Microsoft is testing 1080p xCloud streams for Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming

Ipega Android Game Controller Xcloud
Ipega Android Game Controller Xcloud (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Right now Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is limited to 720p.
  • Recently, we were sent evidence that Microsoft is now testing 1080p streams too.
  • Xbox Game Pass cloud infrastructure is getting a big upgrade throughout 2021.

Project xCloud is the codename of Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Cloud Gaming Streaming Service™, which brings together Xbox Live Gold, the Xbox Game Pass for console, and Xbox Game Pass for PC services into a single, far-cheaper subscription model. On top of that, you also get access to cloud gaming, which lets you stream a range of Xbox console games to an Android device.

Soon, Microsoft is set to expand Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming to the web, bypassing Apple's dumb iOS store rules and bringing xCloud to PCs for the first time. However, what about some of xCloud's current limitations?

Reports have suggested that Microsoft is planning to upgrade the Xbox cloud streaming servers from Xbox One architecture to Xbox Series X architecture over the course of this year, and we may have started to see some of the fruits of that labor. Trusted sources recently sent us this screencap from the Xbox streaming test tools for developers, which comes with a dev overlay for benchmarking network connectivity, as well as resolution.

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

Up until now, Hellblade and other Xbox cloud games were restricted to a maximum of 720p video streams. While this helps on bandwidth and responsiveness, 720p looks quite blurry. If you live close to a Microsoft data center and have a display resolution pushing QHD or higher (often the case with higher-end mobile devices), then you're not really experiencing games as they were intended.

It appears as though Microsoft is already in the process of testing 1080p streams for xCloud, which would bring it in line with Google Stadia's baseline "free" tier and other similar streaming services. The latest update to the test streaming app also supports direct console streaming, which also streams nicely at 1080p.

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

Above you can see the comparison in resolution quality when compared to the 1080p shot sent to us from a trusted source. Our xCloud testing app is crushing the resolution because I'm too far away from a Microsoft data center that supports this 1080p test, presumeably.

In any case, upgrading the stream capability of xCloud, coupled with the SSDs from Xbox Series X hardware should see Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming jump up in quality across the board. It won't take anywhere up to a minute to spin up a server for you, as is currently the case, nor will it take minutes to actually load into the game.

Recently, Google Stadia announced it was winding down its home-grown content efforts and looking to downsize its Stadia efforts. Reports stated that Google was paying publishers tens of millions just to support the platform, which naturally, doesn't seem too sustainable. Microsoft's big advantage with xCloud is that they already have all the content since Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming is literally built on top of the Xbox console platform. As Xbox Game Pass picks up hardware upgrades throughout 2021 and beyond, the gap between Microsoft and its competitors will grow even further.

You can grab Xbox Game Pass streaming using Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and a device like one of the devices from our best xCloud tablets roundup, or using one of the phone attachments from our best xCloud mobile clips roundup.

Be sure to check out our earlier hands-on with xCloud for PC too at the video below.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing 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!

  • With the ongoing chip shortage, will Microsoft switch One S blades for Series X this year?
  • I don't think they will ever switch them with series x blades. (unless there's something I don't know) But my assumption the series s was designed in part to be their next blade solution.
  • They said the Series X could emulate four One S for xCloud. It was always about the Series X.
  • They did talk about Series X blades, it was thought that it would start this year. I don't see that happening.
  • Not with the silicon shortage
  • They are using Series X blades.
  • The endgame solution for xCloud servers has always been Anaconda.
    The Anaconda SOC was designed with several server-class features that consoles don't really need, as documented in the Hotchips presentation. They wouldn't have added those features (and added cost) if the chip weren't meant for blade usage.
    It is also part of the reason they went to 12TF on the GPU side, to get 4X the OneS performance.
    By now it's clear xCloud has always been a big part of Project Scarlett. If things go even vaguely close to MS ambitions, in a few years there will be more Anacondas running in blades than in actual XBOXes. Should make for an interesting pricing lever.
  • Not sure if you're already aware of this, but Console Streaming has been lifted to 1080p as well. I've been playing at 1920x1080 at 60 fps through my Series X. My Xbox One X seems to flip between 1280x720 at 60 fps and 1920x1080 at 30 fps now too, though it does it automatically and I can't choose.
  • This looks like the development test app on PC which I've been using since Series X launched to do local streaming. It's always been 1080p native for me on Series X local streaming using that overlay...
  • I wish my stream worked better period on my 10 Mbs upload. I sometimes don't even seem to get a solid 720p.
  • Have you tried a wired connection? From my testing it can be perfectly playable on as little as 5 Mbps up as long as the Xbox is wired.
  • I only use wired on my consoles. Not sure if it is the connection or the ISP at this point. Good thing I don't do it too often because it requires the console to be always on.
  • While I understand that this makes for a better dot point on paper in not overly fussed to be honest, lower res stream uses significantly less bandwidth and occasionally games don't scale their hud well when you up the res so on the smaller screen it can be a detriment. Good for people who were waiting on that though but never really bothered me personally.
  • Hope they add a function so you can pick depending on the network speed and stability. So if you are on the run its possible to switch it down or it will do it automatically with out getting to much lag.
  • It typically does it automatically aye.