Xbox is a video game brand created, developed, and owned by Microsoft. Its Xbox One is currently among the most popular and best-selling games consoles in the world along with the two other major eighth generation systems, Sony’s PS4 and Nintendo’s Wii U. Microsoft has released three consoles under the Xbox brand, including the original Xbox and Xbox 360.
The most recent console, Xbox One was released to widespread praise in November 2013. In contrast to its predecessors, the console places emphasis on internet-enabled features, including its record and stream functions, and its compatibility with set-top boxes, which enables gamers to stream TV through the console while using new features such as an enhanced guide interface and Kinect-based voice control (input sensor technology developed by Microsoft).
In this guide we’ll explain why VPNs are a smart choice for Xbox One enthusiasts, especially those facing geographic restrictions on certain games and multi-player features, as well as those keen on avoiding DDoS attacks and other threats when playing games online or accessing video-on-demand (VOD).
Xbox One spec and features
- Interface modelled on Windows OS
- Blu-Ray/DVD compatible
- 1.31 teraflop graphics processing unit (GPU)
- 1.75 GHz AMD 8-core custom central processing unit (CPU) (PS4 is only 1.6GHz)
- 8GB DDR3 RAM
- USB and HDMI connections
- Revamped controller includes various new features, including a 3.5mm stereo headset jack and Kinect compatibility
- 500 GB hard drive (external hard drive support available)
- Skype and Party Chat compatible
- Mouse and keyboard support
- Kinect 2 technology: a webcam-style input sensor that operates using gestures and spoken commands rather than as a traditional remote control
Note, Xbox One does not support Bluetooth.
Xbox began life in late 2001 with the launch of the original Xbox, which marked Microsoft’s maiden voyage into the games console market and was the first console to be sold by an American company since the Atari Jaguar ceased production in 1996. Both the original Xbox and Xbox 360 revolutionized gaming and competed well against the PlayStation and Wii counterparts of their day.
Xbox One is available in more than 30 markets across the globe, including Europe, North America, Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania. In September 2014, the console became the first Xbox gaming device to be sold in China’s Shanghai Free-Trade Zone. Since its release, the console has lagged behind PS4 in terms of critical reception and revenue, though as of November 2014 an impressive 10 million units were shipped to distributors worldwide.
The console also competes with other digital media players, such as Apple TV and Google TV, since it is described by its developers as an “all-in-on entertainment system” thanks to its capacity for playing Blu-Ray, DVDs, and CDs, also because of the media player app, which can stream VOD and can be connected via a HDMI cable to set-top boxes. The console also provides an app for streaming games remotely from your console on any Windows 10 PC.
Xbox One includes numerous add-on features. The Xbox SmartGlass app, for example, enables gamers to set-up a companion device using Windows Phone, Windows 8, iOS and Android. Once the device and the console are synchronized through the app, gamers can use the companion device for a variety of extra features, including as a remote control, opening messages and accessing the Xbox activity feed.
Xbox Live is the brand’s online multi-player gaming and digital content service. It first appeared in 2002 shortly after the release of the original Xbox. The service has been advanced following the releases of Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and in 2007 the service became available for Windows. Microsoft is planning to extend Xbox Live to mobile and handheld devices as part of its Live Anywhere service. The service already operates on newer Windows Phones (from late 2010). At the time of writing, there are 39 million active users and the service continues to gain momentum.
Xbox Live is available both for free and for a monthly subscription. However, the majority of features, including online gaming, are available only through the subscription service, Xbox Live Gold. Subscription begins at $4.99 per month and includes free games, a huge range of multi-player content, live TV, Skype, game demos, apps, and many more features.
Popular Games (recent releases)
Xbox One also boasts a wide range of top-rated games, including the following recent releases:
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Destiny: The Taken King
Benefits of VPN
There are plenty of reasons to use a VPN while gaming, especially when using Xbox Live, since users are connected to the Internet where unencrypted data is always under threat. A VPN ensures that all of the user’s data is encrypted and as such prevents threats to privacy and bandwidth latency, including DDoS attacks, a tactic sometimes used maliciously by tournament teams and players to defeat their opponents by flooding the bandwidth of a single console.
Aside from these advantages, a VPN can also be used to overcome geo-restrictions put in place by Microsoft that affect certain games and access to streaming services such as those offered by Hulu, LoveFilm, and Netflix, as well as some game demos available on Xbox Live. VPN is also useful for players looking to expand their multi-player base since gamers can switch to a server where there are more online gamers.
PureVPN boasts one of the largest server ranges of any provider; currently with over 450 servers worldwide. The provider’s headquarters are in Hong Kong, making it a good choice for users because of the region’s relaxed data retention and surveillance laws, particularly in comparison to mainland China.
The VPN connection uses 256 SSL or AES encryption and offers the following protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. There are no restrictions on bandwidth and the provider does not collect users’ traffic logs.
One of the most attractive features of PureVPN’s service is that subscribers can connect on up to 5 devices simultaneously, making it an excellent choice for large households/families.
Numerous anonymous payment options are available, including Bitcoin, WebMoney, and several others. A single month costs $9.95, 6 months is slightly cheaper at $7.49 a month, while 12 months is the best value at $4.16.
- 5 device connections per one active account
- Servers in 6 continents
- Strong encryption
- Flexible premium add-ons
- Headquarters in Hong Kong (relaxed privacy laws)
- Smart DNS can’t be bought separately
Its VPN service offers encryption through the following protocols: OpenVPN (UDP or TCP), L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP.
The custom IPVanish VPN client for Windows boasts some attractive features, including the ability to toggle easily between encryption protocols and servers. The client is also easy to configure and offers optimised servers and ports specifically for gaming. When using this feature, the client automatically selects the nearest and fastest server to the user’s location while also reducing latency.
Like most other providers mentioned here, IPVanish does not restrict bandwidth and no connection or browsing logs are retained. Subscribers can pay using numerous anonymous payment options, including Bitcoin and PaySafeCard.
There are three subscription plans on offer: one month, three months, and one year. The one year plan is the best value-for-money at $77.99 ($6.49 a month). One month costs $10 while three months cost $26.99.
- Servers and ports optimised specifically for gaming
- Wide server range
- Numerous anonymous payment options
- Only 2 simultaneous connections allowed per account
- Limited in-app options
HideMyAss is among the more stylized providers and has quickly developed a reputation for fast speeds. Currently, its headquarters are in London, making them subject to UK data retention legislation. Despite this, the provider makes it clear on its website that it will only disclose personal information about customers if it is legally compelled to do so. Moreover, a chat with the provider’s representatives revealed that no customer-specific data is ever stored in the United Kingdom.
HideMyAss runs over 900 servers in roughly 210 countries, making it one of the largest providers around. The VPN service uses OpenVPN-TCP encryption by default, though OpenVPN-UDP, PPTP, and L2TP protocols are available.
The Windows client is easy to use and includes several handy features, including fast server toggling, automated balance loading, and a server speed guide. Connection data are stored for 2-3 months before being deleted.
There are three subscription packages available. The ‘Kick-ass’ one month package costs $11.52, the ‘Half-ass’ is $8.33 per month for 6 months, while the ‘Smart-ass’ service is set at $6.55 per month for a 12 month period.
- Enormous server range
- Excellent client features, including quick server toggling
- Easy to use apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android
- No 256-bit encryption with OpenVPN
- 1 month plan priced at above average rate
ExpressVPN is a large and well-known provider with servers in 100 cities in 78 countries. The company was established in 2009 and is currently registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Its VPN service offers 256-bit SSL-secured encryption and the OpenVPN UDP protocol is available by default. Subscribers can also use the following VPN protocols: OpenVPN TCP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP, and PPTP.
ExpressVPN accepts anonymous methods of payment, including Bitcoin, Yandex Money, and WebMoney. What’s more, bandwidth is not restricted and no browsing logs are collected.
A one month subscription is the most expensive at $12.95, six months costs $9.99 a month, while a 1 year subscription is the best value at $8.32 a month.
- Wide server range
- Known for fast speeds
- Easy to configure client
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Live chat and email support 24 hours a day
- Not as cheap as other providers
- Limited in-app settings
ibVPN is considerably smaller than the other providers in this guide, but it still offers just under 100 servers in 39 countries, as well as a Smart DNS service. The provider is based in Romania, a good location for privacy because of the country’s lenient approach to online censorship, surveillance, and data retention.
The VPN service uses 256-bit encryption and offers the following protocols: PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SSTP. As well as its VPN subscription, ibVPN also offers a Smart DNS, which they call ibDNS. ibVPN stores connection logs for 7 days but not usage logs.
All four subscriptions available work out cheaper if you pay for the whole year up front, rather than monthly. Ultimate VPN+Smart DNS is $6.91 a month. Total VPN+Smart DNS costs $5.83 per month. ibDNS (SmartDNS without VPN) and the P2P subscription (just for torrenting) both cost $3.08 a month. Note: all prices relate to annual plans.
- Romania-based (beneficial for privacy).
- Free trial available for both VPN and Smart DNS
- Extensive server range
- Only up to 2 connections per active account
VyprVPN is a VPN service operated by Texas-based Golden Frog, a company with expertise in data and privacy protection, including with its separate encrypted messaging service – Cyphr. According to the company website, all of Golden Frog’s infrastructure is managed in-house.
At the time of writing, the VPN service boasts roughly 700 servers across five continents. The service supports the following encryption protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP.
VyprVPN offers closed-source applications for all major operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS.
According to its website, no traffic or DNS logs are collected but connection logs are stored for up to 30 days. VyprVPN also offer a free trial, which gives users a taster of the VPN service with a 500Mb per month allowance – essentially a free, albeit limited, virtual private network subscription.
Three levels of premium subscription are available based on how many connections are allowed. The Basic package costs just $6.67 a month and allows one connection. Pro is $8.33 a month and allows two connections, and the Premier package is $10 per month and allows three simultaneous connections. All packages include varying degrees of free cloud storage.
- Wide range of server locations
- Unique add-ons including cloud storage and an encrypted messaging service
- Free trial available with 500Mb allowance
- Bitcoin not accepted
- Free trial only supports PPTP protocol
- Connection logs stored for 1 month