Earlier this summer, Microsoft and Samsung teamed up to bring the Xbox Cloud Gaming to Samsung’s 2022 lineup of Smart TVs (opens in new tab) via the Xbox App. This partnership means you could stream a boatload of Xbox Game Pass games sans the need for an Xbox console, PC, or even a streaming device.
The only requirements are a Bluetooth controller, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership, and a solid internet connection. Now that the Xbox App has been out for nearly a month on new Samsung TVs, I decided it would be a good idea to call in one of these fancy displays in to see how well Xbox Cloud Gaming performed on real-world internet.
Samsung sent over one of its new Neo QLED 4K Smart TVs (opens in new tab) to let me see Xbox Cloud Streaming in action. Yeah, sending over a high-end 4K TV to test out a service that only streams in 1080p is a bit excessive. But am I complaining? Nope.
The Xbox App interface is nearly identical to the console, and PC versions and all navigated with a Bluetooth controller. The only difference in the UI is that it displays cloud-only games, so some titles will be missing from the typical Game Pass offering. It still has a healthy amount of 1st party Xbox and 3rd party games.
As cool as it all sounds, there are some limits. For starters, as I mentioned, it streams out games at steady 1080p/60fps. Samsung’s TVs do some upscaling, but it’s a bit of a let down that you can’t stream Xbox games in 1440p or 4K like you can with your Xbox consoles. If you want to stream out games in 4K, you can opt for Google Stadia Pro ($10 monthly) or an RTX 3080 membership (opens in new tab) to GeForce Now ($20 monthly), whose apps are both available through the Samsung Gaming Hub as well. Though those services work with separate game libraries, so your mileage may vary depending on what you own.
As far as latency is concerned, as long as you have a wired ethernet connection to your network, it is shocking how little input lag there is. Maybe I’m still traumatized from the early betas of GeForce Now or the current state of PlayStation Now; who knows? I am impressed at how well most of the tested games perform.
In competitive shooters like Halo Infinite or Fortnite, I am pleasantly surprised to see that I can jump into matches and hold my own against players on PCs and consoles most of the time. Though precision weapons like snipers and pistols can feel a bit off in the heat of combat, especially in Halo, where even being delayed by a few milliseconds could cost you against better players.
Despite that, the service shines in games that don’t require millisecond-dependent gameplay, like strategy and adventures. I’ve been able to complete a couple of runs of Slay the Spire and Hades, and they’ve run as well as they do on console. I also played a bit of As Dusk Falls, and it’s been nice to sit back and make terrible life choices as a change of pace.
MLB The Show 22, which is my current yearly obsession, runs surprisingly well. I’ve only experienced one or two instances where the performance dipped, which caused a swing and a miss during an at-bat. Other than that, Xbox Cloud Gaming works as advertised.
I can’t reiterate enough just how easy and seamless it is to get into a game, even though admittedly, the Xbox App could use better curation to organize its titles. For example, there are no horror or sports categories, which seems odd. Everything is just lumped into very generic categories. Aside from that, you just click on the title, and it boots up in seconds. It’s streaming, so there’s no download or updating to worry about.
Xbox Cloud Streaming won’t give you a 1:1 reproduction from the PC or even console experience in terms of fidelity, but I applaud it for trying. Since I have been playing on a larger screen, the artifacting was more prominent, especially in darker areas. It looks pretty bad in motion in games like Inside, which is nothing but blacks and dark grays. When playing Slay the Spire and Hades, I noticed a dip in visual quality whenever the connection was wonky, where it looked like the video was buffering for a couple of seconds.
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Then again, the further you sit from the screen, the less noticeable it is. Since the TV I received is a massive 55 inches, and I’m sitting less than 10 feet away from it, it’s easy for me to spot the imperfections, whereas someone sitting on a couch 15 feet away in their living room might be more forgiving.
Just for the hell of it, I’ve tried a few matches of Fortnite strictly on wireless to see if there is much difference in latency. I had a few instances where my connection got screwy, and my video and audio quality took a dip before latency got affected. From there, I could notice a significantly slower response from button press to screen action. Even with my pretty good internet connection (891Mbps download speed), being wireless was too unreliable for serious competitive play.
As someone who isn’t the biggest game streaming advocate, I’m still pretty surprised at how well it works. Navigating the Samsung Gaming Hub and booting up Xbox games is criminally easy. The games themselves look pretty good and, more importantly, play like they are supposed to, so long as you’re on a wired connection.
At the end of the day, the quality of your experience with Xbox Cloud Gaming will always be determined by your internet connection. However, I can start to see the appeal of a world where you just sit down and play video games on your TV without worrying about upgrading consoles or tracking down an impossible-to-get GPU. Now that Microsoft is testing out 5-person family sharing for Game Pass Ultimate (opens in new tab), this would eliminate the need to buy multiple consoles for a household, which is a pretty smart play from Microsoft.
If Microsoft can find a way to stream games out in 1440p or 4K without sacrificing latency, then this service would be an absolute slam dunk. I’ll admit there’s something to device-less game streaming, where $15 a month and a Bluetooth controller is all you need to hop online and play games with friends. As a diehard PC gamer, I’ll never not need a beefy gaming rig to make me happy, but if services like this mean more people get to play more games without spending a ton of money on hardware, I’m all for it.