Ding Dongle! Xbox Controller Finally Adding Bluetooth

Oh aye, video game announcements are dandy with their noises and colours and all that, but what will you play them on? Hardware. So while it’s not the flashest of E3 news, it’s still worth mentioning that Microsoft have announced an updated Xbox One wireless controller. The important bit here is that it’ll come with Bluetooth support which means an end – FINALLY – to Microsoft charging ridiculous prices for dongles to use wireless Xbontrollers on PC. Twenty flipping quid they’ve charged!

Oh, and MS are starting an online shop letting folks customise Xbone controllers with all sorts of garish colour combinations – like some phones, sneakers etc. offer.

Microsoft say the new pad has textured grip “for enhanced comfort”, a new thumbstick design which “significantly reduces wear to help maintain accuracy and smooth rotation over the life of the controller”, and support for good ol’ Bluetooth (though this will require Windows 10, like everything they do now).

The new wireless controller will arrive with the Xbox One S, an updated version of Microsoft’s console, but will be sold separately for $59.99 too. It’s not a major overhaul but hey, the Xbontroller is a fine gamepad so a refresh is probably good for people looking for a pad? A good gamepad is a good peripheral to possess for a number of the fine games we can enjoy on our personal computers.

PlayStation controllers have improved in recent years, I know, but a wired Xbone is still my controller of choice. I prefer the triggers, the handfeel, and how most Windows games show Xbox button prompts. I know nothing about non-console pads, mind; are there any you’d recommend to your fellow reader?

Oh! And if you want an extra-fancy new one, Microsoft are launching the Xbox Design Lab for bespoke controllers. For $79.99 – an extra $20 – you can make a lime green controller with purple triggers, an orange d-pad, black thumbsticks and… other hideous options. First orders will start arriving in September, though initially it’s limited to the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico. More countries will follow in 2017, they say.

I do not think I would plump for a fancy controller. Sure, I did customise my phone (black face, black case, bright blue camera bezel obvs) but only because it didn’t cost extra. My dedication to my personal brand’s colour palette is not quite that strong.

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  1. donkeyspaceman says:

    I think I’m in the minority here, but I’ve always felt like the Xbone controller was a step back from the 360 controller in a lot of ways. I really dislike the hinged bumpers (I often find myself unable to press them down properly because my finger’s on the hinge), the texture and shape is not so good (hard edges on the grips and matte finish), and the “home” button no longer indicates which controller belongs to which player.

    I own a handful of Xbone controllers and still prefer to use my 360 one whenever I can. I think the PS4 controller is the best right now, personally (even though I really didn’t care for the PS3 controller), but it’s more of a pain to get connected on PC.

    • Nacery says:

      Microsoft fixed the hinge issue in the 2nd version (the one with the 3.5 jack)

      • donkeyspaceman says:

        really? combine that with that with this supposed “enhanced comfort” grip and I might just have to give these a second look.

    • blur says:

      Nah, I’m with you. The PS4 controller is sweet. Combine it with DS4Windows, and you can use the trackpack as a mouse trackpad, map button presses to trackpad swipes of various directions, and customize all sorts of other things.

      • Tinotoin says:

        Out of interest, do you connect your DS4 wired or wirelessly? I can’t seem to connect mine wirelessly – I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the MS wireless receiver would work, seeing as DS4Windows essentially tricks the PC into thinking your PS pad is a 360 pad.

        • blur says:

          Wirelessly when it’s charged, wired when it’s not.

          One thing to maybe check if it won’t work over bluetooth is the standard of whatever dongle you’re using (or your mobo). I can’t pair the DS4 to my mobo, as it’s about six years old, and uses bluetooth rev 2.1, where the DS4 needs bluetooth 4, I think?

          There are occasionally some other weirdnesses that happen – the controller will connect, then turn off after a second or two; or it won’t connect at all. You’ve got to get a little funky with drivers if that’s happening, but it’s manageable. Nowadays I just hit the PS button, open DS4Windows, and away I go.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aitrus says:

      The resistance on the thumbsticks is awful compared to the 360’s. The Xbox One controllers take like half (or less) of the force the 360s did to get the sticks all the way to the edge.

      • fish99 says:

        To me that’s a good thing. The stiff sticks on the 360 pad always felt weird to me versus the DS3/4.

    • sharkh20 says:

      Ergonomically, they feel so weird. They force my fingers into such a weird position behind the controller. It’s like the forgot to add room for my middle fingers to sit if I want to press the shoulder buttons with my index fingers.

  2. Agnosticus says:

    Win 10 only? Thanks, but no thanks!

    • Nacery says:

      Maybe it will be temporally just like happened with the wireless dongle.

    • Sir_Deimos says:

      Sorry, but this attitude should have died months ago. Windows 10 is a perfectly fine OS, since installing I have never thought about going back to 7. I haven’t run into any compatibility issues with hardware or software, the upgrade process was deceptively simple (although I do wish it allowed for a clean install option), and my lady friend enjoys a lot of the new features.

      When it was first released and there were plenty of bugs left to squash, hesitating to upgrade was the smart move – but now this is just an ignorant thing to say. Especially with Microsoft announcing a lot of games on W10 that would have been XBOX exclusives even just a year ago, now is the time to upgrade. I hope for your wallet’s sake that you do it while it’s still free.

      • fish99 says:

        I still have some hardware that never got W10 drivers and has issues, namely my novation nio 2|4 USB audio interface. Also W10 doesn’t bother starting up the wi-fi on my laptops half the time (known issue).

        Don’t assume that because you’re not having issue that no one else is.

        • Agnosticus says:

          This ofc and they are going down the apple route, making it a closed environment (slowly but surely), regulating which hardware (via drivers) and which software (via Win Store) to use. They can even disable software on your computer, which should rings some alarm bells.

          And then there are those privacy issues…personally I’m hoping that the devs choose to prefer Vulkan over DX12 and that the PC stays a relativly open environment, which should be in the consumers best interest one would think…

          • jamesgecko says:

            The reason your hardware won’t work in Windows 10 is almost certainly because the manufacturer didn’t sign their drivers. Microsoft started requiring (not just strongly suggesting) this a few years ago; long overdue. It’s a security measure. It’s a good thing. It lops off one more avenue that malware can use to screw with you.

            Driver signing has been a thing for a DECADE. Complain to your manufacturer, it’s all on them.

        • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

          To be fair, that’s a pretty old interface that didn’t even have a W7 x64 driver for a very long time. There doesn’t appear to have been a driver update since 2011.

          My Pro-Tools Digi 001 still requires I keep a Windows XP PC around as Digidesign didn’t update the drivers, but that’s not MS’ fault.

          Finally, did you try a W7 driver with W10 – I managed to run my MOTU on W10 just after release with W7 drivers no problem.

      • Aerothorn says:

        Whether Windows 10 is a “perfectly fine OS” isn’t really the issue. I run Windows 10 and am mostly happy with it, though it still has some serious bugs to this day. But that doesn’t matter, because I bought my Xbox One controller to go with my Steam Link, and it can’t work wirelessly with that because Steam Link doesn’t run Windows 10. And this is the real issue – there are a world of devices out there and my controller should work on more than one of them.

      • Harvey says:

        My goodness, what an arrogant thing to say. On a related note, have you ever noticed that when someone starts off a sentence with “Sorry” they generally go on to say something that they really aren’t sorry for?

        Put another way, if you know you have to apologize in advance, why even say it?

        • Premium User Badge

          phuzz says:

          I don’t think it’s arrogance to point out that Win 10 works fine for most people, when the prevailing narrative in comments is that it’s the worst software ever and will make your computer explode if you install it.

          It’s like nobody ever used Vista, now that was some garbage software with bugger all driver support.

          • jamesgecko says:

            Vista had a rough launch, but everyone loved Windows 7, which was basically just Vista SP2.

        • Kittim says:

          The written word is a bit more slippery than the spoken word.

          Take for example “Sorry, you’re going to die in a week.”
          The person delivering that statement could be your mother, if so it’s pretty likely she is sorry.

          On the other hand “Sorry, you’re a douche.” well, you get the idea.

  3. Kaldaien says:

    I’m not entirely sure why Microsoft did this. WiFi Direct is lower latency than Bluetooth. If you don’t want to buy the dongle, there is always micro USB.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      What’s the power consumption of WiFi Direct?
      There’s also the potential issue of your WiFi Internet connection making the controller unresponsive due to interference…

  4. fiah says:

    I’m thinking this would be pretty cool for android phones, isn’t linux support for the xbox controllers a lot better than for the playstation controllers?

  5. sear says:

    I wonder if I can get a free replacement. My Xbox One controller is almost unusable now because the USB connector for it is so flimsy. It was clearly never intended to be used in wired mode for long.

    • gunny1993 says:

      You sure it’s not the cable? I only say this as i’ve recently noticed that some micro usb cables are slightly shorter (I mean the metal male connector) than others which (depending on the device) makes the cable fall out more easily.

      • Person of Interest says:

        It’s the controller. I have one, and even after babying the USB port/cable (rarely disconnecting, never wrapping or bending), it’s failing after light use (100 hours?) and will disconnect at the slightest nudge. I’ve never seen such a chintzy connector. It’s simply not made to be plugged in while the controller is in use.

        I prefer the Xbox One controller over the 360 controller in every way, but can’t recommend it anymore. It needs a breakaway cable like the 360 had for strain relief.

  6. Ksempac says:

    I’m so sad there doesn’t seem to have a wired option.

    I always get Xbox360/XboxOne controllers for my PC* but i always go for the wired ones… I would be all over that customization thing if i could get a wired one.

    *I don’t recommend theses controllers i don’t think they are very good, but i use them just to be sure to avoid compatibility issues, since apparently, that’s the one controller every PC game seem to be play-tested with.

    • ElectricBanjo says:

      It’s both wireless and wired. Just plug a Micro USB cable in the top and go. The Dualshock 4 also does this (and you can use the DS4 seamlessly on Windows with the program “DS4Windows.”)

  7. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    As somebody who recently gave a DS4 the ol’ one-two-fuck-you into a stool I can absolutely say that Bluetooth for PC controllers is a bad idea. Unless you have a really good Bluetooth receiver (as in, not a dongle) I would recommend just going with a USB cable. I bought a really nice braided USB with a snug connector and so far I’ve had a much better time with the DS4.

    So unless MS have some magic up their sleeve I can’t see it being much different. Also, does this thing STILL require batteries?

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      No, it’s powered by blood, salty comments, and rage-quitting.

  8. April March says:

    This is good news, but instead of buying a dongle just buy a wired 360 controller. It’s actually cheaper, plug-n-play on both PC and Xbox and requires neither batteries nor charging.

  9. CurseYouAll says:

    For my PC gaming I bought the latest version with the 3.5mm plug and the improved shoulder buttons, and am using it with an Anker USB cable from Amazon. Can’t be happier.

  10. tonicer says:

    Erm wrong website?! I thought this was a cool pc gaming website … not a elitist console gamer website.

  11. yogibbear says:

    Is this custom controller stuff US only? Because I had to use a VPN browser to access the website as otherwise I’m just redirected to regional Xbox site with no links to custom stuff.

  12. Raoul Duke says:

    So doesn’t this just require you to buy a bluetooth dongle instead?

    I mean, most non-laptop PCs don’t have bluetooth built into them, do they? Do most people even use wifi on their gaming rigs?

  13. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I know it’s very divisive but I do love my Steam controller.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      Yeah, so how do they compare?
      (And also with the PlayStation contollers?)

      • mavrik says:

        IMO build quality of both 360 and One controllers is light years ahead of Steam Controller. The Steam controller is very plasticky and cheap looking.

        Also 360/One controllers are supported by default in pretty much all modern games, which means that they work without any additional configuration and all on-screen prompts and help actually correspond to the buttons on the controller itself. Also the controls themselves (sensitivity, mappings, etc.) are built with 360/One controllers in mind, which makes it more pleasant to use for the games that support them.

        Steam controller wins out for games that don’t have controller support however.

      • mavrik says:

        As for playstation controllers, PS4 controller is significantly better than PS3 one and it’s fine as well. It’s not supported out of the box anywhere though, so you need to use additional mapping software to make it work fine with PC games. It did tend to annoy me that the on-screen prompts are different than the buttons on the controller (since you’re getting 360/One prompts on PC mostly) which is a problem with modern QTE filled games :P

  14. Carra says:

    Before I had my X-360 controller I used a generic €10 one. And it didn’t work in half the games I played. I would start up Dead Space and my character would keep on spinning.

    My X-360 controller? It has worked without problems in every game I’ve played. So, my advice would be to spend a bit more, you’ll use it for at least five years anyway.

  15. MadMinstrel says:

    Meh. I’m perfectly happy with my Steam Controller, thankyouverymuch. Whenever I pick up my old XBone controller now, it just feels so dated and imprecise.

    Yeah, it was a steep learning curve to climb at first, but once you’ve climbed it, it’s really quite comfy here.

  16. Det. Bullock says:

    I essentially keep my xbox360 controller as backup for the games that require it, I originally bought it to play MAME games on my laptop without breaking the keyboard but since I bought an arcade stick and finished Dark Souls it sits in a box waiting for the next console port with horrible keyboard and mouse implementation I might buy.

  17. Bobtree says:

    I’m very happy with my DS4, bought for around $35 during holiday sales a couple years ago. This week I gave $5 to InputMapper, because their support has been great and donating shuts off the ads.

    The one issue I had with the DS4 is that the serial number sticker on the back started rubbing off, so I put some tape over it.

  18. Kittim says:

    I’d love a wired controller with micro switches for the shoulder, trigger, A, B, X, Y, back and start buttons and the d-pad.

    Does such a thing exist?