I distinctly remember using the Netflix app when it was first released for the Xbox 360 back in 2008. Yes, you initially needed to have a paid Xbox Live Gold account on top of your Netflix subscription to use the app, but it didn’t matter to me. There was something still rather cool about piping in video via the internet instead of my Comcast cable plan. It felt like the future.
Fast-forward a dozen years and it’s clear streaming video has evolved immensely. What was once high-tech and novel has become commonplace and almost standard. Using my hands to fast-forward and rewind via the original Kinect seems almost laughably quaint nowadays. Still, video game consoles continue to offer support for major streaming services and apps. And some of us still turn to consoles as our primary streaming devices, rather than smart TV platforms or dedicated options from Roku, Apple, and others. So with a new generation of home video game consoles on the horizon, I wondered how the upcoming hardware would fare as go-to streamers. We don’t have a whole lot of info to go on just yet, but I think Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5 are both shaping up to be excellent all-around entertainment options.
The Horsepower’s Definitely There
In an era where thumb drive-sized HDMI dongles can handle 4K HDR video without breaking a sweat, the upcoming next-gen consoles should have plenty of power on tap when it comes to streaming media.
While exact implementations differ, both Sony and Microsoft are designing their new systems around modern desktop PC tech from AMD and should have no trouble handling even the most advanced streaming apps and content.
While games will certainly capture most of the spotlight, especially when the consoles first launch, it’s probably safe to assume the next-gen consoles will enjoy streaming app support at least on par with current models.
In Sony’s case, the discontinuation of PlayStation Vue might even open the door for more streaming service support on the PS5. We’ve already seen YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV announce support for the current PS4 as the Vue service shut down.
But despite the abundant horsepower and robust app support, a few issues continue to make current consoles less-than-ideal primary streamers. Power consumption and noise (especially when internal fans are kicked up to full blast) can place today’s consoles at a disadvantage compared to built-in smart TV apps or dedicated streaming devices. And it remains to be seen if either issue will be significantly addressed in the upcoming consoles.
The Xbox Series X, for example, has a massive 130mm case fan, but Microsoft has told the press noise levels should be tolerable. Meanwhile, with no official details available on the PS5’s actual look and design, it’s impossible to predict how it will compare to the noise and power demands of current consoles.
One of the other factors is system responsiveness and how long it takes for these consoles to start up. For reference, my original PlayStation 4 loads its home screen from a cold start in around 40 seconds. The Netflix app loads in another 20 seconds. My Roku Premiere, on the other hand, resumes from sleep in 2 seconds and can have the Netflix app up and running in less than 5 seconds. Those differences can add up and longer wait times can often negatively effect how much we enjoy using a particular device — especially if our goal is on-demand content.
On this front, however, the specs we’re seen so far suggest the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 could be a serious streaming upgrade over their predecessors.
Massive Storage Upgrades Could Turn Good Streaming Devices Into Great Ones
Beyond graphics and computing prowess, both consoles are bringing high-speed solid-state drives (SSD) to the table. These should offer a tremendous leap over the laptop-class hard drives found in today’s game consoles.
For instance, the Xbox One X’s hard drive maxes out at around 60 MB/s while the upcoming Series X boasts an SSD capable of 2.4GB/s uncompressed. That’s around 40 times faster than the hard drive in the console it’s set to replace.
Things look even more impressive on the PlayStation 5, where its SSD offers speeds of up to 5.5GB/s uncompressed, which Sony says is up to 100 times faster than the PS4’s hard drive.
For both consoles, that focus on storage and speed should allow for much shorter, or perhaps even nonexistent, load times on games — getting you in and out of the action without having to wait several minutes for a map to load.
On the streaming side, such a huge increase in speed and responsiveness could make the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 much more responsive and quicker to load the streaming app of your choice. This is all just speculation for now, of course, but it’s not hard to imagine relatively lightweight streaming apps loading up in next to no time at all.
So yes, all signs point to the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 being more than fast enough to handle any and all streaming apps. We’ll obviously need to wait until the consoles actually hit the market and streaming apps are made available on their respective marketplaces. But for any early adopters out there, the future of streaming apps on video game consoles looks bright indeed.
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