Wednesday, June 29, 2022

xScreen review: transform an Xbox Series S into a portable console

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If you’ve ever owned a screen for the PSone or the GameCube, the xScreen will immediately look familiar. The xScreen is an 11.6-inch (1080p) display that attaches to the back of an Xbox Series S, transforming Microsoft’s miniature console into more of an Xbox laptop for gaming on the go. It’s a modern take on the tiny 5-inch cramped LCD screens we’ve seen on consoles in the past, and it’s a great accessory if you never want to worry about connecting an Xbox to a TV when you’re on the go. are traveling.

Unfortunately, that portability doesn’t come cheap. The xScreen costs $249, almost the same price as an Xbox Series S, so you’ll really want a portable Xbox to buy into this. I’ve been testing an xScreen for the past few weeks and I think it’s one of the best embodiments of the concept of portable console gaming. But it’s far from perfect.

The xScreen is an 11.6-inch screen for the Xbox Series S.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

xScreen is all about its display. The 11.6-inch panel supports up to 1080p at 60Hz and has surprisingly good viewing angles. If you want to play outside, the panel is rated at 350 nits and is matte, which helps a lot in direct sunlight. The only real limitations of playing outside are simply that you need a cord long enough to power the Xbox Series S.

I spent hours playing multiple games with the xScreen and never noticed any serious input latency or ghosting issues. It’s a solid panel, except for black levels. If you’re playing titles with lots of low-light scenes, the panel sometimes struggles to really capture the black levels, and games can miss some detail as a result.

The xScreen manages to connect to the Xbox Series S via a USB-A port and the HDMI port. You must align the USB first before the device snaps into place and is secured on both sides with latches. The attachment feels very secure and I’ve never experienced connectivity issues or worry about it coming loose.

The xScreen has volume and display buttons.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

UPspec Gaming, the makers of xScreen, have done a good job of matching the size of the xScreen to the Xbox Series S, so it all folds into a neat little package once you’re done playing. The white of the xScreen doesn’t quite match the Xbox Series S, but it’s so close that I didn’t notice it until I was inspecting the xScreen closely in certain light.

Setting up xScreen does involve some work. The Xbox Series S immediately defaults to 720p output for the xScreen, and I had to switch to 1080p in the Xbox settings menu to correct that. I’ve also enabled the HDMI CEC options so that when I close the screen, the Xbox Series S turns off. This is a neat integration, but you have to use the Xbox power button to reboot the console.

To prevent damage to the xScreen or Xbox, I also had to make sure the Xbox Series S had power mode turned on so it shuts down completely instead of being in standby. This is important because the xScreen covers the main opening on the Xbox Series S when it’s folded down, and the Xbox still gives off some heat that can damage the screen when it’s in standby mode. Thankfully, the Xbox Series S boots up super fast, so not having standby mode is a minor inconvenience.

Locks keep the xScreen in place.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

The xScreen gets its power from the Xbox Series S USB port, so you don’t have to worry about a separate power supply, and just plugging the Xbox into a wall works as normal. However, you will need to use Wi-Fi for connectivity as the xScreen blocks the Ethernet port on the Series S and the extra USB port. That leaves only the front USB port open for additional accessories.

UPspec Gaming has also enabled an optional crosshair overlay for use in FPS games, and there are some built-in controls for screen settings and the volume of the built-in speakers. The speakers get surprisingly loud – but not in a good way. There is no mute shortcut and the volume buttons don’t seem to affect the volume after a certain level. The speakers are definitely a disappointing aspect of this $249 accessory.

If you want to prop up the whole thing, there are optional feet that move the whole unit into a stand-mode orientation. I’ve rarely used the xScreen this way, but it can be useful if you’re short on space or want the screen higher in certain environments.

The xScreen speakers disappoint.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

However, I think the optional carrying case is essential for the xScreen. When I mounted it on the Xbox and folded it down, I noticed that the xScreen creaks and wobbles when you put pressure on it from above. Not sure I would trust this in a backpack without any protection. The hard carrying case protects the xScreen well, but it’s an optional $59.99 extra.

Speaking of build quality, I’m also a little nervous about the hinge on the xScreen. I haven’t pushed it all the way back to test, but it feels a bit flimsy, and I wouldn’t recommend this for small children who may not handle it gently enough not to damage it. It probably won’t be a problem for most, but if you plan on using stand mode, this is where the potential for damage seems high.

Despite some drawbacks of the xScreen, I had hours of fun with this small screen. UPspec Gaming has created something unique here for the Xbox Series S, and it comes in a neat little package that integrates really well. You’re paying a really hefty $249 price tag for that neat integration, especially when there are so many good portable displays out there that work just as well for half the price.

However, nothing beats the xScreen. I wish I was a kid again, able to take my Xbox everywhere and not have to worry about a TV to plug in or a good internet connection for Xbox Cloud Gaming. It’s an old-fashioned idea, in a modern and well-executed package.

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