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Best phones for Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud) 2022

Surface Duo Gaming
Surface Duo Gaming (Image credit: Windows Central)

Xbox Game Pass gives you access to dozens of cloud-streaming titles, available on both tablets and phones. So, what are the best phones to buy for it? The service is only available on Android natively as of writing, although iPhone users can experience the fun too via Xbox.com/play (opens in new tab). Right now, our pick for "best" phone for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming goes to the OnePlus 8 (opens in new tab), balancing power, affordability, and features. However, there are also some great alternatives to consider, too.

Best overall: OnePlus 8

Source: Android central (Image credit: Source: Android central)

OnePlus 8 smartphone

Xbox Cloud Gaming on an amazing device

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth 90Hz display
+
Great gaming specifications
+
Clean software
+
Great value
+
4,300mAh battery
+
5G

Reasons to avoid

-
Wireless charging comes in the more expensive "Pro" version

The OnePlus 8 is one of the best value-for-money flagships out there. A stunning edge-to-edge, notchless OLED display with 90Hz refresh rate must be seen to be believed, offering fluid motion for games that manage to achieve 60 frames per second (FPS) or above. The OnePlus 8 also boasts decent screen time at around six hours permanently streaming video, although this will probably be around five hours when you factor in the additional data for controller inputs and Bluetooth connectivity.

The OnePlus OS is one of the best versions of Android out there, offering subtle customization and Xbox-like accent colors, without piles of ridiculous bloatware like some of its competitors. OnePlus truly represents the best of Android right now, and is the perfect phone for newcomers and veterans alike.

Best budget Android: Google Pixel 4a

Google Pixel 4a smartphone

The most affordable XCloud-ready phone

Reasons to buy

+
Best camera below $500
+
Mimics Pixel 4's premium touch
+
Google's pure Android experience

Reasons to avoid

-
No water resistance
-
Sub-par battery life
-
No 5G

The Google Pixel range is designed to represent the best of Android, and when it comes to budget handsets, Google really nails it here. While the 4a is supposedly the "budget" variant of its Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 cousins, it still rocks a relatively polished experience across the board. There are some elements straight off the regular line, like the Pixel's excellent camera technology.

Google's efforts with its advanced camera tech and clean OS are exemplary, but the 3,140mAh battery in the Pixel 4a makes for relatively limited screen time. For longer sessions, you may want to throw in an external battery pack.

There are cheaper phones out there, but if you want a device that meets a baseline level of quality purely for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming, this is a great option.

Best with 5G: Samsung Galaxy S21

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Samsung Galaxy S21 smartphone

A serious phone with a serious price

Reasons to buy

+
5G connectivity
+
Large display
+
Powerful specs

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite expensive

If you want to futureproof your Xbox Game Pass experience against the proliferation of 5G wireless, consider the Samsung Galaxy S21, which is arguably also the best premium handset on the market right now.

The Galaxy S21 also sports unique connectivity with Microsoft services, notably Your Phone for connectivity between your PC and mobile. It also supports Samsung DeX output to PC, which allows you to experience Project xCloud and Xbox game streaming on a larger display.

The S21 also sports 5G options, which will provide the best over-the-air connectivity for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming. It also has a large display option, screen, nice battery life, and huge amounts of power, making it a great gaming device.

Unique option: Surface Duo

Surface Duo Xbox Cloud Gaming

(Image credit: Jez Corden / Windows Central)

Microsoft Surface Duo tablet

A unique option

Reasons to buy

+
Unique folding experience with touch gamepad
+
Gorgeous hardware in an impressively slim device
+
A decent display with capable specs

Reasons to avoid

-
Truly absurd RRP, and very expensive outside of the U.S.
-
Average overall phone experience
-
No 5G

Thanks to a deluge of price drops, the Surface Duo might actually be a contender in the Xbox Game Pass space now, for a single good reason: foldability!

The Surface Duo, as a phone, has a ton of problems. The software isn't particularly great, the camera is poor, and the battery life is average at best. Where the Duo shines, however, is in its unique form factor. Two fully reversible displays make up the Surface Duo, and thanks to a unique feature for owners, Xbox Game Pass cloud players can turn it into a Nintendo 3DS-like experience with a touch gamepad, right on the lower screen.

This is awesome for several reasons. Number one, you don't need to carry around an additional controller. Two, the touch controls don't obscure the actual game with their overlays. And three, the display also lets you put it into an upright tent mode, ideal for connecting a controller if you want more tactility.

The main downsides here are the lack of 5G, the general phone experience, and, well, the price. It's still a pretty expensive boi, despite several price drops in the U.S. and other territories. However, despite the issues, there's something a bit magical about this option. If you fancy yourself a bit of an early adopter, you could consider this one instead of the more tried-and-tested options above.

Bottom line

The OnePlus 8 (opens in new tab) remains the best all-rounder, when it comes to balancing power, price, and features.

What makes the OnePlus 8 is that it manages to cram premium qualities into a far cheaper handset than you might normally pay. For iPhone users coming into Android for the first time, it's an ideal device owing to the polished OS experience, too. If you're a current Android user looking to upgrade to something that will truly last, OnePlus is your best bet.

Do consider the Surface Duo too, despite the issues. If you can get one secondhand or cheaply, it provides a unique experience thanks to its doubled-up display, giving you an experience unlike anything else out there right now.

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!