Xbox 1080p Streaming Quality Is Incredible, Hands-On, With Video

This morning, I got the Xbox LIVE preview upgrade which gives me the ability to test out some of the new features coming soon to the Xbox console including Twitter, Facebook, and 1080p streaming. Of course, the new 1080p streaming functionality is really the one I have been waiting to get hands on with and after watching a bunch of movies this morning, all I can say is that the quality it truly incredible.

After downloading a Zune video app, you can browse through movies available in 1080p and new to the movie service, you can choose to stream or download the movies. If you select streaming, the Zune app does a quick check of your connection to tell you if you can get the 1080p content and once you purchase the movie, the buffer time before it starts is less than a second. When Microsoft says that the new Zune video technology allows for "instant-on" streaming, they aren't kidding. (Updated: Limelight is delivering the streams)

While Microsoft is not yet giving out a lot of details on how the Zune video technology makes all this possible, they have stated that it only takes about 4MB of bandwidth to be able to get 1080p streaming. You really have to see it to believe it as it really is that good.

Next month, on Wednesday Nov. 19th, Marc Whitten, GM of the Xbox LIVE service will be the keynote presenter at the Streaming Media West show. Marc will be showing off the 1080p streaming technology as well as some other upcoming Xbox LIVE features and will be taking questions from the audience. We'll also have some cool surprises in store for the audience as well, so sign up now to get access to Marc's presentation. It's free to attend with an exhibits only pass if you sign up online before October 30th.

  • Dan, does this have anything to do with the ioko player for the Xbox that was technology previewed at IBC? If so, I viewed their solution, wrote briefly about it and agree on the quality.

  • VanHalenFan

    Holy frejoles. Need to get that. The Xbox LIVE beta preview sign-up opened last week for this at

  • Se7enwolf

    blu-ray is still better

  • D

    Meh, Still to compressed compared to blu-ray, plus I prefer the physical copy. Plus only works in the US, and 4MB is hardly “only” for alot of people

  • GrimL337

    Of course the buffer speed is good. You are doing a preview of the service. You can only really judge the buffer speed when the servers are being stressed by a number of users.

  • Dweeb

    Waahwaahwah… BluRay is better! But more expensive… I like to own a hard copy… but for some STUPID reason I bought a PSPgo!! WAAAAAAWAAAAAAH

  • Spindoctor

    Sorry, but you can’t have a true natively 1080p with only 4mb of’s pretty impossible.neither with 25mb.At least you need 54mb/sec to have a natively 1080p. infact what you can see in the video is a movie with quality compressed and then upscaled.Have you ever seen a movie in true natively 1080p?

  • Nice,I gotta check that out.

  • Charles

    Outside of videophiles the quality is good enough/ great for most consumers (myself included). I’ve been using Netflix/ XBox360 HD streaming for months and it is a great product. This only increases the value of the Xbox360 as a media & entertainment device.
    Physical media is dead.

  • Torrey

    Does this new streaming 1080p dealy also apply to Netflix?

  • Hi Torrey, unknown at this time. Netflix is not yet saying.

  • Charles

    You can check if Netflix is using this by going into the Netflix streaming app and changing the format to “native.” Most of the video today is 720p and as such, is not yet using this new feature.

  • Correct. Sorry, I should have said that it is unknown at this time whether or not Netflix will be “adding” 1080p streaming to the Xbox.

  • HP 1080p DLP sets have had TRUE HDMI 1080p input for over 6 months. I have my main PC attached through a DVI->HDMI cable running at 60FPS 1080p. It, does not support 1080p over VGA – only 1080i. Component is 1080i also.
    The samsungs have accepted 1080p but ONLY over VGA – not HDMI.
    1080p has been here today and is availabe – especially for the 65″ – at an incredible academic discount making it cheaper then most 50″ SXDR sets.

  • Brian

    Dan, can I ask what your frame of reference for HD image quality is? Do you own a blu-ray player for example?

  • Joe

    D – not true. Zune video will be available in North America, Europe and Australia.

  • Fanfoot

    @Dan: the video starts up quickly because it initially comes in at a very low bit rate and then switches up (several times) if your internet connection allows it. So if you look carefully you’ll see the blockiness of the initial playback. Not really important for movies since often the first bit is black or titles or whatever and you might not even notice if you’re not looking for it.
    The encoder is the same h.264 encode as everybody else is using for internet video these days. Microsoft did not invent something new here. I suspect you’re just not looking closely or not using the right content if you think a 4Mbps stream is that great at 1920×1080. Even at double that rate (what AT&T U-Verse uses), it isn’t GREAT. Vudu’s HDX format uses much higher bit rates than 4Mbps…

  • I don’t agree with you. I DO think it looks great, the quality of the 1080p streaming on the Xbox 360 is the best I have seen so far, at 4MB, on a 50″ plasma TV.

  • Josh

    Fanfoot, the compression technology that MS is using is not h.264. It is their proprietary VC-1, which they did invent. But you can actually buy the encoder from MS for around $50. 🙂

  • While it’s not true 1080p, the combo of stellar picture quality (compared to its predecessors) and fast streaming will make this a big hit.

  • I’m really liking the new community tools and Zune with this update. Nice call out Dan, I really enjoy following your articles.

  • Hello, I can show you a true HD video sample to see the difference between the video codecs used on Xbox and this H.264 encoder. YouTube is also thinking to implement it on their website but I am wondering if their infrastructure is strong enough to support it. Here is something about 1080: the meaning of 1080p as a display resolution is not correct because in fact 1920×1200/1920×1080 displays may or may not be able to display 1080p video. Use of 1080p and the closely related 1080i labels in consumer products may refer to a range of capabilities. For example, video equipment that upscales to 1080p takes lower resolution material and reformats it for a higher resolution display. The image that results is different from the display of original 1080p source material on a native 1080p capable-display.
    Here is the article with a demo showing you a true HD encoded video sample:

  • Unfortunately it doesn’t work with my internet connection… and I have cable internet… =///

  • Darrin

    Are there any settings we can change to improve the connection speed?

  • TR

    I just got the Vudu XL set top box, and it has the ability to download a variety of movies on demand. The Blu Ray quality ones have to buffer for a while, but the HD and regular play immediately.

  • Plasma TV

    xbox is great, i own one myself, Sony did a great job

  • It is truly amazing that multi media has come full circle now in the direction that most analysts had predicted. At what point will everybody simply have one device to communicate with each other? Great information.

  • Zune

    A really nice review by the way, I gotta check that out, that’s why I love Zune and XBOX360 …

  • upbids

    Xbox is amazing, i finally got my own xbox and i love it. Thanks for the blog

  • Thank you for information! I will try it!

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