Two minute review
For better or worse, the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S controllers do not ship with rechargeable batteries. It arguably extends their lifespan, letting swap in new batteries, rechargeables or rechargeable battery packs rather than relying on the life of a built-in unit. But it’s always another element to consider when sitting down for a long gaming session.
Otterbox, best known for its mobile cases and accessories, is the latest company to offer a solution, one that works for both Xbox Series X / S controllers, and the older Xbox One gamepads. Having recently branched out to gaming accessories, Otterbox’s Power Swap Controller Batteries Kit offers removable, rechargeable battery packs, with a twist – in theory, they should never run out of power.
So, how’s this work? The kit is comprised of six parts: a USB C charging cradle that plugs into a free port on your console, two battery packs, two battery holster cages (one each to fit Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S controllers) and a reserve battery cell.
It’s that last bit that’s the vital piece of the puzzle. Acting as a go-between for the controller and the main Otterbox battery pack, it retain a small amount of its own charge (drawn from the main battery pack). When the main battery dies, the reserve cell kicks into action, giving you about 30 seconds within which to grab the second battery back from the charging cradle and ‘hot-swap’ it into the battery cage. Swapping the controllers out in this fashion means that the controller never dies, and your gaming goes on uninterrupted.
Is this a big deal? That depends on the sort of games you play, really. Most single player games recognise when your controller is dead, and pause the game appropriately. However, if you’re an online gaming die-hard, competitive matches wait for no-one, and you’ll be an easy target while wrestling with batteries in the heat of battle. With a quick-release button on the Power Swap set, you’ve a much better chance of staying in the game.
It’s a niche need then, but thankfully the rest of the idea is well executed too.
Otterbox makes a reserved estimate that its batteries will last 10 hours of play, but I’d say that’s a little of an underestimate. I squeezed a little more out of them than that, perhaps pushing to 12 or so hours. But that’s still significantly less than the 20 hours Microsoft quotes for its Play and Charge kit battery packs.
Charging the battery packs is a simple matter of placing them in the supplied cradle, where four green LEDs on each battery indicate how much juice is in them. A button on each battery also lets you see this LED battery marker, and they should flash red when they need replacing – in theory showing you at-a-glance charge level by peeking at your fingers, but in practice easily missed in the middle of a game. Still, that’s what the hotswap function is for. Charging time for a dead battery placed in the cradle is about four hours so, again, you should never run out of juice, and you can charge an in-play battery over USB-C, too.
Despite bulging out of the Xbox controllers somewhat, the Power Swap batteries are surprisingly comfortable as well. They’re evenly weighted, meaning there’s no extra heft added to either side of your pad, and despite the bump they add to the back of your controller there’s still plenty of room to place your fingers either side.
There are only a couple of reservations about the package then. Firstly, despite coming with two cages (one for each controller generation), Otterbox only supplies one reserve battery in the box. As the main batteries can’t work without the reserve battery completing the power circuit chain in the back of your controller, it means you can’t power two pads with one kit, which would have added a little more flexibility to the kit beyond the hotswap functionality.
And then, of course, there is the price. You’re looking at $59.95 / £53.99 / AU$99.95 for the Otterbox Power Swap batteries. That’s a tad more expensive than buying two Xbox Play and Charge Kits (similarly bagging you two batteries), but not accounting for the extra charge the official Xbox option holds, nor the fact they can be placed in two independent controllers without that single reserve battery snag the Otterbox kit struggles with. So it’s worth thinking long and hard about just how important non-stop gaming is to you.
Should I buy the Otterbox Xbox Power Swap Batteries?
Buy it if...
You can’t stop gaming…
...Not even for a second. If you’re a pro player that can’t afford to be let down by dead batteries, and still want to enjoy wireless play, this is basically your only option.
You don’t want to rely on disposable or rechargeable AA batteries
The Power Swap Controller Batteries are easy to maintain and swap thanks to their included charging cradle and quick-release mechanism
Don’t buy it if…
You want capacious batteries
The official Xbox alternative, for example, lasts longer between charges than what Otterbox’s offering does.
You’re tight on cash
A set of standard rechargeable batteries can be purchased for much cheaper than this.