Like most video game consoles, the Xbox One works well right out of the box. You don’t have to spend a ton of cash on add-ons. However, a few peripherals can make the experience better, particularly for people who spend many hours a week hunkered on the couch.
Whether you need a new controller that’s a little more tailored to your style than Microsoft’s standard option, or you want a headset that takes advantage of the Xbox One’s excellent audio features, the search for the perfect peripheral can be overwhelming. We at Polygon have taken the time to dig into the available options and pick our favorites.
Best Xbox One controller
Winner: Xbox One Elite Controller
The original Xbox One controller is pretty good for the average person. But Microsoft has outdone itself with the Xbox One Elite controller, one of the most impressive, customizable and expensive controllers on the market.
The Elite’s design builds on the original Xbox One controller with a few key improvements. The controller weighs just a bit more than its predecessor, thanks to its steel frame, giving it a more solid feel. Slightly textured plastic on both handles affords the controller a more solid grip than the standard model.
But it’s the customization options that come with the Elite controller that earn it our recommendation. Along with a swappable D-pad that dramatically improves diagonal movement, the Elite also has swappable analog sticks of various heights, allowing you to pick a design that best fits your hands.
On the back, you can swap in a variety of paddles that can replace or supplement other buttons on the controller. For instance, you could change your reload button from X to a paddle on the back of the controller that you can hit with your ring finger. No longer does your right thumb have to do the majority of the work when playing games.
The only real issue with the Xbox One Elite controller is the fact that it still relies on AA batteries for power, so, if you do go with this controller, you’ll want to invest in the Xbox Play & Charge Kit or a few good rechargeable batteries.
The Xbox One Elite controller is available for $139.99, or in a GameStop-exclusive white version for $149.99. The Xbox One Play & Charge Kit is currently available for $24.47.
Best Xbox One headset
Winner: The Plantronics Rig 800LX
This recommendation is taken as an excerpt from Polygon’s 2018 Headphones guide, written by Charlie Hall.
The Rig 800LX is fantastic. Of all the headphones I’ve tried, it is by far the lightest, thanks in part to a unique friction-fit headband. Instead of moving components, the Rig series relies on removable ear cups. There are three fixed positions — small, medium and large — and an adjustable elastic headband that takes up the slack. It’s an ingenious solution that’s less susceptible to wear and tear.
The Rig has excellent audio quality. The big, broad sound made the games feel more grand in scale. The microphone is a boon for competitive play, crisp and clear. The Rig’s wireless transmitter is smaller than a deck of cards. Unlike some of its competitors’ transmitters, this one isn’t an eyesore beneath the television. And the headset’s battery lasts 24 hours.
The Xbox One is the only console that has Dolby Atmos, which takes the traditional 5.1 and 7.1 audio formats and adds a height layer. Now, instead of hearing other players to your left or right, you can actually tell if they’re above or below you as well. The Rig takes advantage of Atmos, recreating the sound inside the headset. That’s especially useful in games like Gears of War 4 and Assassin’s Creed Origins, which are among the first games to make use of this new audio format.
A final note: Dolby Atmos must be activated on Xbox One via a special app that gives you free access to the feature for 30 days. After that, Microsoft charges $14.99 to unlock Atmos permanently. Fortunately, Plantronics currently throws in an Atmos activation code for free with each pair of headphones.
The Plantronics Rig 800LX is currently available directly from the manufacturer for $149.99.
Best external hard drive
Winner: Western Digital 2 TB Elements Portable Hard Drive
As AAA video games become bigger and hardware pushes high resolutions, the size of the average game grows and grows. Only a handful of AAA games now fit onto the hard drive of the launch Xbox One. You could simply download your games over and over again, deleting them every few months to make way for another new release. But the simplest solution is to buy an external hard drive and give your console more room for more games.
External hard drives for Xbox One aren’t too complicated, but this Western Digital drive checks all the boxes and does so without forcing you to make room on your entertainment stand for something the size of another console. The drive itself has a small form factor and doesn’t make too much noise when it’s being used. Thanks to the USB 3.0 connection, you won’t have to use the drive just to migrate games back and forth to your console hard drive; you’ll be able to play them directly from the external drive.
Perhaps the most important feature of this external hard drive is how easy it is to set up. Simply plug it into the Xbox One and the console should recognize it right away. Once it’s there, you’ll be able to move games to the hard drive, or download them directly to the external device, giving you a whole lot more room on your Xbox One.
The Western Digital 2 TB Elements External Hard Drive sells for $74.99.