We tested the beta of xCloud on the top of the Samsung range, to understand if it is really possible to play streaming with Microsoft’s Game Pass.
The Android world has a huge catalog of games. There are thousands of them, but only a few of them manage to appeal to gamers accustomed to PC and console. But now, thanks to the services that allow you to play in streaming, it seems that something is really changing in the mobile world. Leading this (possible) revolution is undoubtedly Microsoft, which with its own Game Pass Ultimate offers access to dozens of titles in streaming through xCloud, with a simple monthly subscription.
Obviously this is only part of the offer included in the Game Pass Ultimate, but it is important because it could lead, in the medium term, to the creation of a playful ecosystem even larger than the current one, made up of Windows 10 PCs, the new Xbox Series X e Series S and now also from Android smartphones. Waiting to find out how the situation will evolve on iOS we tried the service on the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, a phone that has focused on the Microsoft streaming service since its presentation.
Costs, network and interface requirements
In order to use xCloud it is necessary to have a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, all other subscriptions do not provide the possibility to play in streaming. The cost is € 12.99 per month, for a subscription that includes much more inside, such as the ability to play over 100 titles on PC and consoles, including Microsoft exclusives directly on launch day, at no additional cost. The subscription gives access to multiplayer mode on consoles, entitles you to discounts and exclusive offers and, by the end of the year, will also include games from the EA Play catalog. The offer is really full of possibilities, to which is obviously added the game streaming on devices other than PC and console. In this test we are using a smartphone, but in the future it will be possible to play directly from a TV or PC.
For now, the service can only be used by phone, a choice made also for the limited current transmission resolution, stuck at 720p, certainly not ideal on larger screens. To access the service you need a 10 Mbps connection, the bandwidth requirements are currently low, also given the resolution with which the images are transmitted.
During the test we used a 5 GHz Wi-Fi connection on a fixed line of 40 Mbps in download and 30 Mbps in Upload, but it is also possible to play under 4G and 5G networks, paying maximum attention to consumption, because the classic 50 Monthly GBs can run out quickly if you use the service for many hours.
To play in streaming you need to install on your smartphone the Xbox Game Pass application and connect a compatible pad. Some games, few in truth, have already been adapted to be used with the touch screen, however the controller is practically mandatory for most titles, which would be difficult to manage without. We used a Razer Raiju Mobile but it is also possible to pair the Xbox pad, without the need to buy a dedicated peripheral. Obviously, the advantage of this pad is given by the support for the smartphone, which allows you to play without a support surface for the phone.
The interface that appears once the application is started fully reproduces that seen on PC and console, Microsoft has managed to unify the style of all its gaming platforms and even on the Note 20 Ultra the experience is no different and is perfectly manageable directly from the joypad. From here you can access three sections, Cloud, Console and PC, and the first is the one that allows you to play directly in streaming.
At the top center some recommended games are shown, scrolling down instead the application divides the titles available into categories, from the most popular to the most suitable to be played on smartphones, like a regular video streaming service. On the left there are then three shortcuts, one to return to the home, one to enter your profile and the last one allows you to create real playlists of games.
Playing from a smartphone is possible, but not at all
Once the game has been chosen and started, the platform proceeds to load, more or less quickly depending on the title and the type of connection. In some cases it took about ten seconds, in others the loading took almost a minute. Galaxy Note 20 Ultra has a 19.3: 9 screen, a particular format for the gaming world, the interface therefore occupies only the central part of the display, simulating a classic 16: 9 screen and completely cutting out the camera hole. With a tap on the screen you can see some statistics, including a very important one, namely the bandwidth consumption, useful when playing on the move to keep the data plan under control. At the first start the application synchronizes the saves with those available on the PC and console, thus guaranteeing continuity of use between the different platforms.
We tried different titles, from Gears 5 to Ori, through Resident Evil 7 and Forza Horizon, discovering a platform that promises very well but that needs higher quality to offer a gaming experience suitable for all titles. For example Ori does not give any kind of problem, certainly the definition is much lower than those available on monitors and TVs but it is still perfectly playable, same thing for Gears 5. Resident Evil 7 instead shows the limits of the current streaming quality, just observe what happens in the initial part, where the dense vegetation of the Baker house the compression of the video signal particularly suffers.
A screen like that of the Note 20 Ultra can handle much higher resolutions but for now Microsoft prefers not to push on quality: the transition to a higher resolution would require much more power in the servers and much more bandwidth to be managed, increasing consumption even more. .
On the input lag front, the situation is less problematic than we expected. At first we connected the pad via Bluetooth and the delay was noticeable, later we have instead pointed to the wired connection via the Note’s USB Type C, which caused the input lag to drop until it didn’t bother during gameplay. It’s probably still not good enough for competitive titles, but for single player play it falls within acceptable limits.
From the xCloud test on Galaxy Note 20 Ultra we understood how Microsoft is going in the right direction. A service to play hundreds of titles on PC and consoles, together with the possibility of using them even from mobile without dedicated hardware, had never been seen before and even if we are only at the beginning the potential is all there. At present, using xCloud as the main gaming platform is not recommended, but it can come in handy for playing at times and places where you don’t have access to a console or PC. The quality for now is only sufficient, with the jump to 1080p you will certainly be able to appreciate the service better. Net of the limits, therefore, the test on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is certainly positive, we will certainly return to try the service as soon as Microsoft implements a higher resolution and bitrate.