Intermittent disconnections, distorted audio and hours upon hours of endless troubleshooting. Hundreds of complaints, needless expenditure and not a single solution in sight. Welcome to the nightmare that is the Xbox One controller – a controller that isn’t fit for purpose.

Hey, Big Spender!

Did you know Microsoft spent around $100 million on research and development when creating the Xbox One controller? It’s the kind of crazy figure Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil would throw about, but that’s apparently how much money went into perfecting and refining the already strong foundations set by the Xbox 360’s near-perfect pad.

You’d think, then, that after spending such a phenomenal amount of cash, Microsoft would have considered how the Xbox One controller performs in a typical home environment. You know, surrounded by Wi-Fi signals, near mobile phones or heaven forbid, other devices that operate on a 2.5 GHz spectrum (hint: that’s practically everything under the sun).

Well, you thought wrong, because it seems like Microsoft may have overlooked this common scenario. And if you’ve experienced the same issue that is plaguing so many users since the Xbox One launched, and one that has personally induced premature ageing due to the sheer frustration of it all, you may be wondering exactly what Microsoft spent that money on. I know I do.

Connecting…

To put it simply, there’s a fundamental, systematic flaw with how the Xbox One controller communicates with the Xbox One – or in the majority of cases, fails to do so consistently. If you use a headset and Microsoft’s proprietary headset adapter (thanks for that), it’s more than likely you’ll experience intermittent periods of skipping, stuttering and crackling audio, as the controller’s connection to the console is attacked by even the smallest wave of interference. This has been happening to me ever since they released the headset adapter back in March 2014, and it’s opened my eyes (and ears), to the Xbox One’s biggest flaw.

But alas, stuttering audio may be annoying – like really, really annoying. But what happens when the controller decides to disconnect completely? You guessed it: anger, dismay and panic as you lose control of your game for a couple of crucial seconds. And that’s when you either wind up dead, a goal down, or stuck spinning around in circles like a total loon as the controller attempts to reconnect, and your opponent takes advantage. Thanks, Microsoft. Thanks a lot.

Remember when that used to happen on the PlayStation 3, Wii or the Xbox 360? Heck, even the GameCube? Nope, neither do I. Because it literally never happened to me after God knows how many hours of gaming during the last generation – unless the controllers ran out of batteries, of course. The Wii U’s GamePad, which streams audio and video wirelessly, doesn’t suffer the same problem either. But maybe that’s because Nintendo had the foresight to run the controller over 5 GHz, a frequency that isn’t nearly as congested as 2.5 GHz.

In 2015, it’s a disgrace that Microsoft has allowed this game-breaking issue to continue. And the only way to circumvent the problem entirely is by playing wired to the console. Huzzah! Retro gaming FTW!

In…ter…fer…ence…

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Why don’t you just tackle the interference? Surely that way the problems will be solved?”

Ah, such a young naive soul. If only it was that simple.

Determining the cause of interference is like playing pin the tail on the donkey.

You see, determining the cause of interference is like playing pin the tail on the donkey. You’re going in blind, but this time no one’s guiding you in the right direction. And lo and behold, someone’s removed the damn poster, too.

The Xbox One controller, and it’s susceptible frequency, is one of life’s many mysteries I’m afraid. Some people believe it runs on Wi-Fi direct, which is does not. Others believe it operates on the 2.5 GHz frequency, more than likely. And an old man with an eye-patch once told me it has it’s own, unique radio signal. Nevertheless, it’s the equivalent of asking whether any one has spotted the Loch Ness monster, or if the Illuminati is real.

Don’t Try This At Home

It doesn’t affect everyone, clearly. But a quick Google search (heck, use Bing if you’re that way inclined) will bring up a multitude of forums, pleas and prayers for Microsoft to fix the issue. I myself have been actively engaged on the Xbox Forums, trying to troubleshoot for others, while providing information for Microsoft’s support team. After sending audio clips, detailing all my findings and even spending money beyond my means, Microsoft’s support has done nothing, absolutely nothing to participate in solving the issue, other than repeating a load of tired suggestions such as, “have you tried a different controller?”

To put things into perspective, and perhaps to provide some clarity for others, here’s what I’ve tried. Get ready for some serious bullet points (in no particular order) and an insight into how I slowly fell into the depths of insanity.

  • Updated the controller to the latest settings.
  • Replaced the console.
  • Hard reset the console.
  • Joined the preview program.
  • Left the preview program.
  • Turned off and unplugged the router.
  • Turned off all 2.5 GHz devices.
  • Turned off all 5 GHz devices.
  • Used the Xbox One wired to a powerline adapter.
  • Re-synced using Kinect.
  • Re-synced using the console.
  • Re-synced using a USB cable.
  • Used the Play and Charge kit.
  • Used disposable batteries.
  • Used re-chargeable batteries.
  • Unplugged Kinect.
  • Tried Dolby, DTS, Stereo over HDMI.
  • Tried using bitstream audio over an optical cable.
  • Moved all games on to an external hard drive.
  • Placed the Xbox One high up.
  • Placed the Xbox One low down.
  • Removed all devices from the Xbox One’s vicinity.
  • Tried the Xbox One in a different room.
  • Tried the Xbox One on a different TV.
  • Turned off all power to the lights and sockets at the main circuit breaker.
  • Unplugged every device except the Xbox One and TV.
  • Tried four different Xbox One controllers.
  • Used the Xbox One at someone else’s house.
  • Renamed the console.
  • Used different headsets and another Stereo Headset Adapter.
  • Purchased HDMI cables with ferrite cores.
  • Replaced the television cable.
  • Repositioned the Power Supply Unit.
  • Bought a Windows Phone (the sign of a desperate man).
  • Removed almost every single piece of furniture or miscellaneous objects from the Xbox One’s location (that was a fun day).
  • Played in pitch black darkness.
  • Sacrificed a lamb spray-painted green in the name of Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox.
  • Stayed perfectly still, like a corpse with rigor mortis.
  • Stripped naked incase my clothes were causing interference.
  • Cried full blown man tears in front of Kinect as I begged it to help me.
  • Slept with Kinect.

Note: the only thing that stops any disconnects and audio interference, as I mentioned above, is playing wired to the console.

After a total spend of £198.94, and an embarrassing amount of time wasted, I’ve finally admitted defeat. To make matters worse, Microsoft has just revealed a new controller, one that forgoes the need for a headset adapter entirely, squeezing acidic lemon juice all over my open wounds and Spartan stomping all over my broken heart. That being said, I’m not convinced this will fix the issue, as the fact still remains that the headset will be tethered to the controller, which means that interference could still cause massive damage. But if they’ve changed the way it communicates with the console? Well, there might be a glimmer of hope after all.

Sega Solitude

When I’m lying on my death bed, one thought will spring to mind: why didn’t Microsoft use a stronger frequency for their controller!? However, as the light begins to shine, and I take my first step towards those pearly gates, I will be content in the knowledge that I will be free of controller disconnects and interference once and for all. Heaven only has Dreamcasts, don’t you know.

UPDATE: If you’ve been periodically checking this post for any news on whether I’ve managed to fix this problem then I have some bad news: I haven’t been able to. The interference still occurs, and I even bought the Xbox One Elite console which also suffers from this issue. I decided to save up for a pair of Astro A50s, and because they operate independently from the controller (unless you’re using chat), the audio has been flawless. The only thing I had to do was stop my router from broadcasting 5Ghz as this is the channel the Astro’s use. If you’ve managed to sort this issue, please leave a comment below!