The Xbox game streaming TV app feels almost like the real thing
Playing games on the new Xbox app made for TVs feels like a big agreement. There is no console and no hidden HDMI streaming device. But in my short hands-on demo, games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 loaded quickly and – most importantly – they played well with both Xbox and Playstation 5 wireless controllers. And if you’re not a Game Pass subscriber, you can still join Fortnite directly for free through the app after you sign in with a Microsoft account.
The app aims to provide a console-like experience for people who don’t want the expense and hassle of buying and setting up a console. It lets you pair a Bluetooth headset to hear audio and chat with Xbox friends, and Xbox saved data syncs through the cloud so you can pick up where you left off on the TV.
You’ll be able to experience it from June 30th – that is, if you own a model of one of Samsung’s fleet of 2022 televisions (including the M8 Smart Monitor and non-flagship Smart TVs above model BU8000). The Xbox app launches first in Samsung’s Gaming Hub, a new part of Samsung’s TV operating system that puts games at the center of media streaming apps.
Microsoft is aiming for native 1080p streaming at 60 frames per second, and Samsung uses upscaling to make the images look better. Connecting Ethernet to your TV is, of course, highly recommended to get the best fidelity possible, but during my demo, the TV I was playing on was connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and did a pretty good job. If you’re playing wireless, Microsoft recommends connecting to a 5GHz router, which most routers can broadcast.
Compared to my experience using xCloud on my Android phone or browser, the interface seemed to glide around a little more smoothly, and — minor stuttering and some noticeable compression aside — it was a perfectly usable, but inherently imperfect, experience. It will never be a one-on-one parallel to experiencing the latest games directly from a console capable of native 4K (or close to it), but in the absence of a console I’d happily use this TV app instead. of games on a tablet or phone.
Halo looks, sounds and plays like Halo† I was able to align headshots with barely enough accuracy. In Forza Horizon 5I nailed most of the wild turns I took as I hurtled down the road. What I’m aiming for is that this app feels like it should be good enough to serve as the only way to game for many people.
The execution is simple and straightforward, but it still feels magical that gaming has arrived at this point. Microsoft has spent 20 years dominating your entertainment hub with consoles, and for those who want it (and own a 2022 Samsung TV for now), the best of Xbox will soon be available via a TV app.
Photography by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge