Best Budget Phones for Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) 2021
If you're looking to get into Microsoft's Project xCloud or the soon to be called game streaming for Xbox Game Pass, there's one big common denominator: Android. If you're looking to enjoy it on the go, there are no two ways about it, you need an Android phone or tablet. If you already have one, great, but if you're looking to get a new phone and don't want to spend a ton, these are what we currently recommend.
While Google's flagship Pixel phones often draw criticism, the cheaper, mid-range models hit it out of the park. The Pixel 4a is the follow up to last year's Pixel 3A and is a stunning phone for the price. Nice screen, decent battery life, excellent camera, and first dibs on future software updates make it a great budget buy and a top partner for your xCloud gaming sessions.
5G for Less
The Realme X50 5G packs the new Snapdragon 765G, a large, great looking display, a big battery for over a day's regular use, a decent camera and a great design. It also has support for 5G, which could be useful in the future for cellular access to xCloud, as well as NFC for Google Pay and a fantastic asking price. If you can get one (which rules out the U.S. right now), it's a perfect pocket partner.
Gaming on your phone means you'll want as much battery as you can get, and that's where the Moto G Power delivers. It's got a whopping 5,000mAh unit in the back to eat up your xCloud sessions with ease and a big display to maximize your games on. The only real flaw is a lack of long-term software updates, but if you need a cheap phone that can stay the course while gaming, this is the one.
TCL only recently started putting its badge on its phones, but the 10L is a strong way to enter the scene. You get a great looking phone with a big display, large battery, features like NFC and a customizable smart switch, and a strong processor backed by 6GB of RAM. Not that long ago, these would be flagship-like specs, and now you can get a phone this packed out for under $300.
Xiaomi has a long reputation of high quality yet affordable phones, and the Redmi Note 9 is an absolute steal. The software won't be to everyone's tastes, but if xCloud is your primary concern, then the price alone should excite. It's also a nice looking phone, well made, with a good screen, solid camera and strong battery life. Hook up a controller, and away you go.
OnePlus made its name taking on the big guns with desirable phones that cost much less, and its come full circle again with the Nord. The company's latest isn't officially available in the U.S. (sad face), but if you can get one, you'll love what you get. A capable processor, up to 256GB of storage, a beautiful display, even 5G support, and something you'll love to use both with and without xCloud.
If we had to choose
Why you can trust Windows Central Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
When looking for an excellent quality phone at an affordable price, it's tough to look beyond the Google Pixel 4a right now. It's not just good if you want to play games on xCloud, it's a great phone, period. Google puts out some of the best cameras you'll find on any smartphone, and you'll not have to worry about being left out of software updates for the next few years. It's well made, has good battery life, and is an easy recommendation.
If you're not drawn to the Pixel 4a, or, if you're outside of the few places you can get one, then some alternatives are attractive in their own rights. All of the phones here are perfect for xCloud, with excellent displays, solid battery life, and of course, a low asking price.
Our favorites would be the Realme X50 5G and the OnePlus Nord. These phones are very similar inside, quite similar outside, and both have 5G support if you're looking to go truly mobile with your xCloud gameplay in the future. Neither are available officially in the U.S., which is sad, but they're both genuinely excellent phones that don't cost a lot of money.
Get the Windows Central Newsletter
All the latest news, reviews, and guides for Windows and Xbox diehards.
Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at mstdn.social/@richdevine