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Hands-on with Microsoft's Project xCloud Xbox streaming app for Windows

Project xCloud PC App
Project xCloud PC App (Image credit: Daniel Rubino | Windows Central)

Microsoft is gradually rolling out Project xCloud across the globe, with Germany, Italy, and France recently joining the lineup. I tried xCloud for myself a few times at shows and in the UK, but this week was the first time I've been able to play from where I live in Germany, and I've been having a blast.

Additionally, we acquired the Project xCloud Xbox Game Streaming app for Windows 10, which is built for developers to test out their games on a remote connection. The app is based on the existing Project xCloud testing app preview users can sign up to test out, and it functions very similarly to the service on Android and iOS.

For a quick look at how Project xCloud handles in Western Europe, and some screens of the Xbox Game Streaming test app on PC, read on.

Related: How to join the Project xCloud preview

Xbox Game Streaming app for PC

This app is intended for developer use primarily, for testing how games handle when playing remotely. The structure of the app is very similar to what we'll get when it launches for PC, which could be any day now.

Right now, the app is restricted to Xbox Game Streaming using a connected console as the server, although there is a menu for selecting Project xCloud Azure-based streaming instead, for when the service eventually goes live.

I ran the app on a Razer Blade 15 using my home Xbox One X, both devices connected to 5GHz Wi-Fi in my home. It seems to handle far better than the old Xbox PC app streaming, with minuscule latency problems.

There was often artifacting pixelization here and there, but this isn't really intended for public consumption and is probably not particularly well optimized. The fact that the resolution is locked at 720p, designed for phones and tablets primarily, does muddy the picture a fair bit on a HD PC screen. The trade-off is, of course, better latency.

The best part was that all my settings and connected consoles were already available to me as soon as I installed the app. It detected I was signed in with my Microsoft Account on Windows 10, then automagically pulled down the consoles I had previously connected to the xCloud preview app on Android. Project xCloud also syncs your saved games from your console to the remote servers, letting me continue my Gears of War Ultimate Edition playthrough with my brother, from anywhere, at any time. This is the kind of seamless gaming that I need in my life.

xCloud for PC could be huge

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Project xCloud still harbors many unanswered questions. We know it'll be coupled with Xbox Game Pass, but we have no idea if it will include an additional fee on top of the existing price tiers. We don't know if the library will be fixed, or cyclical, like Xbox Game Pass itself, and we don't know if you'll be able to access any games you've purchased outright without using your home console as the server.

Microsoft is better-placed than most to take on this tech.

Where Project xCloud is most likely to shine is lower-end gaming PCs and laptops. Project xCloud will enjoy a truly massive potential userbase on Android, but the squished phone screen doesn't make for a very pleasant experience. Although developers will be able to scale their user interfaces to be larger on smaller displays, none have done so thus far.

I loved the fact that Xbox Game Streaming on my Razer Blade just worked, and for once, allowed me to play a AAA game without turning my laptop into a jet engine or hotplate. I have a fairly powerful RTX 2060 device, too. Users with low-power PCs like the Surface Go or the Pro X, with ARM-based architecture, should see even bigger benefits, gaining access to games those devices simply wouldn't be able to handle otherwise. Microsoft is better-placed than most to take on this tech, with more investment in first-party than ever, and an established cloud platform that is among the biggest on Earth.

Xbox Game Streaming

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Jez Corden
Jez Corden

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!

21 Comments
  • This would be a really good time(shelter in place) to have that on my Pro X. Really need an option and I don't wanna drop the cash on a gaming laptop right now.
  • With how much xCloud is billed to be a on the go solution, it only works well with a strong 5ghz wifi signal. No hotel has good internet, so where on the go are people supposed to play these? :P But yeah, since the ios version of xCloud is so limited, a surface would be a great alternative albeit far more expensive than an ipad.
  • > a surface would be a great alternative albeit far more expensive than an ipad One would hope that it will work on the much lower-powered devices -- on both (non-pro) Surface 3 and Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 (QC 821), Witcher 3 is enjoyable to play with NVIDIA GeForce Now and on the tab's OLED display it is drop-dead gorgeous. Microsoft should be able to do no worse... or not bother at all.
  • I can play it while on mobile data, it isn't perfect but it works.
  • I’m sure they’re looking towards the future of 5G. Once it stops causing the ‘rona! 😜
  • If only this "app" became available to all smart tv's in the future. Imagine being able to access xCloud anywhere in the house. I would love to be able to stream games from my Xbox to the bedroom tv without needing to buy a separate console. Or have an xCloud stick that could be plugged into any tv similar to Chromecast.
  • We've been able to stream from and Xbox console to PC for years via the Xbox app. How is this any different than that until the azure based solution comes?
  • Great question. It also would be good to compare it to the SteamLink. (hint, hint :) )
  • Because this is going to extend to cloud streaming, and not require you to be on the same network, or have your console on/running.
  • >Q: How is this any different than that *until* the azure based solution comes? >A: this is going to extend to cloud streaming ... Do I take it that until "going" actually "gets" someplace, it is not different or did I misunderstand the answer?
  • You can use this off-network, meaning you don't need to be on a local network for both even for console streaming.
  • The old system meant you could only steam on your home network, now you can stream via the Internet. So you don't have to be in the same building as your console to play.
  • This looks so good. I wouldn't play competitive games on this service due to the expected lag, but for casual games, this is going to be simply perfect. I also expect it to get better and better. Can't wait to be able to play high fidelity games on an ultrabook without needing to take up significant storage on the device!
  • This is cool. And the only reason I even have an opinion is that I think this opens doors for people (like me) who aren't into gaming enough to be bothered to buy anything beyond a simple controller. There are zero dedicated GPUs in our household. If it ain't in the Microsoft Store and can't run on 2GB of shared memory, I ain't interested. But this? This is a whole new ballgame. (At least, it will be when it's available and doesn't require owning an Xbox.)
  • > I think this opens doors for people (like me) who aren't into gaming enough to be bothered to buy anything beyond a simple controller. Such ability is commercially available for about $6/mo since February. Was the fact that it wasn't from Microsoft Store the only reason you decided not to use it? I am not being sarcastic, I am genuinely interested. And, before someone comments... I am not associated with NVIDIA in any way other than being the happy customer.
  • February was three months ago.
  • Erm... I am not a native English speaker... was that answer to my question?
  • Just personal choice really.
    Some games are platform exclusives so you will have to go with the cloud stream service that supports your game. I will only be able to play Forza on xCloud.
  • This is what I've been waiting for; glad to see they are finally making progress to bring this to Windows. That said, 720p is a no-go for me for a Windows streaming solution. (This may be acceptable on a 6" smartphone display, but not on a 13-15" or larger PC display.) Let's hope this limitation is due to the current state of things, and does not reflect actual plans.
  • What I'm looking forward to the most with the PC app is not having to be limited to play only games that use XPA or Cross Saves because i want to play on both my Xbox and PC or even have to be limited to only one platform just because its not in both stores!
  • The biggest question I have regarding this article is why show us pics of the Surface Pro X, but indicate you tested the service on a Razer Blade 15? I don't necessarily view this as a viable solution if I need to carry around a device that could actually run said game locally. Although there is a reference to lower power devices seeing benefits, let's see this running on a lightweight device like a SPX or something similar, now.