The Xbox One Stereo Headset and a related Stereo Headset Adapter aren't the only new Xbox One hardware accessories to ship this month: Microsoft has also issued an Xbox One Media Remote, which is a must-have for anyone intending to use this console as their all-in-one living room media solution.
In many ways, there isn't much to say about this remote. Microsoft went through three iterations of their Xbox 360 Media Remote before they finally got it right with the S-styled version it shipped in 2011. That remote has been a mainstay in my living room ever since, but the Xbox One version is even better.
You don't need to pick up this remote to see the biggest difference between it and its predecessor: Where the Xbox 360 Media Remote is tall and thin, the Xbox One version is short and stubby. It achieves this look by eschewing the number keypad, which we've certainly never used, and other superfluous button.
In the hand, it's clear that Microsoft really thought through the design here. It's thicker with a deeper curved base, so it feels better. Adding to this is a delightfully tacky surface. It's really nice. (On the flipside, it doesn't sit as well on the table, and wobbles a bit when you put it down.)
The remote features backlit keys, too, nice for dark rooms on movie night. But in a somewhat impressive move, the backlighting actually comes on when you pick up the remote. You don't have to tap a button first.
The remote is powered by two AAA batteries, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say I fussed with the back panel for a bit before I figured out how to open it. (It's just a simple slide to open thing.)
And it's IR-based so it doesn't pair with your Xbox One and instead requires line of sight to work properly. We've had no issues with it: in a quick run-through of purchased Xbox Video content and Blu-Ray movies, the remote worked well. I also tested it with Xbox Music and Netflix, and everything works as expected, including variable speed forward and reverse, on-screen selection and so on.
One thing to know: the remote can't power on the Xbox One, like the Xbox 360 remote could. Naturally, Microsoft expects you to simply say "Xbox, on" as you walk in the room, so no complaints there. (Update: Turns out a long press on the Xbox button does this; I guess I wasn't holding it down long enough. You can turn it off this way as well. --Paul)
At $25, the Xbox One Media Remote is a no-brainer. This is a neat little accessory.