Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 Pro Controller review: “The Skyrim of the controller world”

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 review image of the controller on a stand in front of green lighting
(Image: © Future / Duncan Robertson)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

The differences between the Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 and its previous iterations are few, and while that means it carries over the same strengths, it suffers from a lack of innovation. Other pro controllers have arrived on the scene since this gamepad was first released, and I’m not sure the latest version does enough to keep up. Luckily, its cheaper price is a welcome solace.

Pros

  • +

    Solid build quality

  • +

    Modular design

  • +

    Classy aesthetics

  • +

    Competitive price

Cons

  • -

    Really poor back buttons

  • -

    Essentially the exact same as previous eSwap controllers

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The Thrustmaster eSwap X2 is the fifth version of the brand's pro controller to be released, and it’s essentially the Skyrim of the controller world. When it first launched, it was an innovative, exciting RPG that offered players a new experience they hadn’t had before. Arguably, its fresh design helped to push the rest of the market forward. But at this point, it’s beginning to lag behind the rest of the pack because the others have improved on its quirks. After re-releases and remasters, we’re now all eagerly waiting for its creator to make a true sequel.

Of course, the Thrustmaster eSwap range isn’t a well-known fantasy RPG, it’s one of the best Xbox Series X controllers. Still, that analogy fits oddly well. When this gamepad’s modular design came out, it arguably paved the way for PDP to create the Victrix Pro BFG for Xbox, which has truly mastered this design. After I reviewed the Thrustmaster eSwap XR last year though, I was kind of hoping we’d see larger improvements to this pad beyond a USB-C connection.

Fortunately, a slightly lowered price tag of $169.99 / £169.99 does soften the blow of repetition. Compared to other pro controllers for Xbox released this year with four back buttons, that’s not a dreadful price to pay.

Design

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 with some of its modules removed

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

As mentioned, the Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 carries over the clever modular layout of previous versions. That means you can magnetically swap the positions of three out of the four facial components with a simple tug. One of the good things about the similarities to older variants here is that you get the same impeccable build quality. The controller’s longer grips feel super sturdy in the hands, with the product’s body feeling as robust as you’ll find in the peripheral world. 

I do like the aesthetics of this gamepad - the refreshed X 2 has a lovely mix of matte and glossy textures that make it feel premium, without making you worry you’ll be leaving finger smudges on it during sweatier sessions. 

More good news is that previous eSwap range modules can be dropped into place in this controller and work just fine. Anyone who has bought the expansion accessories, magnetic side panels, or the clever racing wheel module from the XR will be able to carry them over, which is a nice touch. 

So what is different here? Mainly, you get USB-C as opposed to the previous generation’s preferred micro-USB connection. I’m glad to see this change, but it arguably should have been made with last year’s XR model since every other controller on the market connects via USB-C these days.

The X2 also improves the thumbsticks. The modules in this box are slightly chunkier and include S5 NXG mini-stick tech that’s said to enhance precision while ensuring a longer-lasting lifespan. It’s a real shame these aren’t Hall Sensor sticks, since this would be the perfect opportunity to introduce them as a swappable module for older versions of the controller.

Features

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2's subtle branding

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

If you’re aware of the eSwap line of gamepads already, this section may be a bit repetitive for you, because not much has changed since I reviewed the eSwap XR. Opening up the folding cover of this pad’s premium packaging, you won’t find a case, but a small black pouch that’s big enough to hold the controller inside it. There’s a 3m braided USB to USB-C cable and two alternate thumbstick tops for people who don’t like the indented ones you’ll find as default. 

Four tiny and unfriendly back buttons sit on the controller’s spine along with trigger stop switches usually only found on the very best PC controllers. The bottom houses some utility buttons that help map back buttons, switch profiles, and adjust volume levels for the integrated 3.5mm headphone jack. On the shoulders you’ll find the grooved bumpers and elongated triggers I praised the previous version for. The curves here really lend themselves to driving games, and since Thrustmaster makes some of the best racing wheels for PC, there’s no surprise there. 

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 with the XR model's driving wheel module

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

On the face of it, you still get microswitch buttons with a minuscule actuation. These offer a speedy response but lack some of the feel you get from the likes of the Turtle Beach Stealth Ultra. A new mechanical D-Pad has a more rounded look than the previous version and is said to improve diagonal presses. I found very little difference here, truth be told. It’s a bit of a shame that Thrustmaster wanted to improve the diagonal capabilities of its D-pad but didn’t include any 8-way-shaped variants in the box.

ThrustmapperX is the companion software to download for this controller, allowing you to remap all the buttons on the pad, and play around with stick precision and deadzones. It’s conclusive enough, I just wish it didn’t sound more demanding for my gaming PC than playing Alan Wake 2 in 4K. Seriously, why is this such an intensive app to run?

Performance

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2's back buttons

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

I’ll say it, this controller suffers from a lack of novelty. At a certain point, you need to look at what rival peripheral brands are doing and adapt your product to meet them. Evolving doesn’t mean abandoning all the strengths of previous eSwaps, but a new generation should mean striving to innovate.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad gamepad by any means. It’s just not as good as other pro controllers that cost 10 bucks more. Nothing exemplifies this more than the back buttons, which, let’s face it, have never been the best. They’re slightly curved to cater to your grip, but they’re not ergonomically placed, they’re not easy to use, and their tiny size means I constantly slip off of them. 

You compare these with the ones found on Turtle Beach’s Stealth Ultra and Thrustmaster starts to look very behind the times. Turtle Beach went for an alternative placement style as well, one that’s designed for you to only use your middle fingers as opposed to your middle and ring fingers. Yet, they positioned them distinctly enough that you know exactly where they are and which ones you’re pressing without needing to think about it. Whether it’s Celeste, Blasphemous 2, or Hunt: Showdown, Thrustmaster’s buttons cause frequent slips and mis-presses for me. There are simply way better options out there for this kind of price. It’s a shame too, because the rest of the controller is very usable. 

The bumper buttons on the Thrustmaster eSwap X 2

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

The tall grips mean larger hands are catered to, the triggers are comfortable and the rumble has a sense of subtlety about it. Further, that robust build means you don’t feel the controller rattling at you in games that overuse vibration features.

I really like the sticks too, they have a looser tension than I’d usually go for, but they don’t flick quite as loosely as the Nacon Revolution 5 Pro, which takes this a bit far. The thumbsticks do allow for real accuracy in first-person shooters, as well as driving games, and I think that’s to be applauded.

The bumpers remain some of the best in class thanks to their ridged shape, but I wish the face buttons had a bit more “press” to them. Speed isn’t everything, and they feel a bit lifeless in single-player games as a result of their tiny actuation.

Should you buy the Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 Pro Controller 

Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 side by side with the eSwap XR from 2023

(Image credit: Future / Duncan Robertson)

Going back to our Skyrim metaphor, this is not the true sequel the next Elder Scrolls will be. This feels like yet another remaster of a product that’s getting long in the tooth. If you’re a fan of previous eSwap outings from Thrustmaster, you’re probably going to enjoy the X 2, especially the added convenience of USB-C. 

The pad deserves more praise than it gets for its accessibility. Being able to swap things around as freely as this creates a lot of scope for different needs. If you want a gaming controller to use for fairly relaxed experiences, or in driving games, you’ll have a winner on your hands here. There’s a lot to like about the eSwap’s build quality, lengthy grips, and comfortable sticks and triggers. 

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a competitive Esports controller for this amount of money, you’ll be better off elsewhere. Turtle Beach and PDP have options you should especially consider if back buttons are a priority for you. 

How we tested the Thrustmaster eSwap X 2 Pro Controller 

I used the Thrustmaster eSwap on PC and Xbox Series X, across a wide range of gaming genres to test its versatility and competitive potential. For platforming, I played a section of Celeste as well as Blasphemous 2. For first-person shooting, I flew around the zombie-infested swamps of Hunt: Showdown. For driving games, I revisited Forza Horizon 5. I closely compared my experience to the last time I tested a Thrustmaster controller, as well as other Xbox Series X controllers. 

For a full rundown on how we test the latest gaming tech, read our hardware policy at your own leisure. 


Looking to get more of the best Xbox Series X accessories? Check out the best Xbox Series X hard drive, and the best Xbox Series X headset.

Duncan Robertson
Hardware Editor

Ever since playing Journey at the age of 15, I’ve been desperate to cover video games for a living. After graduating from Edinburgh Napier University with a degree in Journalism, I contributed to the Scottish Games Network and completed an Editorial Internship over at Expert Reviews. Besides that, I’ve been managing my own YouTube channel and Podcast for the last 7 years. It’s been a long road, but all that experience somehow landed me a dream job covering gaming hardware. I’m a self-confessing PlayStation fanboy, but my experience covering the larger business and developer side of the whole industry has given me a strong knowledge of all platforms. When I’m not testing out every peripheral I can get my hands on, I’m probably either playing tennis or dissecting game design for an upcoming video essay. Now, I better stop myself here before I get talking about my favourite games like HUNT: Showdown, Dishonored, and Towerfall Ascension. Location: UK Remote