Back in June, Microsoft announced that it would bring its stellar Xbox One wireless controller to Windows, just as it did previously with the Xbox 360 controller. Good news, game fans: That controller is now available, and I spent some time playing PC games last night to see how well it works.
I know, it's a tough job. But someone has to do it.
The Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows costs $59.95, which is exactly the same price as a standard Xbox One Wireless Controller. And since the Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows comes with both a standard Xbox One wireless controller and a USB cable, you are naturally thinking, what the heck, I can just grab the Windows version and get a free USB cable. (And it's a crazy-long 9-foot cable, at that.)
But don't do that, at least if you intend to use this controller with an Xbox One: What's missing is the controller battery. When you buy the standard controller, you get a battery (but no cable). But when you buy the Windows controller, you get the USB cable, but no battery.
Why Microsoft doesn't just sell a single controller package that includes both was initially unclear to me, but it's important to understand what you're getting here. The Windows "version" of the Xbox One controller—and, again, it's really just a standard Xbox One wireless controller sans the battery—is aimed at Windows users, where you will leave the USB cable connected, not for charging—again, no battery—but rather for general use.
I feel like I need to be even clearer. Yes, you can buy a battery, or get one as part of the $25 Xbox One Play and Charge Kit (which also includes a USB cable). But the battery is superfluous to Windows, since Windows cannot work with a wireless Xbox One controller; it has to be plugged in via USB. Which of course explains why Microsoft doesn't just sell a single controller package that includes both the battery and the cable. Windows users can't use the battery.
Fortunately, using the Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows is a lot simpler than explaining how it differs from a standard Xbox One wireless controller. So hold on to your hats, this is how it works.
You plug it in. And it just works.
You won't even see this window normally
I know, that sounds a bit superficial. But the drivers for the Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows are on Windows Update and will download and install automatically the first time you plug in the controller. (I did this in Windows 8.1, but it also works with Windows 7.) You can "configure" the controller via the normal—and delightfully old-school—Game Controllers control panel if you want. But there's not much to do. Again, it just works.
To test the controller, I fired up Halo: Spartan Assault on my Surface Pro 3 since I'm familiar with the game and had previously played it with an Xbox 360 controller.
No surprises here: After configuring it to work with the controller instead of touch or keyboard/mouse, I jumped right in and started destroying the Covenant. Works great.
The Xbox One Controller + Cable for Windows is available on Amazon.com and from the Microsoft Store and other retail locations online and in the real world, though "available" may not be the right term as it's currently out of stock in many places. I assume that supplies will be replenished soon.