Streaming with the Xbox One and Windows 10

October 26, 2015

For many years, there’s been one thing that I’ve been waiting to get from consoles. A function where you could use the console as a rendering machine for a game, but forward the actual output to another device. This mostly boils down to the fact that you usually only have one TV, but multiple computers.

A couple months ago the Xbox Preview Program was updated with stream functionality, where you can stream the output (both video and sound) to any windows 10 device via the Xbox App in the Windows store. You’ll need to connect your Xbox one controller to the device, since Microsoft has remade the Xbox controller, it doesn’t have a proprietary plug any more, and any normal micro-usb cable will suffice. When the device is connected, Windows 10 will automatically install the device drivers.

Setting it up is really easy, if you have Windows 10, all you need is the Xbox app. In the app you can remote control the Xbox (even turning it on remotely). Once the Xbox is up and running, it’s just a matter of clicking on the “Stream Xbox”. The window will maximize and you’ll end up seeing everything the Xbox is outputting (including the dashboard).

Once the connection is setup, all of the inputs from the controller will be forwarded to the Xbox.

Halo 3 ODST streamed on to a ThinkPad.

It’s one of those things that sound too good to be true, and I was rather skeptical at first. But after using it a couple of times, I’m completely sold. I’ve even found myself using the streaming function even though I could’ve played on the TV, just for the fact that being closer to the screen means you can see everything better (A telltale sign that I need a pair of glasses).

One of the downsides is that you can only stream as long as you are on the same network, I’d guess it’s because of latency between the devices. According to wikipedia, an input lag of 200 ms would be distracting for the player, and say if you’re playing cross-continent, you’ll have an inherent latency of a couple of hundreds of milliseconds, add that to the normal processing lag, and you’ll end up in an uncomfortable zone.

Though I still needed to test it out, since, as earlier mentioned, you can only connect to an Xbox when on the same network, I set up an OpenVPN server, and tethered my laptop with my phone and connected through VPN over 4G. It actually worked fairly well. But then again, you don’t always have access to 4G.

The stream is basically a mirror of what the Xbox is outputting.

The other downside with streaming is that the Xbox is actually mirroring its display to the computer, in other words, the Xbox can’t be used for anything else while streaming a game, which rules out netflix etc. This is an area for improvement, the Xbox already has multitasking capabilities (the ability to run multiple programs at once). So it would be nice if you could make the Xbox render the game in the background and then display a different app to the TV.