with the adaptive triggers to give a real tangible feel

Yet, I thought this technology was old. After all, didn’t the Xbox Series X controller come with “adaptive triggers” since the Xbox One era? Or was that something else? What’s the difference? Does the Xbox Series X controller have adaptive triggers like the PS5 controller?

No, the Xbox Series X and S controller does not have adaptive triggers like the PS5 Dualsense controller. The Xbox controller uses Impulse triggers. These triggers contain tiny rumble motors that make the triggers rumble. These motors can not control the tension of the trigger.

Ok, now you know that the Xbox Series X controller has impulse triggers, not adaptive triggers. In the next few sections, I’ll take a look at what is an impulse trigger. Then I’ll look at what the difference is between the impulse triggers in the Xbox controller and the adaptive triggers found on the Dualsense. Finally, I’ll take a look at what Microsoft is planning for the future of its controllers.

That all sounds exciting right? well, let’s get started…

Does the Xbox Series X controller have adaptive triggers?

Xbox Controller Impulse trigger with motor inside. Thanks Xbox On.

As established above, no, the Xbox Series X or S controller doesn’t have adaptive triggers like in the PS5 DualSense controller. More on the difference later.

But if the Xbox Series X controller doesn’t have Adaptive triggers, what does it have? After all, the Xbox Controller’s triggers do give some kind of feedback.

Well, yes they do, but it uses a different and older technology. The Xbox Series X controller’s triggers are the same as the triggers in the Xbox One controller:

They are impulse triggers.

This is a fancy marketing way of saying triggers with built in mini rumble motors.

The Xbox Series X controller has 4 rumble motors built into it. Two large motors built into the handgrips of the controller and two much smaller motors housed inside the controller’s triggers.

These small motor inside the triggers are designed to add a rumble effect to the individual trigger.

Originally they were designed to simulate different in-game actions. For example, a slow deep rumble would simulate a car in Forza Motorsport passing over a rumble strip on the side of the track. This would provide more detailed feedback to the player over and beyond the comparably simple rumble that the controller’s handgrips offered.

In another example, a gun in Call of Duty, when fired, will make the trigger rumble very quickly to simulate each bullet blasting out of the barrel.

These trigger-specific effects, when paired with the other rumble motors in the controller, act to create a great deal of feedback and increase the sense of immersion.

Take a look at the video below for a demo of the impulse triggers:

However, when compared to the PS5’s DualSense, the Xbox Series X controller’s impulse triggers start to come up a little short.

Xbox Controller’s Impulse Triggers Vs PS5 Controller’s Adaptive Triggers

PS5 Controllers adaptive trigger. Thanks Restore Technique.

When the DualSense Adaptive triggers are used to their full potential, they are, for lack of a better cliche, a game-changer. The Adaptive triggers make the rumble effect stuffed inside the Xbox Series X controller’s triggers seem one-dimensional and fake.

The Adaptive trigger can simulate so many physical sensations to an eerie degree of accuracy. The tension of different strength bowstrings being pulled. A trigger jamming on a dust-caked gun. The jitter of a car as its breaks lock up in a corner.

Each of these sensations feel completely authentic and unique to each other. Which is a bit different from limited week or strong rumbles that Impulse triggers can give.

But how do the adaptive triggers on the DualSense weave thier magic?

Basically, the dual sense trigger is attached to a motorized gear. This gear, depending on how much a small motor turns it, can change how far the trigger can be depressed. So, for example, if a game wants to simulate the trigger locking like on jammed gun, the gear will stop the trigger from being pulled.

A game can also simulate the pull of a bowstring: when the player pulls the trigger, the gear will slowly increase the trigger’s maximum pull range at a rate that makes you think that your finger is fighting against a bowstring full of tension.

For car games, when you pass over rumble strips the gear in the trigger will quickly extend then shorten, increasing and decreasing the trigger’s maximum pull. This simulates the feel of the car’s suspension flexing as it struggles over the rumble strip’s bumps.

And these are just three simple examples out of a near infinite variety of adaptive trigger feedback patterns.

Marry these adaptive triggers with advanced haptic feedback, and you have a truly next-generation controller that can simulate anything from rain pitter-pattering on your umbrella, to climbing up cliff faces.

For more visual break down of the adaptive triggers in the DualSense controller take a look at the vid below:

Ok, so you’re probably wondering if adaptive triggers are so good, why doesn’t the Xbox Series X controller have any of this fancy stuff? And is there any chance of Microsoft’s popular controller having adaptive triggers in the future?

Well, possibly…

Will the Xbox Series X Controller Get Adaptive Triggers In the future?

A report featured on ScreenRant back in January 2021 strongly indicated that Microsoft is considering redesigning the Xbox Series X controller to include adaptive triggers and/or haptic feedback.

ScreenRant talks of a survey that was passed out to Xbox Consumers that asked what PS5 DualSense features they would like added to the Xbox controller. On that list of pre-chosen features were adaptive triggers and haptic feedback.

This strongly suggests that Microsoft has been thinking about adding adaptive trigger and haptic technology to the Xbox Controllers for some time.

And I think there are a couple of really reasons why they have waited:

  1. I think the Xbox Series X costs a lot more per unite than the PS5. Microsoft knew they couldn’t hit that $500 price point with the console stuffed with powerful hardware and a next-generation haptic/adaptive controller. So they decided to make small changes to the controller and put all their effort into producing the most powerful console.
  2. Microsoft thought about creating a next-generation controller containing these haptic/active trigger features, but wanted to wait and see the feedback on Sony’s DualSense controller first. This way Sony are affectively doing market research for Microsoft and establishing a market demand for a more advanced controller. Microsoft can then, at a later date, release a new premium “Pro” controller that has haptics and adaptive triggers that are improved over the DualSense controller. And they can do this knowing that the current Xbox Controller is already a strong fan favourite.

Nick Sinclair

Having played games since the golden age of the Commodore 64, Nick finally took the plunge and studied Creative Game Design in university. After 3 years of "Study", Nick co-founded a games company where he soon discovered his true calling: writing about games. 11 years later Nick writes about a tower of topics, but gaming is always stacked neatly at the top.

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