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What is Xbox Wireless? Everything you need to know

Xbox Wireless, Bluetooth… it doesn’t have to be confusing.

wireless xbox controller with adapter and xbox wireless headset

Quick Answer: Xbox Wireless is Microsoft’s patented wireless technology that creates a high-performance and stable connection between two devices. It’s the technology that Xbox controllers use to pair with consoles, not to be confused with Bluetooth.

Xbox Wireless is Microsoft’s proprietary wireless technology for device connectivity.

Some confusion around Xbox Wireless is leaving many Xbox enthusiasts scratching their heads.

Most people assume that their Xbox controllers connect to Xbox via Bluetooth but that’s not the case. Let’s take a closer look at Microsoft’s wireless technology.

What is Xbox Wireless?

xbox series x controller
Image: KnowTechie

Xbox Wireless is a wireless protocol similar to Wi-Fi Direct that allows supported Xbox controllers and accessories to connect to devices seamlessly. The protocol creates a direct 5GHz Wi-Fi connection between your controller and console without needing adapters or cables.

Since 5GHz supports high bandwidth and has more channels than 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, Xbox Wireless offers incredible performance with minimal input latency.

On average, Xbox Wireless controllers have about an 8ms input delay, only slightly more than a wired connection, which is about 4ms. Xbox Wireless also supports high-definition stereo audio.

Microsoft’s Xbox Wireless Controller can connect wirelessly, using Xbox Wireless, to the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles. However, using Bluetooth, it can also connect to Windows 10/11 PCs, iOS, and Android.

Xbox Wireless accessories

xbox console next to steel series headset
Image: KnowTechie

Xbox Wireless is built-in to Xbox One and the Xbox Series X|S consoles and the Xbox Wireless Controller, but many other devices use the protocol too. Xbox Wireless is the technology used by official Xbox headsets and accessories and those developed by partnered companies.

With an Xbox Wireless compatible headset, there’s no need for wireless dongles. The headset will connect to your console in the same way that your controller does.

Check the Xbox Accessories app to see if your console has established a connection to your headset. It should show your headset listed as a connected device.

To give you an idea, Microsoft’s most popular headset is the Xbox Wireless Headset. It pairs directly to your Xbox using Xbox Wireless and delivers excellent audio as well as microphone support. The headset also has built-in Bluetooth, so you can use it with other devices too.

Xbox Wireless Headset
$99.99 $86.74

The Xbox Wireless headset leverages Microsoft's proprietary technology, creating a seamless connection to Xbox consoles and Windows PCs.

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Bear in mind, however, that some wireless headsets are compatible with Xbox consoles but require you to use a USB dongle.

For convenience, it’s recommended to use official Xbox accessories that can take full advantage of Xbox Wireless. You can also plug practically any headset into the 3.5mm port on your controller, although it won’t be wireless.

Besides wireless headsets, another common use case is the Xbox Wireless adapter for Windows. The adapter allows you to use Xbox Wireless on your PC or laptop. It makes it easy to connect Xbox controllers and other Xbox accessories to your computer (more on that later).

Microsoft Xbox Wireless Adapter

Make your Windows PC compatible with Xbox Wireless accessories.

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Xbox Wireless vs. Bluetooth

bluetooth vs xbox wireless
Image: KnowTechie

Microsoft added Bluetooth to the new generation of Xbox controllers with the 2016 launch of the Xbox One S. The Xbox Wireless Controller’s built-in Bluetooth enables you to pair it with Bluetooth-compatible devices that are incompatible with Xbox Wireless, like phones, tablets, laptops, and whatnot.

For the most part, Bluetooth connectivity offers decent performance. When an Xbox controller is connected via Bluetooth, the input latency is around 15ms.

The latency is affected by many factors such as the controller’s version, firmware, distance from the Bluetooth receiver, the receiver’s Bluetooth version, and many others.

But Bluetooth has some issues. For example, some users on Reddit have noticed that Bluetooth can cause stuttering and FPS drops in games. It’s also more prone to interference and the connection can drop at random times, which is not ideal when you’re attempting to clutch a round.

Xbox Wireless on PC

microsoft surface laptop next to xbox wireless adapter
Image: Microsoft / KnowTechie

However, there are a few situations where you may consider investing in an Xbox Wireless adapter, even if you already have Bluetooth.

The Xbox Wireless adapter brings the Xbox Wireless technology to PCs or other devices that do not support it. Besides the improved performance, it allows you to connect up to eight Xbox Wireless controllers at the same time and use surround sound audio.

Bluetooth can only support three to four at a time, and you’ll likely run into connectivity issues. Bluetooth does not support transferring audio to the controller. The audio quality over Bluetooth is also significantly worse than Xbox Wireless.

In short, if you want the best performance from your Xbox controller, we recommend using Xbox Wireless via the official adapter. It will also allow you to connect other Xbox accessories that use Xbox Wireless, such as an Xbox headset.

Fun fact: You can seamlessly switch between paired devices by double-tapping the pairing button on the front of your Xbox controller.

Now you know how Xbox Wireless works

Xbox Wireless is one of the best wireless connectivity protocols. It provides a high-performance and reliable connection without the inconvenience of cables.

If you frequently use an Xbox controller to play games on your PC, it’s worth investing in an Xbox Wireless Adapter. This will provide several advantages over Bluetooth.

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Timothy Gagnon is a freelance writer and tech enthusiast. As a kid, he's always had a fascination with electronics and never passed on the chance to disassemble them. When he's not taking a hammer to his electronics, he can be found playing with his cats or writing about his latest discoveries.

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