2015 brought new hardware to the Xbox One platform as part of Microsoft’s continuing measures to reassure players their commitment to gamers was a strong as ever. After the launch of both the Elite console and controller the long awaited chatpad accessory has finally arrived too.
Bearing a similarity to its Xbox 360 equivalent, the chatpad is a miniature keyboard designed to snap into the base of a controller. Through the use of two coloured function buttons, you are able to enter all of the characters consistent with the console’s own virtual keyboard. With the accessory’s position at the bottom of the controller you tend to use it with your thumbs much like the keyboards on mobile phones.
The package contents consist not only of the chatpad accessory, but also a micro USB cable and a headset sporting the 3.5mm plug supported by recent controllers including the Elite. A sticker on the chatpad advises that a firmware update will be needed which the USB cable is useful for as some controllers cannot perform the update wirelessly. The console will even prompt you the moment you connect it and thankfully the process itself is quick and painless.
As the accessory uses the plug at the bottom of the controller it does prevent any existing headsets from plugging in normally. However, like the 360 version there is an additional connector at the bottom using a 3.5mm jack which will accept the bundled headset. For those using legacy headsets, the replacement will be welcome as the old ones in my experience can become unreliable after a while.
When you compare the new chatpad to the old you can tell it’s a clear iteration of the design. Buttons are sculpted to clearly identify each one which is necessary now with there being no spacing between them. For someone with big thumbs it will take time getting used to; the 360 version worked really well for me thanks to those buttons being nicely spaced apart.
There are a few more buttons crammed in there this time around including two useful shortcuts that default to the screenshot and video capture commands but these are at the expense of the old cursor buttons which department ending on users may not be a big loss as they merely duplicated the actions on the bumpers during text entry. It’s nice to see volume buttons make an appearance if you prefer to have your own headphones or headset plugged in.
For players who find themselves using the virtual keyboard more than they like, this is a useful substitute to USB keyboards or the Smartglass app that leaves everything at your thumbtips. For games such as Elite: Dangerous which require text entry for its galactic map search, it’s a true time saver.
But it really boils down to what games you play. If there’s a lot of text entry in your games it’s a very useful accessory to have plugged in. But if not, your console already has alternatives that can give you what you need.