Today, we are going to do one of our comparative reviews between Geforce Now BETA and Shadow. The two new kids on the block of the high end gaming PC cloud streaming services that allow you to play your games, you already own, over the Internet, on their hardware.
To stop any confusion, Geforce Now BETA, is not the same as Geforce Now currently is on their shield devices and tablets. This is something very different and what we will be focusing on. The key difference is, the Geforce Now BETA and the Shadow, don’t provide any games, you simply get a system that allows you to play your Steam library, or Uplay, Origin and other games on your device. Currently it appears on Geforce Now BETA, only Steam, Uplay and Origin are supported. Where as on Shadow, being that you get a full windows 10 High end 8 core, GTX 1080 PC over the cloud, you can install what you want on it within reason. Where as with Geforce Now BETA, it’s a shell that allows you to run Steam, Uplay or Origin, but you can’t install or use it as a PC.
Gaming in the cloud is nothing new, previously with OnLive, then Gaikai which both of which Sony purchased the patents and technology from to enable their own streaming gaming service. Since then Nvidia has had Geforce Now on their shield tablets, and devices. But you could/can only play games that they have in their libraries, with the latest from Geforce Now BETA and Shadow, you get to play your own games, you already own, using their hardware, over the Internet. When it works, it does so well, but when it doesn’t, oh boy, it doesn’t.
A couple of side notes here, are that you require at least a 15MB Internet connection, can be wifi, but better with Ethernet, a PC or Mac that’s not too old.
I tested this using a high end Windows 10 Pro Water cooled PC – AMD Threadripper 1950X CPU / EVGA GTX1080ti FTW v3 GPU, 32GB Corsair 3200Mhz RAM and M.2 drives. Connected to a gigabit ethernet Internet connection running at 100MB. Using the Shadow and Geforce Now BETA apps, recording the footage using Camtasia 7. The hardware has no reflection on the results, as everything is streamed, but given that we are recording this too we wanted to make sure that it’s as good a condition it could be for both, to make it fair. So the PC recording it, isn’t struggling to run the App and record the footage at the same time.
Now we have that out of the way. Let’s quickly compare the two side by side. Geforce Now BETA from Nvidia, is their re-imagining of their existing Geforce Now. The key difference, instead of a monthly subscription to play existing games from a library, you pay per hour, depending on the specs of the graphics card you want; GTX 1060, 1070 and 1080. On a four core based PC, that runs within a shell software platform, virtualised and streamed to you via their software app or to their devices. Which allows you to play games that you already own from your Steam, Origin or Uplay libraries. Their app runs on most PC’s and Mac’s.
Shadow on the other hand is somewhat different. Instead of a virtualised shell that only plays games from certain platforms, you get a fully fledged Windows Gaming PC, with 8 cores, 12GB RAM, 256 SSD and a GTX 1080 as standard. You can decide what you want to install on the PC and it’s streamed to you via it’s app which is available on PC, Mac and Android/iOS. You simply pay a monthly subscription for the service, and you can use it as much as you like. You get a gaming PC, that you can play on a crappy laptop, or Mac, and get a high end graphical experience, on a laptop that can barely run solitaire.
Why would anyone want this you may ask? Simple! To buy a comparable system, would be $1250 at least, given the prices of GPU’s. Then you’ve got the upgrades and all the hassle with potential break downs. All of that is taken care of, by renting a virtual gaming PC. Plus you get their support too. In many cases if you want real hardware, you can use one of their devices, both Nvidia and Shadow have devices that you can plug into your TV – Shadow, at the moment are providing the device for free with 12 month contract subscriptions.
Let’s look at the price of each of these services. Geforce Now BETA, apparently will be charged per hour, depending on the GPU you wish to use. Figures are not solid, but there is a strong suggestion that the GTX 1080 will be $2.50 per hour. There is no lock in, or subscription, you simply pay for what you use. Perhaps they will charge you in blocks, or you pre-purchase blocks of time, but that remains to be seen. At these prices, if you are an avid gamer, that could stack up.
Shadow does away with hourly charges, with a simple monthly subscription fee, depending on your contract. You can have Pay as you go, with no contract and just pay monthly and leave anytime for $49.95. Or a 3 month contract at $39.95, or a 12 month contract for $34.95. You download an app to any PC / Mac or iphone/android device. Or for $9.95 per month, you can rent a box also, or buy one outright for $139.95.
Shadow is available in California in the USA, as they test it for the US market, but widely available in the UK and Europe. Geforce Now BETA, is in BETA only which means you have to register and wait for an invite code and only then can you gain access. Available in the US and Europe.
Shadow appears to be expensive, but looking at Geforce Now BETA, if you play a game for more that 20 hours per month, which isn’t hard to do, you would have already eaten through $50 on Geforce Now. On Shadow, even on the pay as you go, no contract, you would be able to play as much as you like.
So who wins on cost? Well it has to be Shadow. If you are a gamer and enjoy playing campaigns and multiplayer and you play longer than 20 hours or more per month, then you will be better off with Shadow. If you are a very casual gamer then perhaps Geforce Now, but we are looking at this as someone that is wanting a high end PC, but doesn’t want to shell out for one, but wants what that can bring to your games. Plus Shadow is a full windows 10 gaming PC too!
Shadow Wins on cost!
Next we look at lag, stutter, and compression. These are things that you have to consider when using any cloud based gaming system.Lag will kill any game that requires you to move, aim, point, drive, or action anything quickly. Lag is a killer of these and was the death really of OnLive. Despite it being a great idea, at the time, lag was such an issue and something I experienced over and over, that most games became unplayable after a while. So when looking at Geforce Now BETA and Shadow, my concern was immediately focused on Lag, Stutter and of course, how much of the graphics are going to be compressed.
Geforce Now BETA, to be honest I was really hopeful given the amazing benchmark results that we have seen when running 3D mark, eclipsing the Shadow in some cases, but this has more to do with Geforce Now BETA currently defaulting to a Nvidia Tesla P40, a $5700 GPU no less. Now let’s not get too excited, the benchmarks were amazing and no surprise, but Nvidia have stated that the options after the beta will be GTX1060, 1070 and 1080. We can therefore expect that the graphics prowess of the Geforce Now BETA will be dialed down somewhat, to similar if not identical levels of benchmarking that we could see we got from the Shadow PC.
It’s important to understand that Benchmarks really don’t give us the true story, they only reflect hardware, in ideal circumstances. We don’t experience any lag, or stutter because we are passive, just watching the pretty pictures. In fact, here both looked much the same, there was little compression.
However things got different when we played games, for this we used Farcry Primal and Doom. One thing that is interesting, is that sometimes I couldn’t select the same resolutions for each system, however, we always took it to the maximum for both, with Ultra settings. Pushing both the Geforce Now BETA and Shadow to their limits.
Let’s compare Doom on Geforce Now and Shadow. Now we have to understand that only parts of the game play are on rails, so we can compare those side by side like we have here. Immediately you can see more compression on Geforce Now, than you can on the Shadow. The other thing to look out for is during the game play and this is the key thing for me, Geforce Now BETA, sucked, I had trouble aiming, the lag was so large I couldn’t get my bearings and the stutter kicked in also. On the shadow, it was more fluid, there was lag, but nothing to stop me playing and it felt more like I was playing, rather than fighting lag to play the game. Which was the case with Geforce Now BETA. In some later section when I am fighting more and more, it becomes too hard to work with the lag and stutter from Geforce Now BETA and Shadow blows it away in terms of Lag and stutter. Shadow does have it, but it’s not that noticeable.
Next moving on to compression, here we use a graphically intense game such as Farcry Primal. We have the same settings for both. I did not that for some reason on the Shadow, that on the menu system of Farcry Primal, it was stuggling and was finicky. Not too sure why, but it wasn’t playing nice. Didn’t have that issue on the Geforce Now BETA. Perhaps it was just a glitch. It all changed with game play and graphics on both.
Once again, for the on rails parts we will have them side by side and at first they both look good, graphically, but eventually as you will see that the Geforce Now BETA begins to compress as we move to more actual gamer controlled action. This compression becomes more and more obvious and then when you combine that with the lag and stutter, it makes my playing the game so difficult that even on easy, against a baby mammoth I die. Where as on the Shadow, compression, lag and stutter are there, but to such small degree it doesn’t take me out of the experience of playing the game. I’m not fighting the lag and stutter, I’m fighting and enjoying the game, which is key.
Who wins on the gaming front when playing Doom and Farcry Primal? Well it has to be the Shadow. There was lag and stutter and compression on both, but with the Shadow, I felt it wasn’t enough for me to not enjoy the game, where as with Geforce Now BETA, I was simply fighting the lag and stutter. Consider again that I am running this on a 100MB Internet connection, on Gigabit Ethernet connection. Both recommend at least 15MB Internet connection. If Geforce Now BETA struggles on a 100MB Gigabit, then what will it be like on the bare minimum. It makes you wonder. The winner for me on the gaming front has to be Shadow.
Shadow Wins on Gaming!
There are some other things to consider both pro’s and cons of both. Geforce Now BETA network is super quick, when downloading or launching a game it was super fast, plus there didn’t appear to be any limit on the number of games I could download. Shadow on the other hand was slower at downloading games, much like a standard PC on a fast connection. It would get up to say 60MB download on Steam, where as Geforce Now BETA got a download speed of up to over 300MB. Which is super quick. Meaning you are spending less time waiting for games to download and install.
Shadow was much slower at both and is limited to just 256GB of storage, and your OS is on that too. However, it is a full high end 8 core, GTX1080 gaming PC running Windows 10, which you can use just like a decent normal PC. No minning I hasten to add. That will get you booted off of their system and probably incur a financial penalty too, so don’t try it. These space limitations are a bind and mean having only a few games, 3 or 4 on there and perhaps some other software too. However, I’m sure in the future, having read the T&C’s, that it appears that there maybe options for more storage later. Which is a good thing.
The Geforce Now BETA, isn’t a gaming PC as such. You don’t and can’t get any access beyond game library managment software such as STEAM. You don’t get any access to the OS that is running and it’s simply a shell. I did enounter some frustrations with it being a shall. Authorising some apps and games, meant that popup windows would appear behind other windows, meaning I can access it without closing the one in front. Some awkwardness that will no doubt be addressed in updates.
Who wins then? Well we have to consider that Geforce Now BETA, is a, well a BETA. However, given that it’s Nvidia and they have a good amount of experience in this field, they should be smashing Shadow, but they are not. Furthermore, the BETA isn’t true to what the final benchmarks show, given that the GPU is down as a Tesla p40 and the benchmarks results show that it’s chewing through data at a Tesla P40 rate and not a GTX1080 rate as it should be and will be on launch, or less for that matter with the lesser options of a GTX1060 and 1070 being options. Shadow on the other hand is a real living breathing ready to go system. You get a 8 core, GTX 1080, 256 SSD gaming PC, running windows 10. It’s quick, it’s easy to use and is just like owning a PC without all the hardware hassle. You can use it beyond just gaming and it can be the replacement for your PC entirely, if you use the device and plug that into a monitor or TV. Lag, stutter and compression was too much on the Geforce Now BETA, too me out of the experience of playing a game far too much. Where as on the shadow, it didn’t, in fact most of the time it was pretty good. Still not absolutely perfect, but not far off.
My recommendation then, so far, would be on Shadow. It’s cheaper, faster, doesn’t suffer with as much lag or stutter, less compression and you get a fully fledged PC too. Geforce NOW BETA, is a beta of course and may improve, but I had hoped that they would have got the basics sorted and there wouldn’t be as much lag, stutter or compression to take me out of gaming so fast and so quick. Plus it’s just for gaming, you don’t get a PC.
What do you think of Geforce Now, or Shadow, have you tried or have either of these. Let me know. Do you think that this is the future of gaming and could be where we see console gaming move to?
Also for those of you interested in extended footage, please take a look at the end of the video or on my channel, where you can see all the game play and footage used for this video review.