Right now, the most comfortable, convenient way to take advantage of Microsoft’s new Xbox cloud gaming is on…a Chromebook?!
On September 15, Microsoft formally unveiled cloud gaming for Android phones and tablets (go.pcworld.com/angm), in the form of an add-on to its Xbox Game Pass app. Cloud gaming, formerly known as Project xCloud, had been in trials for months, designed as an on-the-go option for gamers to squeeze in a bit of Sea of Thieves during downtime, waiting for a bus or plane.
Part of the appeal of Xbox cloud gaming was its convenience. Another was the fact that cloud gaming runs remotely on Microsoft’s servers, allowing the relatively anemic CPUs found within phones and tablets to run a powerful, top-tier game. But wait—we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and many of us are stuck at home. Why squint at a tiny phone when a PC and its large display could be used instead? Because Microsoft hasn’t yet published a cloud gaming app for Windows 10 PCs (go. pcworld.com/pcap), cloud gaming runs on top of an Android app, and Android apps run on some Chromebooks. Bingo!
So, for right now, the best Xbox cloud gaming PC is, yep, a Chromebook. Just don’t tell your kids, or they’ll never stop “doing homework” in their rooms.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR XBOX CLOUD GAMING ON A CHROMEBOOK
Here’s what cloud gaming on a Chromebook means: games powered by Microsoft’s Xbox cloud gaming service are running on a remote server and streamed to your device, just like Netflix. Not all of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass suite of games are available for playing via the cloud, but a hefty chunk are.
Any inputs you make via a controller or keyboard are sent back over the internet, introducing the slightest bit of delay, or lag, into the gameplay. The upside is that because Microsoft’s servers are doing all the work, you don’t need to spend the time or bandwidth downloading the game, and it loads just as quickly as if it were already on your device. Microsoft assumes that you’ll be using a phone for cloud gaming, but you’re going to be using your own wired or wireless network instead. The quality of that network will matter; if your Netflix streaming already stops and stutters, cloud gaming isn’t for you.
Here’s what you’ll need to enable cloud gaming on a Chromebook. First, you’ll need a modern Chromebook, one that’s capable of running Android apps. If your Chromebook was manufactured in 2016 or later, chances are that Android apps are enabled. (If you’re not sure, Google maintains a list of Chromebooks that can run Android apps (go.pcworld. com/glst).)
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