Hands on with Microsoft's Xbox One to Windows 10 game streaming


Microsoft is working hard to draw together the Xbox One and Windows 10; the idea, I suppose, is to make users of one of these platforms see value in also adopting the other one. In other words, get Xbox One users to choose Windows 10 on their computers, and Windows 10 users to choose the Xbox One over competing consoles for gaming in the living.

The latest feature to roll out is the ability to play Xbox One games on a computer running Windows 10 via streaming. In other words the game is still running on the Xbox One and the Windows 10 device is just acting as a thin client.

For now you have to be in not one but two preview programs to put this functionality to the test. You have to be running the Windows 10 Preview on a computer and you have to be in the Xbox One Preview program as well. Since I meet both of these requirements I decided to give this new feature a a whirl and see how well it worked.

On the Windows 10 machine you run the new Xbox app, and then from the console menu option, connect to your Xbox One and choose streaming. You're also going to need a wired Xbox controller. I used an Xbox One controller and a USB cable to connect to the Windows machine (this fall Microsoft will release a wireless adapter for Windows 10 so you won't need the USB cable). The good news is when I plugged the Xbox One controller into the Windows 10 machine, it just worked. There was no need to install additional drivers or even visit a control panel.

In fact "it just worked" sums up this entire post. Once I started streaming I was controlling the Xbox One remotely, and the display was mirrored on my laptop screen. I was using an inexpensive Lenovo v570 (an Intel i5, 2.30 Ghz machine with Intel HD Graphics 3000 that I bought for something like $350 a few years ago) that was on WiFi, while my Xbox One has a wired connection.

I took some video showing laptop screen and TV to show that any lag was pretty minimal. Please forgive the quality of this footage; I recording it via the camera on a Surface tablet and was attempting to play the game one handed.

Considering the Lenovo has a screen resolution of 1366 x 768 I thought it looked pretty good, too (though that might not come through in the video).

Considering this is a very early iteration of this feature, I was extremely pleased by how well it worked. The only downside was that it took over the Xbox One; I think the ultimate goal would be to create a system where someone could be watching TV (or doing some other activity that isn't processor intensive) on the Xbox One while another person is streaming a game to their Windows 10 device. The Xbox One has an HDMI pass-through feature and I suspect a lot of households have TV running through the Xbox One, and one of the best uses of streaming games is to smooth over the tension that arises when one family member wants to watch TV and another wants to play a game.

On the other hand according to the FAQ you can play a multiplayer game with one person streaming and the other on the Xbox One console, which is kind of neat.

The FAQ is good reading for other conditions; for instance game publishers can opt to prevent you using this functionality and games that use specialty controllers won't work. You can't stream to Twitch while playing this way. GameDVR on the Xbox One is disabled but your Windows 10 system should be able to record gameplay. And sadly this is just game streaming; for licensing reasons you can't stream TV via this system.

Anyway, in my opinion this is a great new feature for the Xbox One and I'm looking forward to seeing how Microsoft improves it over time.

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