PS5 and Xbox Series X — here's the most underrated feature (if you can find stock)

Here’s the most underrated feature of PS5 and Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Microsoft)

There are lots of things to like about the next-gen games consoles. That includes higher resolution and frame rates, ray tracing or even cloud streaming. But I’ve started enjoying one feature that usually gets ignored.

The fact you can stream games from your console to a PC or mobile device is often overlooked. And it shouldn’t be, because it’s actually an incredibly useful feature. That’s especially true if you want to play one of your games without being stuck in front of the TV.

I’ve been doing this a lot on my Xbox Series X recently, shifting between playing on the console itself and moving over to my phone at various points. It’s a lot like having a Nintendo Switch, albeit one that can play triple A next-gen titles. Had I purchased a Razer Kishi instead of a controller clip, my phone might even look like one.

The same would be true with a Game Pass Ultimate subscription. The difference here is that remote play doesn’t rely on you paying $15 a month for as long as you plan on using it. Provided you have a healthy collection of games, and your console remains connected to the internet, you’ll always be good to go.

Remote play is the most versatile option

The main benefit of remote play is that you’re not chained to your TV, as you were in the days before remote play was a thing. Your console has to stay in one place, but you can move around the house and be in whatever position you feel like being in.

Here’s the most underrated feature of PS5 and Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sony)

Remote play is a lot like having a Nintendo Switch, except that you can play triple A next-gen titles.

Remember when your parents told you to stop playing video games and go outside? Now you can easily do both. You can also play in bed, while taking a bath or on the couch when the TV is otherwise occupied. Your kids want to watch Peppa Pig on the big screen, but you want to chainsaw demons on Mars? Remote Play means you can do both, and without paying extra for the privilege.

Heck, if you have an Xbox console, be it a Series X/S or an older Xbox One, you can even access your console from a completely different location. Play from the park, the beach or your train home from work. Just as long as your console is set to Instant On, and both you and it are connected to the internet, you’re good to go.

Xbox gamers are also able to access downloaded Game Pass titles remotely, so you’re not even limited to the number of games  actually purchased. The only restriction is that you can’t play backwards compatible games from Xbox 360 and the original Xbox, but anything from the Xbox One or Series X is fair game.

Sony isn’t quite so liberal, and downloaded PS Now games are not accessible remotely. The consoles also only allow remote access to devices on the same network. So PS4 and PS5 owners will be more limited in these regards, but the basic principle is the same. Remote Play frees players up to enjoy their games without having to camp out in front of their TV.

Here’s the most underrated feature of PS5 and Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Your kids want to watch Peppa Pig on the big screen, but you want to chainsaw demons on Mars? Remote Play means you can do both.

Really, though, when it comes to Remote Play your only real limit is how many games you can store on your console, and you’ll want to make sure that you keep the appropriate disc in the tray.

Remote play does have its limitations

Remote play does have some drawbacks. The main limitation is that you could be playing on a much smaller screen, such as my 6.7-inches OnePlus 7 Pro. Titles that are designed to play on much larger modern TV screens don’t translate that well to mobile, so if I want to play Watch Dogs: Legion remotely, I need to make sure I’m pretty close to the screen to see everything that’s going on.

Xbox Wireless Controller and iPhone 12

(Image credit: Future)

Likewise, remote play quality is nowhere near as good as through the console itself. The resolution of streaming content is capped, which means you won’t be enjoying the full capabilities of your smartphone screen. On Xbox consoles and the PS4 that appears to be 720p, though the PS5 seems to boost your limit to a more palatable 1080p. Even so, you’re not getting 4K HDR quality.

Network issues can also come into play, which can make things difficult if your system starts to lag. Obviously, this is all dependent on lots of factors in your own network, including whether your console is connected to the internet via Wi-Fi or an ethernet hardwire. If you’re playing on the same network, those issues might not be so bad. But out in the real world, on cellular data, it can make some games completely unplayable.

Of course, remote play depends on you having a console to play on. It’s no secret that shortages have affected the ability to buy next-gen consoles. Shoppers have been clamoring for any and all PS5 restocks and Xbox Series X restocks, and it’s been nearly impossible to get a unit.

Without a console, a cloud streaming service that lets you access next-gen titles from your phone or PC is a lot more appealing. And it doesn’t require you to spend an additional $500.

Plus, as mentioned before, you can’t swap discs without being in physical proximity to the console. Which isn’t such a big deal if you prefer to play digital titles, but it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re all about physical media.

Bottom line

Remote Play is far from perfect, and there are issues and limitations that get in the way of a truly mobile console gaming experience. But at the same time it’s a fantastic feature that doesn’t get nearly enough credit.

In some ways, I get it. Cloud gaming is new, exciting, and it suggests there will be a future where you don’t have to drop several hundred dollars on a console just to play the latest and best games.

But right now, Remote Play on the PS5 and Xbox Series X gives you the ability to enhance your experience on the console you already own. For me, I’ve enjoyed being able to pick up my progression in a different location, whether that’s lying in bed on a lazy weekend morning, or because I’m trying to enjoy some of the sunny weather before the rain inevitably ruins things again.

Some people won’t find much use for remote play, whereas others may feel it’s an invaluable tool to squeeze some extra gaming time into their schedule. But that’s the beauty of remote play. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to gaming, and remote play’s built-in versatility means you can find what works well for you.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.