Look, I don’t know how much time you spend in the video game accessories aisle at your local Best Buy. I like games plenty, but I’m not one for browsing fancy surround sound headsets, silicone controller skins, console carrying bags, or any of the other non-critical stuff on those shelves. But charging the batteries in my Xbox One controller can be a hassle, so from time to time I’ll take a look and see whether anyone has come up with a method that’s superior to swapping out rechargeable AA batteries or using Microsoft’s Play & Charge cable.
There are plenty of stands that can hold and charge your gamepad controllers, but I find them to be an eyesore. So that’s not an option. Plus, most of them have a cord running out the back and require their own power outlet. No thanks.
A few months ago, I came across Insignia’s $20 snap-on battery charging station that’s designed specifically for the Xbox One S. And it’s pretty much perfect. Microsoft should be making this thing itself. What a good gadget. You might notice that the white plastic isn’t quite a perfect match for Microsoft’s, but that’s nitpicking a bit. And the camera captures a bigger difference than your eyes see.
You slot the charging station into the console’s USB port, and then it sits flush to the left of the optical drive. There’s a little lock on the back that pushes into the dots on the side of the Xbox for added security. There’s no badge on the Insignia box indicating that this is a Microsoft-authorized accessory, so I’m almost surprised at how directly it’s designed around the One S hardware. The charger holds two battery packs at once, with lights to indicate charge status. They’re orange when charging and white when the battery is fully topped off. Two batteries are included right in the box. Microsoft only gives you one battery with the $25 Play & Charge Kit. It uses the console’s USB power to juice up the batteries, so there’s no extra power cord to fuss with.
I really came to like this method while I had the One S. When playing solo, it allows you to always keep one battery charging while the other is in your wireless controller. Maybe it’d be less convenient if you’re constantly using two gamepads for multiplayer, but I never ran into a situation where Insignia’s charger proved inconvenient. There’s no need to tether your gamepad to the console for a recharge when there’s always a fresh battery waiting.
Plus, there’s still a USB 3 port for external hard drives or whatever else you need to plug in. The battery packs charge pretty quickly. Some people seem to think Microsoft’s first-party batteries last longer, but these did the job fine for me.
But last month, I upgraded to the Xbox One X… and Best Buy (which owns the Insignia brand) doesn’t seem to be making the same charger for Microsoft’s ultra-powerful console. The USB port on the X is on the right side, so the current model just won’t work. I wouldn’t mind the color mismatch if it did.
So for now I’m stuck using the Play & Charge kit. To add insult to injury, it doesn’t seem to charge the third-party battery packs — only Microsoft’s own. Hopefully Best Buy decides to put out an updated model sooner than later.
Update: Dave Ryan on Twitter pointed out to me that Amazon also makes its own version of this thing. But again, only for the One S so far. Amazon’s loads the batteries on the top instead of the front, and it’s a little more bulky as a result. Same concept, though.