The Play & Charge Cable

There was a good question I saw in my last post: "Why could the play & charge cable not be designed to transmit information over the cable?"

For those who have not been initiated, the Play & Charge Cable can be used with an Xbox 360 Wireless Controller to charge the battery pack and play at the same time.  However, when it's plugged in, the controller doesn't behave any differently - it's still in wireless mode.

I would answer this question by turning it around: what advantage do you get from transferring information over the cable versus wirelessly?  Having the cable plugged in means you are close enough that you are not out of range.  The response times are the same.  The data is not any more reliable.

Let's look at the disadvantages of having the controller in wireless mode when it's plugged in.  Primarily, it takes longer to charge the battery - only if the controller is actively being used.  Since you're using the console, the time it takes to charge shouldn't matter all that much.  It would be a little bit longer before you can disconnect it and go back to being truly wireless, but hopefully you're too addicted to the game to notice 🙂

I think you can see either way, you would have had the same experience with the controller.  The play & charge kit could have been used to transfer information, but it doesn't make much sense to do so.

Comments (32)

  1. Ben A. says:

    The advantage would have been that the cable would be capable of working with a desktop PC as well to allow you to use Xbox controllers with Windows games.  The wired controller offers this option – seems like sending data over the Play-and-Charge Kit would have been really helpful for Xbox owners who wanted to play the occasional Windows game as well.

  2. RS says:

    I agree 100%.  It’s silly to have to buy a separate gamepad for Windows when I’ve already bought the top-of-the-line one for the 360.  I think there’s alot of people who would use their 360 gamepad on a PC if they could, but won’t bother to spend _another_ $40 to do so.

    Plus the wireless gamepad with the XBL headset would make a great poor man’s* wireless skype headset.

    *poor is relative, they _do_ own a 360 afterall…

  3. Blaine says:

    I agree with the other 2.  I will never buy a corded controller when i could just get another cordless. I do wish i could use my wireless ones with my xp pc, or vista IF i get it later.  I gottta say nice technical info here, better than major’s if ya ask me…could you just answer me one thing though-With all the power under the hood of the 360, why does my dash feel all laggy (in or out of a game).  When im in the middle of a tense battle, I’d like to be able to open my friends, get out my invites, and get back in the game. Currenly it takes about 5 seconds too long.  I know where i’d like to navigate within the dash, i just feel like i’m waiting on the 360 to respond. bad.  Also, is there a way to make the ‘connect’ button on the top of a wireless controller change chat channels on the fly? instead of holding it for a second, just a quick tap to change back to game channel or whatever…just an idea. if ya do it, ya gotta send me a freebie from around the office…

  4. Holte Villain says:

    I agree with the other posts.

    I feel that it would have been a great feature for the Play & Charge to be able to transmit data to a PC, and I can’t understand why the feature wasn’t implemented (surely just a few more wires to provide the connection within the wire???).

    A great opportunity to "add value" has been missed here…

  5. Wargasmic says:

    Great Idea – quick changing of chat channels  ^^

  6. Chris says:

    but…. It is extremely dumb to allow the "cheaper" controller to be used on windows and not the "better". Now, users are going to have to pay even more to get some kind of adapter later to use the wireless controllers on windows. I love my xbox 360 and support microsoft way more than most, but I do not agree with this choice not to let it connect by usb. Very POOR design.

  7. DansWrath says:

    How about a ‘Wireless Base Station’ that plugs into your PC and can talk to the the Wireless 360 controllers.  You could just use the little button on the back of the controller to ‘match’ the two together.

  8. otthobot says:

    it is silly, and it would be much better for microsoft in terms of getting PC gamers to adopt the xbox pad as standard… probably 75% of the 360 controllers sold are wireless, having them be able to be used on the PC would mean a huge increase in users.

    Could a driver or firmware update to the controller add support? hell i’ll even buy another play and charge kit if I have to (I have 2) just dont make me buy another controller (I have 4 wireless)

  9. Adam says:

    I would would have to agree with everyone else. The subject that you didn’t touch on and the whole reason to have the Play & Charge transmit data is for PC communication. I’ve always been driven away from PC games due to keyboard & mouse setups or complicated programmable joypads. This is an opportunity for Microsoft to gain a broader audience in the PC gaming market. By allowing the gamepad that came with the Xbox 360 to work with Windows XP, you’ll be enticing console owners to try PC gaming.

  10. johner says:

    so it doesn’t fry my nads. I had no choice when i bought the premium pack when it came to controller type. I purchased the play and charge kit with the assumption the wireless would be off during connection (to aid charging time). oops. Sorry – I’m paranoid about any device that uses 2.4ghz, the resonate frequency of water (hence why microwaves use it, all be it more powerful though!)

  11. J says:

    2.4GHz plays no role in the so called "resonate" frequency of water, 2.3GHz or 2.6GHz would work just as well (but in the US the FCC would be after you). The use of 2.450 GHz is a historical artifact having to do with frequencies licensed for industrial use, not related to any specific property of molecular or liquid water.

    I think Microsofts decision not to have a dual mode controller (wired and wireless) is a good financial decision.  The controller is cheaper to design and manufactuer.

  12. Jordan Lund says:

    I ended up springing for the wired controller anyway, first because I wanted to use a decent controller on the PC and second because I have giant, manly hands and the battery pack on the bottom of the wireless rig is uncomfortable.

  13. Art Vandalaay says:

    I just plugged play & charge kit in for first time and I am having trouble diconnecting it from the controller. Should it just pull out easily or is there something I arn’t doing to get it to disconnect. It feels like if  I pull too hard it will break

  14. Spylon says:

    Why doesn’t the play and charge kit cable have a quick release?

    I’m afraid to use the play and charge cable because somebody might knock over the 360.

  15. Tim says:

    hey where do you find the battery life in the browser?? Thanks

  16. Jabjabs says:

    When you are playing a game just hit the guide button, up the top there will be a little battery icon showing how much life is left.

  17. Nick says:

    The battery icon does not show in xbox games

  18. dave says:

    well… how about this one! I can plug my play and charge kit into my PC and charge off my pc instead of my xbox… in your face microsoft! =p

    I was under the impression that it did go wired when you connected to the kit, but, oh well. I mean thats cool and all that the controller can be used on a PC but… really, you can use the mouse and key board on the 360 also. ooo which brings up a question ive been trying to get answered…

    do USB hubs work on the 360?

  19. Jut21 says:

    When you plug your charge cable into the usb slot of a PC it detects something is there but if you try to install it, it says couldn’t find software so maybe somewheres out there somebody is making a patch to confuse the computer well lets hope so…..if anybody knows how to do this LET ME KNOW!!!!

    XBOX 360 ROCKS!!!!!

  20. Michael says:

    microsoft just wanted to make us wait for a year, there is a $20 receiver that is comming out so that you can use your top-of-the-line wireless controller with your pc, yay microsoft, all about the money

  21. JoeRamboUK says:

    Thank you very much for the info. I was trying to get drivers for my wireless controller to play on windows using the play and charge kit. You answered this for me perfectly.

  22. daflow says:

    Thanks for the info.  I too want my wireless controller to work on Windows XP and I dont see why I should have to fork out extra money for it….  Obviously as stated the main problem is there is no data transferred down the cable and therefore you need a wireless receiver to connect it to Windows XP.  Microsoft do state in the controller documentation that the controller still operates in wireless mode when used with the play and charge kit..  At least the info was always there, even it is very disappointing….  Come on MS support your loyal followers and get this happening asap!!!!  (eh, please).

  23. KIM says:


  24. Your Good Twin says:

    I’m also having the same trouble that KIM is having.  Can we get a friggin response here?

  25. o.0 says:

    erm…there is no catch release and u shld b a ble to pull it out easily. just pull t by the thick rubber thing at the base of the wire…shld work

  26. Krazy Karl says:

    @ dave

    Yes hubs do work on the 360, I use one to use 4 wired controllers.

  27. Krazy Karl says:

    Keyboards work to type also, but mouse’s don’t 🙁

  28. H3liosphan says:

    Agreed again, the play and charge cable should have allowed XP connectivity, but something is strange here –

    I’ve just tried plugging my wireless x360 controller + play and charge cable into a usb slot on my PC, so why is it appearing as an unknown USB device!? No drivers I’ve found work (including the new 360 controller for windows drivers or some sourceforge developed ones OR RedClouds XBCD. Unsurprisingly, cos these are for the original Xbox.

    WindowsUpdate doesn’t do anything with it either.

    Think about it people – plug in your usb fan / torch / cup warmer etc in for power and you DON’T get an unknown device because the + and – connections in the cable are connected and no others, so this means that the data connections ARE connected in the play and charge cable.

    I don’t get it. MSDN people, please speak up about this – what are the point of the USB data lines in the play and charge cable!?


  29. DrStorm says:

    unknown USB device in device manager mean that device didn’t send it’s Vendor ID and Product ID. USB devices pull down one of usb signal buses so can hub detects them. You can get the same effect by connecting resistor i correct way

  30. Tony says:

    i would assume the data wires in the play and charge are there to tell the xbox that there is a controller hooked up to it… as if you notice… if you plug your play and charge into the controller then into the xbox 360 while its off… then power the xbox 360 on via the main power button on the faceplate… the controller automatically comes on and links to a controller spot… whereas if the play and charge is NOT connected… the controller will not automatically link up when the console is turned on via the main power button

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