PlayStation cloud streaming vs Microsoft xCloud: image quality, performance and latency tested

March 1, 2024
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Sony’s PlayStation Plus Cloud Streaming service was introduced last October for PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers, offering 4K streaming of PS5 titles in addition to the old PlayStation Now 720p PS3 and 1080p PS4 experiences. We’ve been critical of cloud streaming in the past, as what you gain in convenience you often lose in image quality and latency – so how does the Sony offering compare to the native experience on PS5 on that front? And what about Xbox’s cloud gaming offering, dubbed Project xCloud? The latter point threw up an interesting curveball during testing: Microsoft’s servers are based on Xbox Series X silicon, but the games being streamed are definitely the Series S versions.

We’ve looked at xCloud before (though admittedly, it has changed dramatically since then) but it’s worth having a quick primer on how the PlayStation Plus Premium streaming system works on PS5. In short, you’ll see a yellow cloud icon next to any game that supports the tech in the PS Plus catalogue, whether you have it installed locally or not. By comparison, Xbox only offers its cloud option for games that are not yet installed. The range of games supported on Sony’s service is certainly impressive, from first-party heavy hitters to popular third-party options and indie darlings. And the biggest perk is that titles sporting hefty 200GB+ installs are playable this way in under a minute.

In terms of video quality, the service supports 60fps at resolutions up to 4K with HDR, though a true 4K is only possible on PS5 titles. This sadly means that PS4 games played over the cloud still only run at 1080p while PS3 titles are limited to a 720p video stream. The resolution cap for older consoles is a huge shame I think, as some PS3 games had the ability to run at native 1080p on original hardware while PS4 games were often playable at 1440p or higher via a PS4 Pro. That said, the audio options are at least respectable, with 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound offered, alongside PS5’s Tempest 3D Audio where possible.

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