Xbox's February Update has arrived, here's what's inside

Image of Xbox Series X and Series S side-by-side with Xbox Wireless Controllers.
(Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Microsoft has announced that the Xbox February Update is rolling out today. The update's core focus is refining the Xbox user experience and the introduction of some new features.
  • The largest addition of the update is the arrival of carbon aware downloads, which could potentially cut down on carbon emissions since they'll occur during nightly maintenance windows when more electricity is coming from lower-carbon sources.
  • It's now also possible to hide game art when navigating the Xbox Home screen. This keeps your background a solid color of your choice instead of making it show game art when you highlight game tiles.
  • Remote controlling your Xbox console with the Google Home app is also now an option, and serves as an alternative for the Google Assistant voice command functionality that Xbox has had since 2019.
  • Lastly, a random group of users have been granted the ability to quickly recreate past Xbox Parties by selecting them in the Party History menu. This is part of Microsoft's plan to experiment with this feature moving forward.

Microsoft has announced that the Xbox February Update is being pushed live, with its worldwide rollout starting today. The core focus of the update is refining the Xbox user experience and introducing new features.

The biggest additions of the update are carbon aware downloads, which are the result of the carbon negativity changes Microsoft announced last month. This will allow you to set your Xbox console to schedule game, app, and OS downloads during specific nightly maintenance windows based on local carbon intensity data. In its post, Microsoft says this could lower carbon emissions, as at these times, more electricity comes from sources with less carbon. Notably, Microsoft has also committed to planting and raising a tree for a decade for every two consoles that switch from the Sleep power option to Shutdown, which cuts power use by up to 20 times.

The update also makes it possible to hide game art while navigating the Home screen, giving users more control over their Xbox UI. By toggling this new option in the Settings > General >  Personalization > My background > Solid color and game art menu, game art will no longer replace your background when you select a game tile. Instead, the background will remain a solid color of your choice.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Additionally, it's now possible to use the Google Home app as a touch-enabled remote control for Xbox Series X, Series S, and One systems, giving fans an alternative to Google Assistant voice commands. Once you link your console to Google Home, you can use the app for turning your Xbox on or off, UI navigation, media playback, and more. The full list of remote control features include:

  • Power on/off
  • Directional navigation
  • Navigate home
  • Navigate back
  • Play/pause
  • Skip/previous
  • Volume up/down
  • Mute/unmute
  • Record game clip

Finally, the update has also given a random number of users the ability to quickly recreate a previous Xbox Party as part of Microsoft's plan to experiment with this feature. If you got access, you can try this out by going to the Parties & Chats tab in your Xbox console's guide. Then, select Party or Party History, and a list of previous Parties you were in will appear. You can then select one and opt to recreate it, selecting which friends you'd like to invite.

Windows Central's take

Overall, I think this is a great update. The addition of carbon aware downloads is awesome, especially since many Xbox gamers already download their updates overnight anyway. The option to disable game art on the Home screen will be appreciated by those that find it distracting or just want a simple background, and the ability to use Google Home as a remote control for your console is nice, too.

I'm also a big fan of the Xbox Party recreation idea, though it's clear a complete version of this feature isn't ready yet since Microsoft is only making it available to some users for now. Remember that if you're interested in being an early tester for new Xbox features, you should sign up for the Xbox Insider Program.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.