Devices | Entertainment |

Google’s Pixel 6 Pro – a gamer’s perspective

By IAmFallFromGrace December 17, 2021

Console-quality gaming on a portable device has been something we’ve all dreamed about for decades. Now it finally feels like we’re basically there – and Google’s latest handset, The Google Pixel 6 Pro is a perfect example of a phone that really shines when you just want to drive a McLaren Senna around Mexico or explore the massive Halo Ring on the go.

For the last couple of weeks I have been trialling a new gaming set up – The Pixel 6 Pro mounted to an Xbox gaming controller and streaming via Microsoft’s cloud gaming service Xcloud. I have to say the experience has been genuinely impressive.

I focused mainly on two Xbox Cloud Gaming titles during my time with the Pixel 6 Pro – Forza Horizon 5, and Minecraft Dungeons – both of which I have also played on my high-end PC and Xbox console. The fact that you can play these games, from almost anywhere on the Pixel 6 Pro with little to no compromise is really something special.

The first thing we need to talk about is the screen.

When it comes to playing console-quality games , you want something big, clear and responsive. The Pixel 6 Pro with its 6.7-inch screen and 120Hz variable refresh rate is exactly perfect for this . The screen feels large enough to be immersive, while not too unwieldy to carry around – your gaming sweet spot.

High refresh rates like on the Pixel 6 Pro have been popular in gaming monitors for a while and have been an area that some have found lacking when it comes to gaming on your mobile. It can makes your games all feel smoother and can even give you a slight edge with your reaction speed.

To make the most of high refresh rates, you need some serious processing power under the hood, which the Pixel 6 Pro has in spades – with Google’s first ever mobile chipset called Tensor. The best compliment I give is that I didn’t even notice it – as in, games and apps all ran extremely smooth without any hiccups and just how I hoped they would.

Variable refresh rates are not only good for gaming but are also great for assisting with battery life, offering high speed when you need to tackle some bad guys with the Master Chief and low rates when you need to conserve power. It is definitely noticeable, and I was getting a comfortable full day worth of battery life without much problem.

Gaming on it constantly will of course, drain that faster, but you should still easily be able to play Halo on your daily commute with plenty left over.

The final piece of the gaming pie on a mobile device, especially playing Xbox Cloud Gaming, is having a great network connection.

Xbox Cloud Gaming streams your game to your phone kind of like Netflix does a movie, so a reliable and fast network connection with low latency makes a difference for a successful session on the go. The Pixel 6 Pro is compatible with 5G and so I spent a lot of time gaming on Telstra’s 5G Network.

What I noticed was, the speed at which you can load up Xbox Cloud Gaming, select the title you wish to play, and jump into the gameplay was super smooth. There was no long loading screens, no long waiting times for servers, mere seconds and you’re back into your game from where you left off on your console or PC. Overall I had a great experience.

Finally, my top tip: A bunch of these games are touch-friendly, and a large screen like on the Pixel 6 Pro’s helps, but you’ll get the most out of it with a clip on controller.

Entertainment |

Forza Horizon 5: tips for getting started

By Luke Hopewell November 16, 2021

Horizon Festival is back on, this time in glorious Mexico. Forza Horizon 5 is here. Before you hop in the driver’s seat, here’s what you need to know.

What is Forza Horizon 5?

Forza Horizon 5 is the latest driving adventure game from Playground Games. Horizon bucks the format of traditional track-based Forza games and takes you on an adventure to a foreign land under the guise of the “Horizon Festival”.

Horizon Festival is a series of driving events around a single country, all in different modes and stages. Sometimes you might be jumping a car a few hundred metres for a fictional photoshoot; other times you’re pushing a rally car to the ragged edge. It’s Carchella, this time set in Mexico.

The developers have cobbled together the best parts of Mexico for you to drive around, with the latest iteration of Horizon featuring a massive active volcano you can scale.

Forza Horizon 5 is available day one on Xbox Games Pass Ultimate, which you can get your hands on with Xbox All Access from Telstra.

Tips for getting started in Forza Horizon 5

Here’s what we wish we knew before we started.

Get your settings right

The initial setup gives you the opportunity to tweak really fine settings about how you can drive in Horizon. Whenever I get into a new game I always skip this step, but taking a bit of extra time for the sake of preparedness is going to put you in good stead for Horizon.

The tutorial is incredibly low-impact and really fun to fly through, too. With each mini-race ahead of the Horizon Festival getting underway, you can tweak and tune your settings to make sure you’re getting the most out of your chosen controller.

Drive a test race, tweak some more, drive another, make sure you’re getting the most out of your car to help unlock those crucial podium finishes.

Get to know the cars

There are a lot of cars in Forza Horizon 5. Like, a LOT.

There are five hundred cars in Forza Horizon 5, from rally cars to classics; EVs to hypercars. And there’s likely more to be added

It’s worth taking a look at the Forza Horizon 5 car list to really get to know what’s on offer.

By also taking a look at the price list, you can set a goal of which cars you want to acquire first. I’m the proud owner of a rose gold Porsche Taycan Turbo S as my first treat to myself, and boy does it move. Is it a common car? Yes, but it also has huge acceleration and an AWD system, so it’s great for getting around the map.

Each car is also suited for different races. Just because your Ferrari goes vrroom doesn’t mean you should use it for every race. Sometimes a Ford Focus RS will do the job even better!

Level up and spin your wheels

Levelling up not only gets you cred (shoutout to the Level 137 friend I see driving around), but also nabs you Wheelspins for in-game rewards.

Some rewards like Forza-exclusive legendary car builds are only available to be won, and not purchased. So making sure you’re spinning that wheel as much as possible is of huge benefit!

There are a tonne of ways to level up in Horizon, and not all of them involve placing first in races. You can set your map to only highlight XP bonus boards that can be smashed for additional points, or you can use your skill points that you pick up to nab additional XP or another free Wheelspin!

Customise, customise, customise

Fancy blowing up your entire car to customise every single panel? You got it.

What about fine tuning every single moving part before a race? Done and done.

The number of cars in Horizon 5 is eclipsed only by the number of customisable options.

You can even make a name for yourself in the Forza Horizon modding community by designing your own wraps and decals that other players can download.

Shoutout to the Aussie (clearly) who created the Bunnings Warehouse wrap for the HSV Maloo. Have fun getting that song out of your head all day.

Getting real with real estate

Don’t do what I did and put off visiting houses in Forza Horizon 5.

Each house gives you a unique ability, like periodic skill point boosters via the in-game radio stations.

Truly the best unlock, however, is the $2m house that unlocks free fast travel across the map. A great investment if – like me – you don’t have as much time to pour into Horizon as you’d like.

Go mobile with Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta)

We’ve been talking a lot about great new games on Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) recently, but Forza Horizon 5 is probably the title that shows it off best.

With Xbox All Access from Telstra, you can use Cloud Gaming (Beta) to load up Forza Horizon 5 on the go.

Horizon translates beautifully onto a mobile platform, and really shines on your big-screened, Telstra 5G-capable smartphone.

Someone in our team has been burning rubber on the go via their Samsung Galaxy ZFold 3 and it’s a revelation!

We’ve got a look at some of the best accessories for cloud gaming on the go on Telstra Exchange!

Devices | Entertainment | Tech and Innovation |

The best smartphones and gaming accessories for Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta)

By Harry Tucker November 5, 2021

I’ve had a bit of a revelation lately – a bit of a late-to-the-party one – but gaming on your phone is really fun. I used to always think of it the same way my mum does: playing a bit of Candy Crush or Words with Friends to pass the time while watching a burning crème brûlée on Masterchef.

In my head, if you wanted to game, actually game, it was getting your set up right in front of the big TV with your beefed-up Xbox and hoping no one would come and disturb you while you are in the final-five of an epic Warzone battle. While this is still great, I’ve discovered (after being locked down for months), that being able to play anywhere you want can be even better.

To really get the most out of this though, you are going to want a few things: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a compatible phone, a mobile gaming controller (required for some games) and a great pair of earphones or headphones.

“But what are the right ones for me?” I can hear you asking. Fear not, we have your back.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

There are loads of great games on both the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store, but if you want to really be playing console-quality games on your phone, you’re going to want to nab yourself Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to access its new Xbox Cloud Gaming service. While most of this guide is about playing on your phone, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also works on your PC and tablet to get you into the action no matter what device you’re on.

Xbox Cloud Gaming brings an Xbox to your phone, wherever you have an internet connection with 10Mbps or higher. Just like Netflix does with movies and TV shows, Xbox Cloud Gaming lets you play over 100 console games that you can play directly on most devices you already own – including your phone. We’re not talking some weird games you’ve never heard of either, there are proper AAA titles at your fingertips. Forza Horizon 4, a bunch of Halo titles and Destiny 2 are all there.

If you already have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, cloud gaming is included in your subscription at no extra cost. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s normally $15.95/month, but we offering the first month’s subscription on us, free to eligible Telstra customers.

We did a big write up about Xbox Cloud Gaming and how it works with Telstra if you want to dive more into that, too.

The best phones for gaming

I know that not everyone is willing or able to spend the same amount on their new smartphone, so I thought I’d break these down by price range to help find something for most people.

Google Pixel 6 Pro – RRP: $1299

Google’s latest have really taken things up a notch this year, which makes them perfect for gaming, particularly its powerhouse Pixel 6 Pro model. It’s got a gorgeous 6.7-inch screen with Google’s Smooth Display technology, which features a buttery smooth 120hz refresh rate, all wrapped in ultra-strong Gorilla Glass Victus to make sure it’s protected when you’re out gaming on the go.

What makes this particularly special for gamers though is Google’s first-ever processor called Tensor. Tensor is a beast – apps launch faster, your battery lasts longer and features like Google Translate run better than ever.

It’s also one of the first devices to launch here that features mmWave 5G, so if you’re able to connect to a mmWave site (available across selected suburbs, with more rolling out soon), you can experience faster speeds and even lower latency when you’re gaming – perfect for Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Oppo Find X3 Pro 5G – RRP: $1499

The Oppo Find X3 Pro 5G is also an amazing choice. With a fantastic 6.7inch screen (also with a 120hz refresh rate), top of the line processor and VOOC ultra-fast charging it’s perfect for gamers.

VOOC fast charging is really its differentiator here, with the ability to charge 40% battery in just 10 minutes, you’ll never have a problem with power if you want to duck out to the park for a quick gaming session (provided you have a VOOC-compatible charger). Likewise, with 5G, it’ll be easy for you to stream Xbox Cloud Gaming on the go without a hitch.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3 – RRP: $2499

If you want to up your K:D ratio, this is the one to get. The folding form factor gives you a huge 7.6-inch screen, almost double most other phones when it’s open, plus a 120Hz refresh rate, which makes it perfect for gaming. I’ve been using it as my primary gaming device recently and I’ve honestly never been better at Halo in my life.

On top of the gorgeous, large screen, it’s got a top of the line processor so you never find yourself lagging, supports 5G for low ping and fast download speeds and Samsung’s Game Booster mode blocks out all your notifications and background tasks so all you need to focus on is that final corner in Forza.

Outside of gaming, it’s packed with awesome cameras, an all day battery life and supports Samsun S-Pen for note taking on the go (sold separately).

The best phone accessories for gaming

Before I dive in, I’ll let you in on a bit of a secret. As a Telstra customer, our Telstra Plus rewards program gives you points to say thanks for being with us, and you might just have enough points sitting in your balance to pick up some awesome accessories with a big discount or just by using points.

When it comes to accessories, we have two great gaming controller options you’re going to want to try out, including the Razer Kishi. It comes in both Android and iPhone models and plugs right into your device’s USB-C or Lightning port. It stretches out to fit most phone sizes, while the controls themselves feel as good to use as any dedicated console controller.

It’s available for $155 outright or you can pay it off over 24 months. If you have a few Telstra Plus points lying around, it’s also available for 52,000 points.

Available only for iPhone, your other option is the Backbone One. It’s a collapsible controller, making it easy to stash away in your backpack and connects to your iPhone with the lightning adapter. Best of all, it also includes a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can connect your favourite gaming headset straight to your iPhone.

The Backbone One is available for $179.99 outright or you can pay it off over 24 months.

You’ll truly feel like you’re playing your Xbox on the go.

With your sound, most people fall into two camps: people who prefer small ear buds, or those who want giant cans over their ears.

Either way, you’re going to want something noise cancelling to really immerse yourself in the action. On the earbud end, Beats new Studio Buds offer incredible sound with active noise cancelling at a great price, sitting at $199. While for the same price, if you’d rather some over the ear headphones, Sennheiser’s HD 350BT are a great option.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Entertainment |

How to play Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 on Xbox All Access

By Luke Hopewell July 29, 2021

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is here to give you the gift of the skies. Here’s how to get started in your new journey as a pilot extraordinaire.

What is Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020?

Flight Simulator 2020 does exactly what it says on the tin. It allows you to take to the skies in everything from small Cessnas through to the herculean Airbus A320.

10 years in the making, Microsoft has painstakingly created the whole world in the game with the help of satellite imagery from Bing Maps.

You can fly all over the world, landing at airports and landing strips in far-flung locales, and participate in community challenges and events along the way.

For more info, check out our review of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.

How to get started with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Microsoft Flight Simulator

You’ll be flying in no time with our tips.

Get installed

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is almost 100GB to download onto Xbox Series S and Series X consoles, but there is an “offline mode” to help you skimp on storage if you’re running low.

To download, open your Xbox Game Pass app, and search for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Hit Install and wait for the game to be installed. Grab a cup of tea while you wait.

Get set up

The best thing about Flight Simulator is how customisable it is. Before you take to the skies, check out your settings menu to figure out exactly how you want your cockpit to feel and operate.

Check your controller settings so you can ensure your planes fly the way you want them to, before configuring your audio settings.

The audio settings allow you to let in a little more ATC noise, cabin noise and more for added realism.

Get your wings

Before you get started in free flight with the big guns, it’s worth doing the tutorials to learn just how to fly.

Flight Simulator 2020 is one of those games that rewards those seeking realism. For this reason, it might take you a hot second to get the most out of it, which means potentially repeating the tutorial a few times to make sure you know the basics.

You will crash. Get used to it at first.

However, if you complete the tutorials and actually start taking to the skies in some bigger aircraft, the thrill is incredibly rewarding.

Get used to the conditions

Once you know how to fly, you’ll want to experiment with different kinds of flights. That’s where the weather comes in.

Flight Simulator 2020 has a dynamic weather engine, so you can experience the joy of flight in all sorts of conditions.

Day, night, rain, wind: all of these can change the way you fly and the way you play!

Snap the skies

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Between the weather and the photorealistic graphics, you’re going to see some incredible sights from on high.

Remember to use the capture functionality on your Xbox to record gorgeous videos and snap awesome images.

Don’t forget to share them with us too!

Six unbelievable reasons to visit South Australia with your smartphone
Entertainment |

All the new games on Xbox All Access: July 2021

By Luke Hopewell July 22, 2021

Your destiny awaits you this month on Xbox All Access. Will you become a UFC champion; fly high above the clouds; run your own farm, or even your own island nation? It’s all on offer.

Here’s what’s coming to Game Pass for July:

Tropico 6 (Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 8

In Tropico 6, travel to a beautiful island state and make it your own. In this sixth entry in the series, build and manage a whole archipelago, decking it out with your choice of buildings, industry, and décor. Will you rule your people as a generous statesman or ruthless dictator? The choice is yours.

UFC 4 (Console) EA Play – July 8

Shape your legend with EA Play and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate – UFC 4 is coming soon to The Play List! Members can enter the Octagon on July 8 to create and customize their own character and start their journey from unknown amateur to UFC superstar.

Bloodroots (Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 15

Left for dead by a colourful group of bandits, you will chain killing sprees to exact revenge on the treacherous Mr. Black Wolf. Improvise your kills with utterly everything you can get your hands on from carrots to plasma guns.

Farming Simulator 19 (Console, and PC) – July 15

The ultimate farming simulation returns! Become a modern farmer and develop your farm on two huge American and European environments, filled with exciting new farming activities, crops to harvest and animals to tend to.

Atomicrops (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 22

Atomicrops is an action-packed, roguelite, bullet-hell game where you must defend and cultivate the last farm in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Tend to mutated crops (be careful, some have teeth), marry townsfolk (ooh la la), collect cats (because who wouldn’t?!), and kill every mutant creature that tries to invade! This ain’t no ordinary farming simulator.

Raji: An Ancient Epic (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 22

Take on the role of Raji, a young girl blessed by the gods to defend the human realm from an onslaught of demonic beings that seek to destroy her world. Brother and sister, Raji and Golu, separated by the attacking demonic hordes, now find themselves in the middle of a great war. Raji has taken it upon herself to find her brother and put an end to this reckless conflict.

Last Stop (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 22

Developed by Variable State, creators of the award-winning Virginia, and available with Xbox Game Pass on day one, Last Stop is a single-player, third-person adventure set in present-day London, where you play as three separate characters whose worlds collide in the midst of a supernatural crisis.

Blinx: The Time Sweeper (Cloud and Console) – July 26

Coming to Xbox Game Pass to celebrate 20 Years of Xbox, Blinx: The Time Sweeper is a fast-paced action game featuring a cool, clever character in wild, warped worlds. The ability to control the flow of time provides a classic 4-dimensional gaming experience.

Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Cloud and Console) – July 26

Celebrating 20 Years of Xbox, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge combines thrilling aerial combat with the swashbuckling style of a Hollywood action-adventure movie. Set in an alternate 1930s world of gunship diplomacy and sinister intrigue, pilot powerful aircraft against nefarious air pirates and behemoth war zeppelins.

Microsoft Flight Simulator (Xbox Series X|S) – July 27

From Xbox Game Studios, available with Xbox Game Pass on day one of its release for Xbox Series X|S! From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly-detailed and accurate aircraft in the next generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator on Xbox Series X|S. Test your piloting skills against the challenges of real-time atmospheric simulation and live weather in a dynamic and living world. The sky is calling!

Lethal League Blaze (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 29

An intense, high speed ball game with unique characters, outta sight sounds, and none of that weak stuff. In Shine City, the anti-gravity ball game has long been illegal. The group who kept playing was dubbed the Lethal League. Even now, with their sport pushed underground, players and crews compete for challenge and respect.

Omno (Cloud, Console, and PC) ID@Xbox – July 29

Available with Xbox Game Pass on day one! A single-player journey of discovery through an ancient world of wonders, created by solo developer Jonas Manke. Full of puzzles, secrets, and obstacles to overcome, where the power of a lost civilization will carry you through forests, deserts, and tundra – even to the clouds.

What is Xbox All Access from Telstra?

With Xbox All Access, you can take up either an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S console and get access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate starting from $33/month for the Xbox Series S when you stay connected for 24 months.

An Xbox Game Pass Ultimate membership includes all the benefits of Xbox Live Gold, plus over 100 high-quality console and PC games, and access to EA Play at no additional cost.

New games are added all the time, so there’s always something new to play. Plus, enjoy exclusive member deals and discounts, play together with friends on the most advanced multiplayer network and discover your next favourite game.

Get in on the action

If you don’t have Xbox All Access yet, now is a great time to join with the latest generation Xbox Series X and Series S consoles.

We currently have a good amount of stock of the Xbox Series S on Xbox All Access available both in-store and online. This console offers next-gen performance in the smallest Xbox ever, and is bundled with Xbox Game Pass for Telstra post-paid customers for $33/month*.

The Xbox Series S is an all-digital next-gen console designed to deliver faster load times, higher frame rates, and richer, more dynamic worlds in our smallest Xbox ever. Its superior speeds mean you’ll enjoy more gaming and less waiting. Experience next-gen gaming with no upfront cost, available in-store and online, the Xbox Series S is bundled with Xbox Game Pass for Telstra post-paid customers for $33/month*. With the Xbox Series S you can also play some of your favourite games from the previous generations of consoles including Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Original Xbox titles with backward compatibility and many of these games will look and play better than ever.

Head to our website to find out more about Xbox All Access from Telstra, and to sign–up.

Things you need to know about Xbox All Access

Available to Telstra consumer postpaid customers only. Prices vary by console. Stock is limited. Limit of one pre-order per customer account. If you cancel, your monthly subscription within the first 24 months you will need to pay out the remainder of your Xbox console as a one-off payment on your next bill. In order to receive your paid months of Games Pass, you must have activated your Games Pass before you cancel. You cannot activate Games Pass after you cancel. Any months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Live Gold, or Game Pass that you have paid for but not yet used will remain on your account after you cancel until they expire up to a maximum of 36 months, inclusive of the 24 months that is part of All Access. Roll onto monthly subscription on your Telstra bill at the standard market rate after 24 months. Your existing Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass membership(s) will convert to Ultimate at a conversion ratio, up to a max of 12 months (36 months inclusive of your All Access package). Learn more xbox.com/gamepass. To activate the Game Pass subscription that is part of Xbox All Access you will need to sign into your chosen Microsoft account on your new console. Learn more at xbox.com/digitaldirect. Game catalogue varies over time. Requires internet and suitable display. Not available in conjunction with other offers.