Xbox One Media Remote Review – Almost all the right buttons

The Xbox One is quite the media playing powerhouse, poor user library streaming aside. With support for most popular video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, Blu-ray playback, and the ability to control many cable TV boxes directly through the console, it has most of the movie and TV-watching bases covered. Kinect voice commands for video playback can be fun too.

Still - for many movie and TV watchers, nothing beats the feel, convenience, and responsiveness of a traditional remote control. Microsoft has finally released the Xbox One Media Remote with just those people in mind. Despite widespread stock issues since the remote’s release, we’ve finally managed to pick on up and put it through its paces.

Small and fun to hold

Compared to the original 360 remote control, the Xbox One Media Remote is downright tiny. The entire device has a soft, smooth exterior which makes it surprisingly pleasant to hold. Lending to that ergonomic design is the remote’s convex back, which curves outward. This causes a little wobble when you set it down on the back, but you can always place it face down if that bothers you.

The back is one large piece with a subtle Xbox logo engraved into it. Instead of a separate battery compartment door like most remotes have, the entire back plate must be removed to access the batteries. It takes a little getting used to, but makes for a more attractive appearance.

The Media Remote is entirely matte black. The button labels all have a very dull appearance that could make the remote hard to distinguish if placed on black furniture. Luckily, the buttons won’t be hard to see in the dark thanks to the built-in gyroscope. Tilt the remote or press a button and they all light up a cool white color.


Although the Xbox One Media Remote houses 20 buttons, that number proves slightly anemic for movie playback. Noticeably absent are the A, B, X, and Y buttons found on the Xbox 360 remote (and for which Playstation remote controls also have their own equivalents). This causes problems because the Media Remote can’t emulate all the basic functions of an Xbox One controller. We’ll expand on that in a bit.

At the top of the remote is a shiny Home (Guide) button, the only non-soft button on the device. It still lights up though. The Home button is essential for quickly returning to the Home screen or back to the most recent app. It also powers the console on and off in the same way as a standard controller.

Just below that, you’ll find the View (Back) and Menu (Start) buttons. Menu is fairly important because it opens context menus on the Home screen and within the various video playback apps. You can use it to close programs on the Home screen, access the Settings menu within Netflix, and many other functions.

View on the other hand has absolutely no purpose on this remote control. It does nothing on the Home screen, nor do any of the video apps I tested utilize it. Considering the remote lacks a few important buttons, the designers really should not have blown one on a function irrelevant to video playback.

Ironically, the view button’s label suggests a useful purpose: managing snapped applications. One of the main purposes of snapping apps is to enable video playback while playing games and performing other functions. It would be great to toggle control between the snapped app and the main window with a single touch of a button, but instead we have to double-tap the Home button.

The recessed arrows and enter button allow the remote to navigate system menus, Blu-ray and DVD menus, and video playback apps like a boss. Enter essentially acts like the A button on a controller, as it always confirms menu selections. However, the arrow pad and enter don’t truly emulate a controller’s d-pad and A button, which we’ll cover shortly.

Below the arrow pad sit the Back and OneGuide buttons. Back acts a lot like the B Button would, backing out of menus within apps and the system menu. The OneGuide button launches the OneGuide with its TV listings and other functions. If you haven’t connected your console to a supported cable box, the button won’t be of any use to you.

Next you’ll find Volume buttons, Mute, and Channel buttons. Mute is the only button that doesn’t extrude from the remote, but it’s still easy to press. The Volume and Mute buttons do absolutely nothing if you haven’t set your Kinect up as an IR blaster. That’s silly considering the Media Remote *is* an IR remote and could communicate directly with other devices even without a Kinect.

The Channel buttons (surprisingly) do make themselves useful in the system menus. From the main home screen, pressing them will jump between Home, snapped apps, and the Store/Bing screen. In many system menus like Friends’ Activity, the channel buttons act like page up and down buttons, scrolling quickly through content. That said, not every menu makes use of them.

Finally, the standard array of Play/Pause, Rewind, Fast-forward, Skip Back, Skip Forward, and Stop occupy the bottom of the remote. Play is easy to find by touch because of that non-extruded Mute button.

Performance issues

Much as I love video streaming, I still watch a ton of Blu-rays and DVDs. The Media Remote mostly improves the disc-watching experience, with one major exception. It lacks a dedicated menu button! The pop-up menu is an essential component of navigation on Blu-rays, and DVD menus also get lots of use. Yet somehow, not a single button on the Media Remote performs those functions.

With a regular Xbox One controller, you can launch a disc’s pop-up menu by pressing the Menu (Start) button. The same button on the remote does nothing. To access a pop-up menu or top menu, you have to press Play/Pause to open the playback menu, select the ellipsis button on the side of the menu, and THEN find the menu button of choice. What a convoluted and unpleasant place to hide one of Blu-ray and DVD’s most important functions.

I already mentioned the Media Remote doesn’t emulate the exact same functions as a regular controller, which explains why the remote’s Menu button does nothing during disc playback. It turns out that apps must specifically support the remote in order for it to work. Guess which uber popular video app doesn’t support the remote then? YouTube! Launch the YouTube app and you won’t be able to navigate at all. Only the Home or Back buttons will exit the app.

Overall Impression

The Xbox One Media Remote’s lack of a menu button for disc playback and incompatibility with YouTube need to be fixed ASAP. Luckily, those are both simple app issues that Microsoft can address without much effort. The Media Remote SHOULD have included all four main face buttons and emulated a standard controller, just like the Xbox 360 remote did before it. But throwing out things that worked fine in favor of lesser implementations has been a common design trait of the Xbox One (see our launch review for many more examples).

Those complaints aside, the Media Remote is still an essential purchase for movie and TV lovers. It’s far too easy to interrupt playback by hitting the triggers on a regular controller, and Kinect voice commands sometimes fail to work. The Media Remote provides exactly the instant responsiveness and convenience you’d want in a remote control. It works great with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, and also does an admirable job of navigating system menus. The price could be a little lower, but you won’t find a better video control option for the Xbox One anytime soon.

Note that the remote remains scarce at the time of review because Microsoft short-shipped all domestic retailers. The supply issues should clear up within a week or two.

  • Xbox One Media Remote – $24.99 – Amazon Link (opens in new tab)

###August, 2014 Update

The Media Remote now works with YouTube!

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

  • Really wish the Xbox One could accept number input for TV channels. Such a glaring omission. And the YouTube thing is pretty annoying too, noticed that recently with a Harmony One...I seem to remember it working at one point as well.
  • Oh how I wish it would accept number input. That and lack of DVR play back it exactly the reason I don't use the HDMI pass through.
  • +1
  • They want you to use channel names & the one guide, both of which I have become a master at lol
  • Would be nice if OneGuide was supported in Canada, but as per usual, Rogers, Bell and Shaw don't give a damn.
  • Yep. Number pad is SORELY missing from any Xbox One input right now, and the YouTube app infuriates me that I can't control it via SmartGlass or any other input either. Makes searching infuriating.
  • YouTube app was made by Google and AFAIK it is just a very poor port of YouTube SmartTV app. Google is using their own functions, voice controls and everything there. Google should release a standard, Xbox One fully functional app ASAP.
  • The app is pretty good except for not accepting SmartGlass and remote control input. Hope they fix that soon.
  • Yeah, the YouTube app needs Smartglass support. I hate the keyboard for the youtube app currently, it's really weird...
  • The youtube app is the worst part about the new xbone. At least a USB keyboard works in it though, including arrow keys. So whenever we open youtube and want to search for stuff we just grab the wireless keyboard and navigate it fully with that.
  • Got mine yesterday and it amazing. Just wish it was flatter
  • I love it. Wish YouTube supported it, but YouTube on Xbox One doesn't really work with anything other than controller anyway. Hope we get an update to have connectivity fixed. Great product.
  • You toggle control between the main app and the snapped app by double tapping the guide button.
  • This.
  • +920
  • Thanks guys. Don't know how that slipped my mind.
  • If you want to toggle control between a snapped app and the main app all you have to do is hit the Home button twice with a controller. I imagine its the same on the remote.
  • Another glaring issue for me is the combination of Pause and Play. I came from a dedicated Samsung Blu-ray player and I'm the type of person who like to analyze certain snippets in a scene frame by frame by pausing the movie and tapping pause to step to each frame. The other issue is the lack of a repeat button. I also like to make animated GIFs from scenes and being able to repeat A-B actually helped. I wish that Microsoft thought about these. What I'd do in designing the remote is give it a USB port to do firmware updates to the device and add the features I wished for, hell I'd redesign the remote first!
  • If Microsoft want to make the Xbox the center of your living room it must move the streaming services this side if the Xbox Live pay wall. For casual gamers very few will pay for the permission to stream netflix/amazon videos !
  • There are a lot of cheaper options if you only want to use streaming services and don't play games.
  • Netflix and few more apps are no longer live required. I suppose this is great for others but not much of a differnce for me. I use my Apple TV to view Netflix and Youtube, and I only use my Xbox One for live TV and gaming.
  • The menu button on the remote should emulate the menu button on the controller for bluray playback and bring up the disc menus. Huge oversight but probably fixable with an update to the bluray app
  • They forgot the green button.
  • Yeah, the Xbox One is unlikely to replace our 360s any time soon in my home because it isn't a media center extender.
  • It is however, a Play-to service utilizing the DNLA feature. With any Windows 7 or Windows 8 (8.1) computer, tablet, surface (Play-to service is built into the OS's of all previously mentioned), or Windows Phone 8 device (with Play-to app which are usually free) you can stream over home or business networks (providing IT has not blocked DNLA access) to any TV plugged into the Xbox One. It removes the need for Media Center.
    You simply turn on your Xbox One. Find the file(s) you wish to stream to your console on your computer/tablet...etc., highlight and right click to open the drop down menu. Hover over 'Play-to', then select the console by it's name. A menu of files complete with playback controls will appear on your computer/tablet...etc. The console will open the applicable media application (Xbox Video for Digital Video files, and Xbox Music for Digital Audio files) and streaming will begin.
  • Trust me, I do this frequently for YouTube videos. WMC is far superior for viewing and using your media library. Also, since I refuse to spend $60/mo to get the 6 to 8 cable channels I'd actually watch, WMC Live TV is my only option. Also, if you don't have a tablet/PC, using PlayTo/DNLA is a pain in the butt if your PC is in another room. Unless you can run really fast.
  • Obviously you don't use media center. There is no replacement on the market. Plex come close...but no cigar. Bring back media center extender support and I'll buy 2. Until then, the 360 is working just fine.
  • That's not even close to the features you get with Windows Media Center and one or more Xbox 360 as extender. We use it primarly for a central location for recording all TV programs we are interested in, we have multiple receivers so we can record or watch more than one program simultaneously, and then view those programs on any of our TVs, not uncommon for me to be viewing one show on one TV and my wife something else we've recorded on a different TV. All of it easy to manage and control using the 360 media remote control from the couch or bed.
  • The only button keeping me on the 360
  • Agree.  In addition to hdmi pass through, Microsoft should have brought over their media center functionality for supporting networked cablecard tuners.  The xbone drive would fill up fast, but it would have been a real cable box alternative.
  • When the TV app is active, does the remote/kinnect send d-pad controls for your TV receiver?  It would be great if I could navigate my on my receiver with this. 
  • anyone? i need to improve the WAF for my setup, and i had hopes this would be a single solution. i have a harmony, but with that you still need to toggle between the xbox and the receiver, which is confusing for the wife, because of the seamless integration. 
  • You mean for your audio receiver or tv (tv receiver is confusing)? The xb1 will control your audio receiver by turning it on or off and controlling volume via voice and presumably the remote as well, but that's as far as it goes. Microsoft assumes you never have to change receiver inputs but many of us have lots of other devices hooked up to our receivers.
  • Thanks for responding. I just realized my initial post wasn't clear.  I am not using an audio receiver.  I was generically referring to a cable box/satalite receiver/DVR.  I wasn't clear.  Sorry about that. I have a dedicated HTPC running Windows Media Center as a DVR.  What I am running isn't really important, it could be a TIVO or a cable/sat DVR.  I also have a Harmony 550. The harmony can control both my HTPC and Xbox One, but switching between the controls is clunky and disorienting for my wife.  She has to press the Xbox activity button on the harmony remote to navigate around the Xbox and its apps.  She is not interested in gaming, so she only uses, TV, Netflix, Amazon Video, and Xbox Music (which is awesome BTW!). When she launches the TV app, she then has to press the HTPC activity button on the Harmony to control the DVR.  If she wants to switch back to a different Xbox app, she needs to press the Xbox activity button first.  I know, I know...  First world problems...  :)  Certainly this is workable, but it could be seamless. In the ideal scenario, the Xbox would know when the TV app is launched, and the Xbox One Media Remote would behave differently.  Ideally, it would allow the d-pad and other buttons to control the DVR.  Technically this should be possible, as the Kinnect would function as an IR repeater to send the commands.  It's already doing this for the volume and channels.  It might be a but laggy, but I'm sure it would be no worse than the lag on the Harmony.  This would be a truly seamless experience, allowing you to bounce in and out of apps without missing a beat. It's possible this is how the Media Remote already behaves today, but I haven't been able to confirm it.  I don't think it does however, because I've only seen mention of controlling the volume and channels. Maybe I'm looking for the wrong solution.  I'm open to ideas...  :)
  • Yeah, I think what you are looking for isn't possible currently. Once I am in the XB1 tv app, I essentially use my harmony one remote just like I did watching tv before I connected the xb1. I need to be able to control my receiver settings, subwoofer levels etc. I also use the harmony to control my xfinity DVR, something not possible with the xb1 since the xb1 just controls changing channels essentially. The best option is to use voice commands to change apps, but the lacking voice integration within apps is going to force you to use that activity button on the harmony at times.
  • Only thing I don't like about Windows phone, it's connection with Xbox. So wish Microsoft was in partnership with Sony
  • I only thing I don't like about mermaids are the fish bits. Wish they were in partnership with bigfoot.
  • Haha, both of these comments made the same amount of sense
  • If Sony made a windows phone with Xbox and Playstation integration I'd be very interested. Im an Xbox guy first but appreciate gaming in Sony and Nintendo platforms too :-)
  • The SmartGlass app on my phone is my remote. It takes a little getting used to but is capable of everything a controller can do and more. This remote does look very slick though. And it's always great to have options!
  • Man, what a letdown. The PS3 aas my go-to media machine last Gen and its media remote was stellar. All MS had to do was basically copy that and we would have a winner. Also, no YouTube control is a straight-up deal breaker for me. And I was excited for this thing? Failure.
  • As for YouTube not playing nice with Microsoft, blame Google, not the development team who worked on this product/service. Seems like a great product for the console for which it was designed.
  • Unless Google specifically developed the app, the fault lies on Microsoft. It shouldn't be hard to fix, if they ever decide to change it.
  • In a perfect world where Google doesn't place function and usage restrictions on Microsoft app development teams constantly, I'd agree. However, for certain features to be present for nearly every other Xbox app and not on Google based apps leads one to obvious conclusion that Microsoft's hands were tied in Google red tape, as usual
  • Not necessarily. Take a look at the Xbox music app, for example. There are numerous, obvious usability and navigation issues that were more or less solved on the 360 but once again present on the xb1. We shouldn't discount the possibility that MS seems to be comfortable rushing and half-baking products lately, and maybe where the YouTube app/media remote is concerned, google isn't the one holding things up.
  • I can't download the game rbsteel which has arrived in the store. Showing error when i tap to download
  • "Small and fun to hold." - not what she said.
  • lol
  • While I can see the appeal for some people, the Logitech Harmony One remote is probably the best 'investment' I've made for my home theatre setup. While that's dicontinued, they still make the 650. It may cost three times as much, but is well worth it to have one touch activity switching, and universal control.
  • Agree. Love my harmony one. Didn't know it was discontinued, but that's a shame.
  • Paul: I am surprised that you are so surprised at how the remote was designed. Just like Microsoft not selling X Box One without Kinect, they aren't going to make a media remote that makes that device unnecessary. So it is no surprise to me that the remote won't fully function without Kinect. I'm also not surprised that the remote doesn't have ABXY buttons as Microsoft is pushing its Smartglass app as a companion to both X Box models and it has those buttons. The device is called the "media remote" after all, not an X Box One controller. I share your concern about a button that appears to have no function, although I'm guessing that can change with an update. And I concur with the comment about lack of functionality in the You Tube app, although do we blame Microsoft or Google for that, given its past behavior. As for the shape of the device not allowing it to lie flat on the table (a criticism I've seen in other reviews), I'll point out that notched or rounded bottoms are not an uncommon feature of remotes and is done to make them easier to pick up regardless of the size of your hands.
  • I've used probably two dozen remotes, and this is the first one I've encountered with a rounded bottom. But it doesn't bother me.
  • This!
  • There were plenty of media remotes and my local gamestop.
  • Looks pretty disappointing. Bummer
  • Yeah, as an XBOX ONE owner I approve this message. Even Paul didn't really seem that excited, but he knows this is a Pro MS site, so he better have recommended it or else...
  • Just to be clear, I'd probably rate this remote a 5/10. But if I watch movies on a device, I don't consider not owning a remote control for that device an option. Hence my recommendation - not because I'm afraid to annoy Microsoft loyalists.
  • Please, what's the name of this Lumia 920 case ?
  • Kinect cant receive IR, only base unit can. Hopeless if you want xbox hidden away in a cabinet. Major fail.
  • I have just ordered the remote from Amazon, hoping it arrives soon. It does exactly what I expected, but I needed to be sure. Not only am I not concerned about the reduced amount of buttons, I am kind of glad - the remote is small. The YouTube problems are nothing but Google's problem - the YouTube app for Xbox One is nowhere near as good as the Xbox 360 (and it seems it has never been truly designed for the Xbox One - AFAIK it is just a port of YouTube SmartTV app). What is a little disappointing is the menu button that doesn't work as on the controller but I think it will be fixed by an update.
  • At least the 360 gave you the option to have a fully fledged media remote. Yet again the Xbox One demonstrates a step back from the brilliance of the 360. Why MS didn't use what is undoubtedly the greatest console of all time as their benchmark for the One is beyond me. Bring back Jay Allard and Peter Moore!
  • Just in case anyone was wondering, Logitech Harmony remotes work flawlessly with the Xbox One (and have since day 1), and have none of these issues.  They can be had for almost the same price as this remote so not sure why anyone would even buy this, but apparently people don't want to use just one remote to control everything in their living room.
  • So does Harmony work by radio? Can I hide Xbone base unit away in a cabinet?
  • The Harmony isn't very useful if you are passing your DVR through the Xbox One, though. I have a Harmony One and I can't really do much with it with my Xbox in pass through mode, because the TiVo uses the d-pad and media buttons. I could potentially set up an activity for using the Xbox in non TV mode, but it would be a bit of a pain to switch over to a different activity every time I went back and forth between TV and other activities. The controller sort of works, but it is annoying for Netflix because it will have turned itself off in the middle of a House of Cards episode, so I wound up getting the Media Remote to supplement my Harmony One because the pass through set up complicates universals controls a bit.
  • So set up xbox NOT to be allowed to control other devices and leave it all for harmony remote. I don't use passthrough in xb1 because xb must be always on, but it should be possible as I remember.
  • Hopefully Harmony picks up all these signals (haven't checked yet). I have no need for another remote and still need my harmony for all my other devices that xb1 doesn't integrate with including commands on my receiver to listen to internet radio or Pandora or satellite radio or switch to my Wii input or, well, you get the picture.
  • Haha the comment before me as I was typing my response answers my question. Great timing Braumin! Thanks
  • Nothing beats the East Link cable box remote and program codes for the Xbox 360 (Canada only) does more then the 360 remote and controls my tv/surround system/dvd
  • Waiting for mine to be delivered today with my headset. Come on UPS!
  • For the Xbone owners here, what is the best option for a network (wife) hard drive to play my pictures and home movies from?
  • OneDrive
  • I have 1.7 TB of pictures....onedrive would be a looking at a WiFi drive...any compatibility issues w XBONE?
  • update to windows 7 or 8 and just use the Play To function.
  • Wifi
  • What they need to do is make it so that the right stick on the controller controls the TV volume when not in a game.
  • I don't need abyz buttons I have a controller right there....
  • By that logic, you don't need a remote control either.
  • I have my voice. Works great. I got the remote because I can.
  • Sure, but as I explained in the review, the remote should have been designed to emulate a controller so that it would have full compatibility with all media apps. And YouTube for example needs a Y button, as could other apps in the future.
  • Why?? you have a controller to be a controller. A remote is to be a remote. So change YouTube. Why do we need googles YouTube anyway?? Owell...
  • Hehe, I am so dumb. I had not set up my kinect to turn on/off my TV until now.
  • I'm not quite happy with this remote. I wish it was Bluetooth or rf instead of ir. It could just be that my remote is defective, but the volume controls don't work from the couch, but does work better farther away. It just seems really ineffectual especially compared to the PS3 remote I'm used to.
  • The only remote i need is Logitech Harmony. Works great with Xbox one. 8 out of 10 times i use Xbox is with remote (controllers usually stay in drawer). What MS should fix fast is mentioned menu access in dvd/bd playback and Youtube app. I also find hdmi input useless since it's not a pass through but you have to keep Xbox on to watch tv (really MS? what a dumb idea!). Fix those and Xbox one will be as it should be since day 1.
  • I guess i will wait for the updated version or something as i was hoping to do away with my tv remote and have one remote. I guess i will stick to voice control for the time being. Abit of a pain if you have tonsillitis (mildly put a sore throat).
  • So spend $30 and just buy it.. I love my remote.
  • Works on Windows 8?
  • You know, you can swith between main and snapped apps by double pressing the Xbox botton.
  • Yeah, I updated the article to reflect that shortly after we published it.
  • once you uninstall and reinstall the YouTube app on Xbox one, the media remote works.
    that's how I did it.