Xbox Design Lab controller review: After 6 years, it now ships to Singapore

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·Senior Games & Tech Producer
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An orange coloured Xbox controller with custom orange thumbsticks and white buttons on a black patterned surface from the Xbox Design Lab. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
Xbox Design Lab allows you to customise your Xbox controller with the colours that you like. (Image: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

For those who don't know it, Xbox Design Lab is a premium way to purchase a custom Xbox controller.

You are able to choose and custom the colours for almost every part of your controller, and even have the option to engrave a name or a gamertag on the controller if you wish to.

Launched in 2016, the Xbox Design Lab was temporarily halted for the first time in October 2020, before resuming production again on 17 June 2021.

This first suspension was totally understandable as Microsoft's Xbox Series X and S were launched in November 2020, allowing Microsoft to transition the Design Lab for next-gen controller customisation.

But there were some serious teething issues with placing an order during this period.

Some users have reportedly had their controller orders cancelled, and there weren't any options for users in Asia to purchase them.

The Design Lab was then mysteriously taken offline again sometime earlier in 2022.

We at Yahoo Gaming SEA were surprised when we were offered the opportunity to have a look at the newly updated website for the Design Lab that was to be relaunched on 10 June 2022, simply because these custom controllers were never available to us in this region, even six years after launch.

Microsoft then informed us that the new Design Lab will be available to 11 new countries not previously served: Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

We were also given the opportunity to then create a controller for ourselves to test. In the age where you can customise keyboards, covers and basically so many different aspects of PCs and consoles, having a custom controller would seem like a good idea.

The current website is pretty straightforward and easy to navigate.

A screenshot of Microsoft's Xbox Design Lab showcasing the colours that are available to the public for purchase. (Screenshot: Microsoft)
The website allows you too choose the colours of your liking for each part. (Screenshot: Microsoft Xbox Design Lab)

You are still able to mix and match the various preset colours for most of the parts on your controller, while also having the option to add rubber grips to the handles, if you are a sweaty gamer.

There are also more premium colour options for some parts, like the triggers, where you can choose metallic colours instead of solid one. You're also still able to engrave text on the controller, if you wish to.

To help you visualise what your final product will look like before you confirm your order, the website is able to render shots of your controller from all angles.

Be warned, though, all these extra goodies will significantly rack the price of your controller up.

By adding metallic buttons, grips and getting an engraving, the custom controller we put together cost S$130.

A screenshot of the various angles of a purchasable orange custom controller from Xbox Design Lab. (Screenshot: Microsoft)
The website will show you a render of your controller before you place an order. (Screenshot: Microsoft Xbox Design Lab)

For comparison, the basic Xbox Series X controller retails at S$90. If you really try, you could get a custom controller from the website at that price, too, without paying a cent extra.

Was the S$40 of customisations on the custom controller that I ordered worth it? We'll get to that.

Shipping took about two weeks from the time I placed my order.

The controller was shipped in a pretty secure shipping box, with a lot of foam protecting controller packaging.

The packaging itself is really nothing special, and just feels like a generic Xbox controller packaging that says it's from the Xbox Design Lab.

An orange Xbox controller with its white packaging on a grey coloured cushion. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The custom controller is shipped in generic packaging. (Image: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

In the box, there was only the controller and a pair of AA batteries. There is no USB cable included.

Up to this day, I still do not understand why Xbox doesn't include rechargeable batteries with their controllers, but I guess it's a "cost" issue.

But for those that want to use this controller in wired form, you better have a spare USB-C to USB-A cable in hand.

The controller itself... is just a typical Xbox controller. It really doesn't feel any different from a standard Xbox controller that you can buy off the shelf.

But this also means that the controller feels sturdy, and there are no obvious rattles or flaws in the construction. It functions well, and works great out of the box.

As for the colour customisations, it does look pretty accurate to what the render looked like.

The top of an orange Xbox controller on its white packaging against a grey sofa. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The chosen colours on the controller are accurate, for the most part. (Image: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

That said, the extra S$40 worth of customisations does feel pretty steep, especially when you consider that the engraving is small, and the "metallic" buttons are just coated with metallic spray rather being actual metal.

I wish I had the option to resize and reposition my engraving. Being able to place a tiny text at only one section of the controller doesn't really scream "customisation" to me.

I also wished Microsoft had the option to add various items that you might need together with the controller.

I personally would have liked to have the option to add a USB cable, since it doesn't come with one, and other things like an official licensed Xbox battery while I'm at it.

The back of an orange Xbox controller on a black patterned surface. (Photo: Yahoo Gaming SEA)
The build quality is excellent on the custom controller. (Image: Yahoo Gaming SEA)

But, like I mentioned earlier, you can still customise a unique controller look without paying a single cent more than $90, if you do not choose the "premium" options.

All in all, it's great that we have the option in Singapore to finally able to customise our controllers, but there isn't anything special that you are missing out on if you are living in a country that Microsoft doesn't ship to.

But with the expansion to the 11 new countries, Microsoft may add more to this list in the future, and could include other regions in Southeast Asia or more.

For now, if you're in Taiwan, you're in luck. Microsoft are looking to open the Design Lab to Taiwan sometime before September 2022.

Dominic loves tech and games. When he is not busy getting headshotted in VALORANT or watercooling anything he sees, he does some pro wrestling.

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