One of the cool things about the official Xbox Series X/S wireless controllers – if we’re using a dramatically expanded definition of the word “cool” – is that they can pair to both the console and a Bluetooth-enabled PC or laptop, then switch between both sources with a double-tap or hold of the pairing button. In what could be good news for owners of older, Xbox One-era wireless controllers, Microsoft are now rolling out a firmware update that brings this same quick-switch functionality to the more aged pads.
The announcement post specifically names “Xbox One controllers with Bluetooth support, [the] Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2, and Xbox Adaptive Controllers” are compatible hardware. Once the update is installed, it should be possible to connect the controller between to both a host device using the Xbox Wireless protocol (i.e. an Xbox) and a second Bluetooth source, i.e. your PC or laptop. Once both are connected, double-tapping the pairing button will switch between the two almost instantly.
Obviously you can’t play games on two devices at once, but this could be handy for, say, playing on a gaming laptop while using your Xbox to stream TV in the background. Or just finishing a game session on console and immediately starting another on PC without having to manually re-pair? Either way, it’s nice that older wireless Xbox controllers are getting the upgrade; it’s not too hard to imagine Microsoft keeping it as a Series X/S controller exclusive so folks with multiple game machines are pressured to upgrade their pad. And support for the more inclusive Xbox Adaptive Controller is always welcome.
However, the firmware update isn’t available to everyone yet. It’s currently part of the Xbox Insider Program, which is essentially a giant beta test for upcoming Xbox features. It’s free to join, and you can do so on PC by installing the Xbox Insider Hub app from the Microsoft Store, but if you do so just to update your wireless controller, remember that the firmware won’t be the finished article.
Demo of the new “double tap to switch devices” feature in action.— James Shields (@shieldsjames) September 17, 2021
Making it easy to switch between the devices you play Xbox on: console, PC, mobile, etc. pic.twitter.com/4F6zT1Wwao
Hopefully any bugs are quickly stamped upon and the firmware can get a general release, because it does sound like a significant direct upgrade, and for a generation of controllers that’s likely to be far more common amongst PC players than the new Series X/S models. Connecting a PS5 controller to your PC is easy enough, but Sony’s effort lacks any kind of quick-switch smarts.