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Xbox One controller
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Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles can stream games to a laptop or desktop over the web. Here's how to get everything set up.

The consoles of today are much more web-savvy then their predecessors: Gamers can stream action on Twitch, engage in massive multiplayer contests, and download new titles over the web. Another trick you can now do is stream a game to a Windows or Mac computer. The PlayStation 4 and PS4 Pro support both platforms, while the Xbox One and Xbox One S only work with Windows for the time being, and only on a local network rather than over the web.

Why would you want to play your video game on a computer? When you're away from home, this ability lets you get gaming on your PS4 from a distance—just use your laptop in your hotel room. Or if you're home but you have to compete for TV time, you can enjoy an Xbox-powered Minecraft session on your laptop while someone else is using the television set that the Xbox One is plugged into. What you can't do is play one game on the console and another on your laptop, because these features are just streaming what's on your console to another device.

Here's how to get everything set up whatever types of devices and hardware you've got. The process is relatively straightforward, and there's a good chance that Sony and Microsoft will improve these tools in the future—so keep an eye out for updates.

Streaming PlayStation 4 games

PS4
David Nield/Popular Science
PS4
No Man's Sky streaming to a Mac laptop from a PS4

The piece of software at the center of the operation is Sony's Remote Play application, which you can download here for Windows or macOS. You should also make sure your console has the latest software installed—you will need firmware 3.50 or later.

For Windows, you need:

  • Windows 8.1 or 10
  • An Intel Core i5-560M 2.67GHz or faster CPU
  • 2GB or more of RAM
  • 100MB or more of available storage

For macOS, at the moment, streaming is limited to 720p at 60 frames-per-second. And the minimum specification is:

  • OS X Yosemite, OS X El Capitan, or macOS Sierra
  • An Intel Core i5-520M 2.4GHz or faster CPU
  • 2GB or more of RAM
  • 40MB or more of available storage.

If you're streaming to somewhere that's not on your local network, like your office in town, then you will also need decent upload speeds on your home broadband connection. Preferably, you'll have a wired connection with upload speeds of 5Mb/s or more.

Designate your PS4 as your primary machine through PlayStation Network/Account Management, Activate As Your Primary PS4, and Activate in the Settings menus. Then enable Remote Play via Remote Play Connection Settings, again in the Settings menu.

Attach a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller to the laptop or desktop you're streaming to, install and run the Remote Play client application, and it should detect your PS4 automatically when you sign in with your PSN details. You can then control your console through the attached controller over the web, whether it's navigating menus or playing through any of your installed games.

If you find audio or video is stuttering during gameplay, try reducing the resolution settings—anything you can do to ease the pressure on your internet bandwidth (such as not streaming Spotify tunes at the same time) should help. You can even turn your PS4 off remotely through the Windows or macOS apps, if necessary.

Streaming Xbox One games

The Xbox app for Windows 10
David Nield/Popular Science
The Xbox app for Windows 10

The Xbox One (or Xbox One S if you've upgraded to the newer console) also supports remote streaming, but at the moment, it only works with Windows PCs. Perhaps that's no surprise considering that Microsoft owns and develops both—and it does mean that the Windows and Xbox systems work very well together. If you really want to stream Xbox One games to a Mac, you will need to install Windows 10 on the computer through a system like Bootcamp.

If you do have a Windows 10 machine to hand, you will need:

  • A 1.5GHz or faster CPU
  • 2GB or more of RAM

For best results, get a wired internet connection to your Xbox One or Windows 10 computer (or both), but wireless connections will work too.

To get started on Windows 10, just launch the Xbox app and plug in an Xbox One controller. You can sign in using the same credentials you use for your console (and everything else Microsoft), then choose Connection from the menu on the left-hand side. If your Xbox One console is on the same network and switched on, then it should get picked up automatically.

That's another important distinction between the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4: Sony's console will stream games across the web, provided you've got a robust enough connection at both ends, but Microsoft limits streaming to the local network. So you can play games on a laptop upstairs, for example, but not on your office computer across town.

Once the connection has been made, click Stream to launch a game, adjusting the streaming settings as required. If you can't get the connection to work, make sure streaming is enabled on your console: It's the Allow game streaming option under Preferences in Settings on the Xbox One.