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The best ways to take your PC, PS, and Xbox games on the road

All you need is a phone or tablet and a controller.

Person seated on couch holding portable gaming device and smiling at screen. Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

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Summer’s almost upon us, and with the warm weather comes the inspiration to take trips to the beach or catch up with friends and family. But, traveling can be a bit painful if you’re in the middle of a game campaign and can’t quite figure out how to take the game with you. Worry not, friends! There are many ways to get set up with a portable gaming station that goes beyond getting a handheld console or gaming laptop.

What is remote streaming?

Diagram of remote streaming from display to PC.
Credit: Valve

Remote streaming brings convenience to gaming while away from your usual gaming PC.

Remotely accessing a gaming PC is a fantastic way to avoid lugging your console or laptop around. It works by streaming the host’s video and audio output to the client, and then sending the client’s inputs back to the host. For example, you press buttons on the Kishi Razer attached to your phone, your remote PC executes those commands, and then you see your character jump, dodge, or whatever else you wanted them to do on your phone’s display.

It’s important to note that your remote streaming experience is entirely dependent on your network connections, both your Wi-Fi connection and your host PC’s connection. Most remote gaming services and remote desktop apps require at least 5 Mbps download and upload speed but recommend 15 Mbps or more. If you don’t have a fast enough connection, your stream will stutter and suffer from notable lag between host and client.

You will also experience lag depending on how far you are from the host PC. If you’re in the same building, the lag will be minimal. However, if you’re accessing a PC that’s across the country, it will add some lag as the connection travels thousands of miles and hops across multiple servers to relay the information. This is one of cloud gaming services’ major benefits: when you remotely access a PC on their servers, you will access a PC on the server closest to you at the time.

Use a remote desktop app

Cartoon video game players sitting in front of split gaming screen.
Credit: Valve

The key to gaming from a remote desktop app is to remain signed in and active.

Remote desktop applications connect your PC at home to whatever device you are trying to access it from. Technically, cloud gaming services are granting remote desktop access from your device to their host PCs, but remotely connecting to your own PC cuts out the middleman, meaning that you have total control over what you want to do.

The downside to remotely accessing your PC is that you must make sure your PC is always on and logged into whatever app you’re using to stream. If you plan to travel for more than a couple of days, make sure to turn off auto-sleep and to turn off automatic operating system updates at least until you return.

As for what apps you can use to remote stream, Steam Link is a good choice for lots of gamers. It lets you play multiplayer games with your friends, play any game you own on Steam (so long as it’s downloaded on the host PC), and use a mouse, keyboard, or supported controller for inputs.

Screenshot of cartoon game screen on mobile phone.
Credit: Parsec

With Parsec, you can enjoy multiplayer, quality gaming.

Parsec is a more complete remote streaming service that supports multi-monitor displays, 4K 60 fps streams, pressure-sensitive touch input for styluses, and a host of tools for management and collaboration. It’s free for personal use, and you can access your desktop via the app or on a web browser.

Compared to Steam Link, Parsec is a much quicker and user-friendly experience. You don’t need to login on the client if you use your web browser, your host stays logged in on startup, and you can access some features that Steam Link can’t support (like pressure-sensitive inputs).

Stream your Xbox and PlayStation

If you prefer to game from your console, you can use it as a remote PC with each console’s remote play features. Xbox and PlayStation consoles both support remote access from a client device, like your phone or tablet, but they have the same constraints as remote PC access: You have to keep your console awake and signed into your Xbox or PlayStation account during the entire time you’re away. You also must make sure that remote access is enabled in the settings menu.

If you’re unsure how to configure your Xbox or PlayStation, you can follow the steps outlined on the Xbox and a PlayStation web pages for your specific console.

But there are limitations unique to console remote play. Browser, media, and streaming apps like the Blu-Ray player and Netflix are blocked on both Xbox and PlayStation remote play. With Xbox remote play, you can play games on Android, Windows, or iOS, while with PlayStation remote access you can also play on macOS.

Use a Cloud gaming service

When you use a cloud gaming service, you do not need to own your own host PC to stream from. Instead, you stream from the streaming service’s PCs, which are usually more powerful than most consumer PCs and have a fast internet connection. The graphics quality and framerate of the games you play will depend on the cloud PC’s specs. More expensive services can net you access to more powerful PCs—but these services are still much cheaper than getting an equally powerful PC for your home.

Quite a few have popped up in recent years, but GeForce Now, Xbox Cloud Pass, PlayStation Now, and Google Stadia are in the lead for popularity and quality. (There’s also Amazon Luna, which we recently reviewed in full.)

Screenshot of GeForce Now Cloud gaming service.
Credit: Nvidia

Though the GeForce Now is offered on multiple platforms, it puts a cap on gaming time.

On GeForce Now, you can access a remote computer and play any supported game you already own on Steam, Epic, or GOG. You can use almost any desktop or mobile device with an Internet browser to play your games, too.

But GeForce Now has a major drawback. You have a time limit on your sessions, and you can’t use apps or play games that aren’t supported. But it does have one of the most massive game libraries of the bunch, currently sitting at well over 1,100 titles and Nvidia adds more to that list every Thursday.

You can choose from three tiers: free, priority, and RTX 3080. You can only game for one hour at a time on the free tier, for six hours on the priority tier, and for eight hours on the RTX 3080 tier. Queues are also faster for the higher-end tiers. However, you can use back-to-back sessions with no limit.

The free tier offers access to a PC with a GTX 1060 graphics card, which plays most 1080p games at 1080p and 60 frames per second (fps). The priority tier PCs have a GTX 1080 or RTX 2080 graphics card depending on region availability. Both cards can do 1440p gaming at 60 fps, but the RTX 2080 also has ray tracing. The RTX 3080 tier’s PCs can play most games up to 4K HDR resolution and 60 fps (Nvidia Shield, PC, and Mac only) and/or 1440p resolution at 120fps with ray tracing enabled.

Screenshot of video game
Credit: Microsoft

Offered for a reasonable price, the XboxGamePass allows you to have up to 350 titles in your personal library.

Xbox Cloud Pass is part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. You can play from Windows, Android, your Xbox console, and your web browser, which means you can also play Xbox games from any Apple device. The library is comparatively small at about 350 titles, but you have access to all of them as part of the Game Pass membership. Cloud Pass is still in beta, so it’s possible there will be changes and updates to the service and its library in the future. (You can try it out one month for one dollar.)

Smart television, laptop and gaming controller together with Playstation display.
Credit: Sony

Unfortunately, gaming from your mobile device isn't possible with PlayStation Now.

PlayStation Now will be available with the PlayStation Plus Premium membership starting June 13, 2022. There are hundreds of titles included in the premium membership, and you can access them from your PlayStation or your Windows PC. However, you can’t use your phone or Apple device.

Screenshot of Stadia Cloud gaming service.
Credit: Google

The Stadia Cloud service can be accessed on numerous platforms like Android, Chromecast, or the Google Chrome web browser.

Google Stadia is an odd one. Unlike the other cloud services mentioned, you will need to buy games you want to play on Google Stadia’s platform (or subscribe to Stadia’s Pro tier). However, if you have an Ubisoft+ account, you can crosslink the accounts to play supported games at no extra cost. You can access the cloud on Android, Chromecast, or the Google Chrome web browser. It’s hard to recommend, since it’s the only service that makes it harder to play games you already own. You can try Stadia Pro for one month for free.

Screen shot of the Amazon Luna gaming platform.
Credit: Amazon

Amazon Prime users can access the Luna+ for an additional $9.99 a month.

Amazon Luna is available with an Amazon Prime membership, although most games are locked behind an additional paywall in separate monthly packages, like premium channels on Hulu. The Luna+ plan, which costs $9.99 per month, has about a hundred games.

Get a gaming laptop or portable console

Gaming laptop opened sitting on desk.
Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

It makes the most sense for frequent travelers to invest in a gaming laptop that can keep up with their tech needs on while the road.

If a reliable internet or mobile data connection is a concern, you’ve probably already thought about the Switch or a gaming laptop and whether you should bring them with you. But have you considered a Steam Deck or one of the various Windows-based portable consoles that are popping up lately, like the Aya Neo Next Pro or the GPDWin3? Their battery life is not great, and they’re not as powerful as a bigger rig, but they’re a lot more customizable and have a much, much bigger library at their disposal.

Does getting a gaming laptop make sense if you’re traveling once a year and work from home? Absolutely not. However, if you frequently find yourself on a plane and see hotel bed sheets more often than your couch, it might be time to consider a gaming laptop. The best gaming laptops are more expensive than the desktop counterparts, but you can get a great gaming laptop that can play most games at 1440p and 120fps without spending a month’s worth of rent. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is a great gaming laptop with a nine-hour battery life a 1440p 120Hz display that supports HDR. Meanwhile, the HP Victus 16 is great for 1080p gaming under $1,000.

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