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Unplugged: Testing The Xbox Wireless Adapter For Windows

With the Xbox One entering its second year of existence, the basic Xbox One gamepad, as well as the new Xbox Elite Wireless Controller, can be used on the PC as an alternative way to play games as opposed to the traditional combination of keyboard and mouse. Developers have recognized the trend for some time and so created their games to suit both methods of control. But unlike the wireless connectivity of these controllers to the Xbox One console, they both required a wired connection on the PC.

This isn't a problem for the PC gamer as they're seated fairly close to the system. However, there is a crowd that doesn't want to deal with another set of wires on their builds. Just in time for the holidays, the company has something for them in the form of the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows, a wireless USB dongle that performs as intended, save for a few hiccups during setup and the fact that it works only on Windows 10.

Box Contents And Setup

The device comes in a small box with the dongle and a USB extender cable. Microsoft said to use the extender if the USB port housing the dongle doesn't face the controller or if the port is blocked by metallic objects. This way, the controller won't have to deal with any wireless interference.

The dongle has only one button, which activates the pairing process with a controller. A small light blinks to indicate that it's looking. Once the button is pressed on the dongle, users will need to press the bind button at the top to begin the connection. Overall, the entire setup shouldn't take more than a few minutes.

Or so I thought.

When I first inserted the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows (it's quite a long name isn't it?) into the USB port and pressed its button, I didn't see the small light blinking. I thought I had a dead USB port, or perhaps the dongle itself wasn't working properly. A quick look on the settings page revealed the answer: The system recognized the dongle but said that the driver for it was unavailable, meaning I couldn't use it.

This is strange, as the product has been out for quite some time now, and so I did some troubleshooting, including plugging it into different USB ports, telling the computer to forget the device, and even restarting the whole system.

A quick Google search revealed that I wasn't the only one who had this problem. There is a fix available through the Microsoft Catalog Update, but it works only on one browser -- Internet Explorer. I downloaded the driver, unzipped it, and then manually installed it through the Device Manager.

The entire process was a bit unorthodox, especially considering that something so simple didn't immediately work out of the box. There could be a variety of reasons for the issue, but the fact remains that the extra amount of effort required to get it going could turn some people away.

Performance

When you're done setting up the pairings, it's smooth sailing from there on out. I didn't notice any latency issues when the dongle was connected via the USB extender or directly to the port. Also, it detects when you don't use the controller for an extended period of time and automatically shuts down to save battery life, and you can turn it on again via the Xbox button on the controller (no need to keep pairing it over and over again).

The ability to connect eight controllers on one dongle is also impressive. Unfortunately, I don't have that many Xbox One controllers, so I just used the two in my possession. Both easily paired with the device, and I was able to easily switch controllers in the middle of any single player game.

Various add-ons to the controller are also recognized by the dongle, so you can hook up the company's headset adapter or even a third-party headset like the Astro A40 headset with the M80 Mixamp if you want to stream audio through the controller.

The Push To Windows 10

At $24.99, the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows is something to consider for those who prefer a wireless connection for gameplay, but otherwise a wired connection gets the job done (and you save $24.99). If you do get it, there is one caveat -- you need to upgrade to Windows 10.

Ever since its reveal, Microsoft has pushed hard on the Windows 10 marketing, even offering the new OS for free. Even the Xbox division emphasized the marriage of Xbox and Windows 10 with a PC app, streaming and cross-platform gameplay.

Many users have switched to Windows 10, but there are still people who held their ground and stayed with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. For them, this new dongle is out of the question, but they can still enjoy playing on a gamepad. The old Xbox 360 works with the three older systems, if you still want a wireless controller experience.

As for the Xbox One controller, you can still use it on Windows 7 and later systems with a wired connection. Whatever your choice may be, you're not going to miss out on playing games on the PC with a controller.

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Rexly Peñaflorida II is a Contributor at Tom’s Hardware. He writes news on tech and hardware, but mostly focuses on gaming news. As a Chicagoan, he believes that deep dish pizza is real pizza and ketchup should never be on hot dogs. Ever. Also, Portillo’s is amazing.

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