The Xbox 360 chatpad never really worked that well on Windows PCs. For whatever reason, Microsoft never produced any official drivers. Unofficial drivers did eventually appear, only to be abandoned by their authors rather than polished into a truly usable state. Despite the 360 chatpad being unusable in Windows 10 and barely usable in Windows 8, we still get questions about the device over on our article here. Just a few weeks ago we reviewed the Xbox One controller on our Windows 10 gaming PC. You can read the review here. Just like the Xbox 360 controller, there’s now an official chatpad for the Xbox One controller too. Unlike with the 360 pad however, this time Microsoft have provided some official drivers, though these drivers only work under Windows 10. So just how useful is the Xbox One chatpad for PC gamers?, read on to find out.
Xbox One Chatpad – Thumbs up for thumbs down?
Just like the Xbox One controller, the Xbox One chatpad ships in an unremarkable green box, with the familiar Microsoft/Xbox One branding on it. Inside the box, you get the chatpad itself, a headset with microphone (not reviewed here) and a small USB cable. The chatpad clips firmly to the Xbox One pad and feels very sturdy. It adds a little weight to the controller but not enough to make it uncomfortable to hold. The included USB cable is too short to be used for gaming, but is included because the Xbox One controller requires a firmware update before you can use the chatpad, either in wired or wireless mode. You can do this on an Xbox One console or on a Windows 10 PC by downloading the “Xbox Accessories” app from the Windows store. Simply attach the chatpad to your Xbox One controller, attach the controller to your PC and download and run the Xbox Accessories app. This app should detect the controller and update the firmware automatically. If it does not, you might need to switch drivers to the latest available Microsoft ones. After performing the update and checking for the very latest Xbox One controller drivers, our chatpad worked perfectly and we even had the Z Axis mapped correctly on the controller (as per the old 360 pad).
The new Xbox one chatpad is similar in layout to the old Xbox 360 model. The spaces between the keys are now gone, but this doesn’t seem to affect typing accuracy. The layout is very similar, though the left and right arrows have been replaced with buttons labelled “X1” and “X2”. There are also new buttons for muting the microphone, adjusting the volume and various other functions. We’ve not yet tested the headset with any online PC games but intend to do so in the near future. Pressing any key on the chatpad causes the whole keyboard to light up, great for those of you that like to play in darkness or low light. As with the 360 chatpad, there are orange and green function buttons that, when activated, allow you to type special characters.
Press for nothing
One of the great things about the tragically unfinished Xbox 360 chatpad drivers was the way that key bindings could be changed and edited. While the F1 to F12 function keys are missing from the chatpad, using the Xbox 360 chatpad super drivers, it was possible to assign the orange function button and 1 to be F1, for instance. By editing these bindings, you could set up a lot of in-game functionality, such as screen recording or overlays, from the chatpad. Furthermore, one of the function keys would put the 360 controller into mouse emulation mode, allowing the mouse pointer to be moved with the controllers analogue stick. This is fantastic for navigating a games menus or even Windows itself while using the PC on your television. Sadly, at least for the time being, there’s no such functionality available with the Xbox One chatpad. It’s currently not even possible to change the function of the X1 and X2 keys on the pad, they simply do nothing at all under Windows 10. The same is true of the function keys located on the left of the pad. Indeed, what we get is only the most basic functionality. This is a blow since we had hoped to have an easy way to activate Nvidia Shadowplay, Evolve and/or the Steam overlay without needing to reach for the PCs keyboard. We can only hope the homebrew community comes up with a solution and adds this much needed extra functionality in.
As it stands right now, it’s difficult to recommend the Xbox One Chatpad to Windows gamers. While it’s nice that Microsoft did give us some working drivers, it’s clear that only the very minimum of functionality has been included. Like too many of Microsoft’s gaming related endeavours for Windows, the chatpad comes across as a half-hearted effort that could and should have been way better.