I tried Xbox cloud gaming with Samsung’s new Gaming Hub
The game-streaming software is built into new Samsung smart TVs .
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With so many TV brands vying for the hearts and minds of gamers, getting a competitive edge in the marketplace is as important as choosing the right gamer chair. This year, Samsung is doling out an interesting perk to folks shopping for a gaming TV: buy a Samsung smart TV, play Xbox games (and more) without a console.
The Samsung Gaming Hub—new to Samsung smart TVs—lets users play a vast library of gaming titles across various cloud gaming services, including Xbox Cloud Gaming. In a matter of minutes, Samsung Gaming Hub let me play a round of Halo with no Xbox console in sight. Here’s what I thought of the experience, and how you can jump into the action at home with your own Samsung TV.
What is Samsung Gaming Hub?
Available on select 2022 Samsung smart TVs, the Samsung Gaming Hub is a software package that offers a number of cloud gaming services, including Nvidia GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.
Think of cloud gaming (or cloud streaming) as Netflix for video games; each service has its own library of titles to choose from, and because they’re accessed remotely, no console is required. All that is needed is a subscription to whichever cloud gaming service you want to play.
Which TVs support Samsung Gaming Hub?
For now, Samsung’s cloud gaming hub is only available in select 2022 smart TVs, including the following models:
- Samsung QN900B Neo QLED
- Samsung QN800B Neo QLED
- Samsung QN700B Neo QLED
- Samsung QN95B Neo QLED
- Samsung QN85B Neo QLED
- Samsung QN90B Neo QLED
- Samsung S95B OLED
- Samsung Q70B QLED
- Samsung Q60B QLED
While it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Samsung may introduce its Gaming Hub to smart TV models from previous years, there’s been no official announcement about any such release.
How to set up Samsung Gaming Hub
If you already own an eligible Samsung smart TV, there’s a good chance you need to install the necessary software update that adds the hub to your home screen. Update number 1302.5 or later will do the trick.
Downloading the software update is simple: Navigate to your TV’s main settings menu, select the Support submenu, then click on Software Update. If no software update is available, you’re already up to date. (You can check which software version you have by selecting the About TV option from the Support submenu.)
In my experience, downloading and installing version 1302.5 to the Samsung S95B took about fifteen minutes—longer than an update of this size typically takes. Your mileage here may vary, depending on the strength of your internet connection.
After the update, the Samsung Gaming Hub should appear on the sidebar of your TV’s home screen, marked by a small controller icon. However, if your experience is anything like mine, the Gaming Hub icon will still be absent, even after updating and restarting the TV. Fortunately, there’s a quick solution: Turn off your TV, unplug it from the wall, wait about thirty seconds, and plug it back in. Gaming Hub should appear once you’ve given your TV a hard reboot.
Note: While we haven't tested the Samsung S95B after installing update 1302.5, we've read reports from some users that this update changes the appearance of the S95B's Movie picture mode.
Pairing a controller with your Samsung TV
Before you jump into the action, it’s imperative that you pair a controller with your TV. Samsung’s official list of supported controllers is a great place to start, but note that each cloud gaming service has its own list of recommended controllers, so while some controllers will work across all of Samsung Gaming Hub’s available services, their functionality might change from one service to the next. Here’s where you can find controller compatibility information for each service:
- Xbox Cloud Gaming recommended controllers
- Google Stadia recommended controllers
- GeForce Now recommended controllers
We’ve tested and reviewed plenty of popular PC and Xbox controllers to help you shop, but be sure to confirm its compatibility with Samsung Gaming Hub ahead of time. Samsung notes that “other third-party Bluetooth controllers may be compatible,” but there’s no guarantee unless it’s confirmed by Samsung.
I used an Xbox Series X controller as I intended to spend the most time with Xbox Cloud Gaming. To pair your controller, jump into the Gaming Hub and select the controller icon on the far left side of the Hub’s home screen. Follow the instructions on the screen, but be sure to consult the pairing process of your preferred controller, too. The manner in which your controller pairs with another device plays a role here.
Once my controller was successfully paired with my Samsung S95B, I could navigate the hub by way of my controller. It was time to stream some games.
Hands on with Xbox Cloud Gaming on a Samsung smart TV
The Xbox Cloud Gaming app can be accessed from the Gaming Hub home screen, but it doesn’t come pre-installed, so I had to spend a few minutes installing it. Once available, the app prompted me to sign in (or sign up) for Xbox Game Pass.
If you want to stream Xbox games on your Samsung TV, you’ll need to sign up for an Xbox Game Pass subscription. The service is available in tiers: Console, PC, and Ultimate. We recommend Game Pass Ultimate, a combination of the Console and PC game tiers that costs $14.99 per month (after a $1 introductory month).
The Samsung TV Xbox app looks remarkably similar to the Xbox interface, with search options and recently added titles being prioritized at the top of the app’s home screen. If you’ve navigated Game Pass titles on an Xbox One or Xbox Series X, you’ll feel right at home.
Being a seasoned veteran of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, I figured it was a great title to start with. I know this game (Halo: Reach in particular) like the back of my hand, so it was the perfect way to get a sense of the Xbox Cloud Gaming experience.
The first thing I noticed was the sheer amount of compression taking place upon launching the game. Its native 4K resolution looked barely 720p, while text, menus, and objects lacked definition.
Unfortunately, the actual gameplay wasn’t much better. Severe input lag for a fast-paced, twitchy shooter like Halo is devastating, and my Samsung TV—operating on a wireless internet connection—was serving up plenty of it. Frames dropped constantly, and visual artifacts scattered across the screen throughout the match.
In other words, playing competitive matches online was completely out of the question, lest I watch my precious career statistics take a hit.
For wireless connectivity, the Xbox Gaming App recommends a 5GHz Wi-Fi signal with a download speed of at least 20Mbps. Our network was running at about 30Mbps and barely keeping things together. I decided to give a hardwired connection a shot.
With an ethernet cable plugged into the back of our S95B, playing competitive Halo matches was… better. I could actually string together some successful encounters! The video quality was improved (though still lacked the pristine quality of console play) and input lag was shortened. I still can’t say I enjoyed the experience, but the wired connection felt closer to how it plays at home.
Forza Horizon 5 was more of the same: a decent enough experience, but not an ideal set of gameplay circumstances for competitive play. The input lag won’t be kind to you during races.
A more gamer-friendly candidate for cloud streaming is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge. For one thing, you’re fighting AI enemies rather than other folks on the internet. For another, the gameplay mechanics are less complex.
In fact, my biggest takeaway from spending some time with the Xbox Cloud Gaming app on our Samsung smart TV is this: It’s a fine service for casual gaming, so long as the titles you choose don’t emphasize fast, split-second decision making. All things considered, the video quality is pretty good, but you’ll need a strong, wired internet connection to really maximize your enjoyment.
For what it’s worth, the Xbox Cloud Gaming app is still in Beta, and Microsoft is gathering data every time someone uses the service. In time, this technology will improve, making next-gen, console-free gaming in the living room a viable option for casual and competitive players alike. For now, it’s more of a curio—Samsung TVs tend to be quite good, but I wouldn’t buy one solely for Samsung Gaming Hub.
For more information about streaming games at home, check out our complete guide to cloud gaming.
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