We all know game streaming is here to stay and offers, perhaps, a glimpse at the future of play. Samsung and Xbox are embracing this with the launch of Samsung’s Gaming Hub and the Xbox App.
Simply put, it gives you the ability to access your Xbox library and account directly from one of the best gaming TVs, or even a more budget-friendly screen from Samsung. Besides adding another string to the TV-maker’s bow, the Samsung Gaming Hub and Xbox App will offer more ways to play. Crucially, it provides more routes into the Xbox ecosystem for less. Considering the current climate, being kinder on the bank balance is a big selling-point here.
To see if it’s worth the fuss, I went to see Samsung’s Gaming Hub in action.
It’s more than just an app
Now, if we’re being totally reductive: yes, the Samsung Gaming Hub is ‘just’ an app on a Samsung TV that enables you to stream cloud games (something many folks do with their phones already). It certainly feels that way at first glance. But simultaneously, it also feels like something more. Something that will bring more folks in and give us more ways to play.
To cut right to it: what do you need to make it work? Well, the headline here is that the Samsung Gaming Hub will feature in all of Samsung’s 2022 TVs from the entry-level Crystal UHD BU8000 line upward. This is the first noteworthy detail as it means that folks won’t have to buy the most expensive Samsung contenders for best TV for Xbox Series X to get the Gaming Hub. What else do you need? Well, just a Bluetooth gaming controller of any stripe, and an Xbox GamePass subscription (other services are also integrated in the hub such as GeForce Now, Stadia etc – but this is clearly geared toward and built for Xbox folks).
And how does it actually feel like to use and play? Pretty good, really. Games handle with very little latency – certainly nothing obvious or impactful. You can access each one easily and intuitively too.
Happily, you can join other friends online who have consoles or are streaming their games on other devices. All at a respectable 1080p and 60 frames per second (maximum). Neat. As long as your internet connection meets the recommended minimum requirement of 10-20mbps, then you should be laughing.
From initial impressions, the Samsung Gaming Hub lives up to that promise. Aside from some loading while the system searches and connects to the nearest Xbox server, playing the streamed games feels fairly good, responsive, and, dare I say, normal.
Access to the cloud is key
The Samsung Gaming Hub offers more than just the means through which to stream games though (and this goes beyond Xbox, as apps like GeForce, Stadia and some others are accessible through it). Games streamed through the Gaming Hub can receive extra boosts such as frame-rate stabilization, optimizations, audio options, and more. You’ll also be able to use normal peripherals such as headsets, the best Xbox Series X accessories, and wired controllers through the Bluetooth or USB connections.
This move from Xbox and Samsung is without doubt primarily geared to encourage new players to try out games and Xbox Game Pass, hooking them in through this console-less method. However, it does open the door for those already in the Xbox system as well, allowing them to game on more devices and, thus, in more places. As an example, existing players can carrying over progress between their console, the commute on their phone, and then at a friend or family member’s place with one of these Samsung televisions. It’s a cool concept for sure.
This all sounds tremendous, so is there a downside to this service as well as the Samsung Gaming Hub? On paper, not really – but I do think there are a couple of unanswered questions, open doors, and potential opportunities.
The required internet connection is a potential pitfall – still, in the year 2022 AD. It is both not a problem for a lot of people, but is still not achievable for a lot of people. Particularly here in the UK, the reality is that there isn’t quite the widespread access to reliable and speedy internet connections that will provide a comfortable and stable experience streaming games that big companies might like to think there is. If you live in remote areas, or hard-to-reach places, then streaming will still not be an option. The Hub won’t change that.
And that’s a pitfall because the Samsung Gaming Hub and Xbox App is purely aimed at getting folks into the ecosystem, or spreading them over more areas of it – there is nothing here for you if you don’t stream games. This is also a potential, or at least current, problem with the Samsung Gaming Hub: all the optimizations, and extra features, are only for games streamed through it – there is nothing here for PlayStation or Nintendo players. If you were hoping that a ‘Gaming Hub’ might offer more than the TV’s own settings for any device of any brand that you plug into it, then this is not the case.
However, the company has called it the ‘Samsung Gaming Hub’, not the ‘Xbox Gaming Hub’ or ‘Xbox on Samsung Gaming Hub’. As such, maybe the door is open to it being a feature that can offer something to other platform users down the line.