Nvidia GeForce Now vs. Shadow: Which streaming service is right for you?

nvidia geforce now vs shadow shadowvsnvidia
Shadow

Cloud game streaming could be the next big thing in the video game industry. Large tech companies believe that consumers are ready to ditch gaming PCs that need to be constantly updated and perhaps even dedicated game consoles. The appeal of game streaming is understandable, as it allows you to scale up as games get more demanding without purchasing new hardware.

It’s too early to tell if game streaming really will change the face of the industry, but we’ll probably find out when Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud arrive later this year. In the meantime, two streaming services are already out in front of the competition: Nvidia GeForce Now and Blade’s Shadow. So the question is: Which service wins in the Nvidia GeForce Now vs. Shadow battle?

We examined their strengths and weaknesses across a number of categories. While it’s probably wise to wait for other competitors to come to market before you jump aboard the game streaming train, GeForce Now and Shadow figure to be major players in this burgeoning race.

Supported platforms

Macbook Air (2018) Review
Macbook Air (2018) Riley Young/Digital Trends

Platform support is a key factor in deciding which streaming service to go with. GeForce Now and Shadow each have multiple options, but they aren’t the same.

For GeForce Now, you can stream using a PC, Mac, or Nvidia Shield device. PC users need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows 7 or better, have a dual-core x86 CPU with 2.0GHz or better, 4GB of RAM, and DirectX9 or better. You also need a graphics card, but Intel HD Graphics 2000 or better works. It also works with GeForce (600 series and up)  and AMD graphics cards (Radeon HD 3000 and up).

GeForce Now on Mac requires macOS 10.10, but otherwise, it works with most Apple computers released since 2008. If you’ve bought a computer within the last decade — Mac or PC — there’s a good chance you meet the required specs. If your wireless router doesn’t have a 5GHz, you’ll need an ethernet adapter for Macbooks without a dedicated port (such as Macbook Airs).

Shadow wins the platform battle, as it lets you stream on PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and Ubuntu. Shadow’s listed requirements are essentially all operating system-related, as you need to have relatively recent software updates to access the application. If your device can be updated to the required software version, you can most likely use Shadow.

  • PC: Windows 7/8.1/10 64-bit
  • Mac: macOS 10.10 or later
  • Android: 7.0 Nougat or later
  • iPhone/iPad: iOS 11.0 or later
  • Ubuntu 18.04

Shadow also has an optional piece of hardware, the Shadow Ghost, that lets you stream on your TV. Shadow Ghost costs $150 and comes equipped with: two USB ports, an Ethernet jack, an HDMI port, 3.5mm audio jack, Wi-Fi access and Bluetooth 4.1.

Controllers

xbox one bundle sales return controller
Mack Male/Flickr

Another important component in deciding which streaming service to use is control methods. Shadow and GeForce Now, like most prospective streaming services, each have numerous options.

When playing on PC and Mac with either service, you can use Xbox One, PS4, and wired USB controllers. Basically, any controller you can get to work with your computer, will work here. You can also use mouse and keyboard if you’d like. With Android and iOS on Shadow, you can use controllers that are compatible with your devices.

Streaming quality

Shadow
Blade

Next up is the quality of the stream. This is almost undoubtedly the most important aspect to consider. Streaming services will live and die on stream quality. No one will want to pay for streaming services that regularly underperform or offer subpar experiences across the board.

As both Shadow and GeForce Now are available now in differing capacities, we already know how they fare. Each is well-regarded in terms of latency and input lag. Both streaming services do the heavy lifting at data centers, allowing you to play at high settings without owning a high-end PC. But the upper threshold of qualities picture qualities differs between the two services.

Shadow tops out at 4K and 60 frames per second and 60Hz. Running in 1080p, you can get 60fps and a 144Hz refresh rate. Shadow has been optimized to run games at these benchmarks with a home internet connection speed of 15 Mbps.

GeForce Now tops out at 1080p and 60 frames per second, but you have to have at least a 25 Mbps connection and be using a 5GHz wireless router or ethernet connection. If you only get 15 Mbps at home, you’re capped at 720p and 60 frames per second. While GeForce Now isn’t as impressive sounding as Shadow, it does have an Ultra Streaming mode for some games that doubles the frames per second to 120.

It’s important to note that Shadow has officially been released, whereas GeForce Now is still in beta. GeForce Now’s stream quality could go up by the time it fully launches to the public. For instance, Nvidia announced earlier this year that it is developing 4K rendering for wireless VR and AR streaming through the platform. Additionally, Nvidia is working with HTC to let users eventually stream with 5G.

Since modern cloud streaming is still in its infancy, neither of these services are perfect. A quick Google search for each service brings up praises from some users and complaints from others. Your experience could very well vary widely, with regards to framerate and overall performance.

Games

Assassin's Creed Odyssey review
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

GeForce Now and Shadow handle game libraries in a similar fashion. That is, they aren’t services for buying games. To stream games through both services, you first need to buy them from digital storefronts.

GeForce Now has a library of more than 500 supported games from Steam, Uplay, and Blizzard’s Battle.net. More games are added each week. A full list of supported games can be found here. Some of the highlights include recent AAA hits such as Metro Exodus and Rage 2, and sprawling open world titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Shadow works a bit differently. You still have to own the games, but the library isn’t restricted to a set list of games. With Shadow, you gain access to a high-powered Windows 10 computer. In fact, when you first start it up,  you set up Windows as usual. Then

Features

Nvidia GeForce Now is bare bones in terms of features. At least in beta form. Booting up the app on PC or Mac will automatically perform a sweep of your library to see if you have games that can be added to GeForce Now to play. You can browse GeForce Now’s library of games and click to purchase from the trio of supported storefronts. Mac gamers benefit the most from GeForce Now, as you do not have to run Bootcamp or Parallels to run Windows games. GeForce Now imposes four-hour limits to each session in beta, but you can simply start a new session when your current one ends.

Shadow’s feature set is probably the most unique and customizable of all streaming services both available today and on the horizon. That’s because it’s more of a cloud computing service with a gaming bent than a strict game streaming service. As mentioned, you gain access to a high-end Windows 10 virtual machine, which means you can choose which apps to install (including non-gaming apps, if you want).

The downside of gaining access to a Virtual Machine is that you have to actually download the games, and you only get 256GB of storage. This won’t hold many AAA games at once. However, Shadow’s virtual machine gets blazing fast 1GB/s download speeds, so deleting and downloading new games won’t take long at all. Shadow has apps for each platform that are used to access the cloud computing service.

Pricing and availability

nvidia geforce now price beta features header

Nvidia GeForce Now is currently in beta, with no release date announced. The beta program is free, though the waitlist to join reportedly includes one million people already. Nvidia hasn’t discussed the payment model in over a year, but Nvidia previously said it would charge $25 per 20 hours of streaming time. That could get pricey quick if you use the service a lot. Or it could wind up being a decent deal. It all depends on your gaming habits.

Shadow has two payment models. If you sign up for an annual plan, your monthly cost is $25/month ($300/year). If you go month-to-month, that rate balloons to $35/month ($420/year). Before you lock into a plan, you can try Shadow for ten days for $10. Shadow is currently available in 38 states across the country and will eventually be available nationwide.

Deals

Score a new gaming desktop and save with these Dell back-to-school PC deals

If you’re on the hunt for a new gaming tower and aren’t in the mood to wait until Black Friday sales, then Dell has some pretty good back-to-school deals going right now on a variety of its laptops and desktops that can save you…
Gaming

Can Xbox One overtake the PS4 in the home stretch of this generation?

In this comparison, we pit the Sony PlayStation 4 against Microsoft’s Xbox One in 10 categories, ranging from apps to controllers, to determine which system is truly worth your hard-earned money.
Deals

Grab one of these discounted Dell laptops and get a free $200 Visa prepaid card

If you missed those PC deals during July's sales and don’t want to wait until Black Friday, Dell is offering nice price cuts right now on a couple of our all-time favorite laptops — plus a free $200 prepaid Visa card with your purchase.
Gaming

Google Stadia vs. Blade's Shadow: How the game-streaming services differ

Google Stadia and Blade's Shadow are two very different game-streaming services. We've outlined the key differences between the two to help you decide which one you should pay for.
Deals

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for August 2019

Looking to score Nintendo's latest console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals, including discounts on bundles that feature must-have games like Super Mario Odyssey, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
Gaming

Here's the Gamescom 2019 conference schedule and all the announcements we expect

Gamescom 2019 will be the site for four different presentations, including the next Google Stadia Connect event. Here is when you can watch the shows, and what to expect from each of them.
Gaming

Epic Games insists Fortnite B.R.U.T.E. is fun; #RemoveTheMech not happening

Epic Games said that the controversial B.R.U.T.E. vehicles are part of providing "a fun experience" to Fortnite players. It appears that the developer has no plans of listening to the #RemoveTheMech movement.
Gaming

Microsoft’s Xbox head debunks rumors of streaming-only console in the works

Xbox head Phil Spencer debunked rumors that Microsoft is working on a streaming-only console that will utilize the company's Project xCloud. Spencer also said cloud gaming will not soon replace traditional consoles.
Gaming

Sorry, you can’t exchange your Nintendo Switch for an upgraded model

Customer representatives said that those who purchased the old model of the Nintendo Switch after July 17 would be able to upgrade their console into the new model for free. A Nintendo spokesperson has now denied the exchange program.
Gaming

Fire Emblem: Three Houses prepares to invade Tetris 99’s 6th Maximus Cup

Fire Emblem: Three Houses will collaborate with Tetris 99 for the battle royale puzzler's 6th Maximus Cup. Players who are able to earn 100 points will be able to unlock an exclusive Fire Emblem: Three Houses theme for Tetris 99.
Gaming

Apple Arcade early access program now underway with Apple employees

Apple has started the Apple Arcade early access program with its employees, charging them $0.49 per month after a free one-month trial. The internal testing will end when iOS 13 launches, which may also be when the service is rolled out.
Gaming

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild tagged as franchise’s bestselling game

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has taken the title as the bestselling game in the beloved Nintendo franchise. The game took more than two years to outsell Twilight Princess, the entry that was previously at the top of the list.
Gaming

Phantom Thieves get ready: Persona 5 Royal Western release set for spring 2020

Atlus revealed a spring 2020 Western release window for Persona 5 Royal, the extended version of the popular Japanese RPG Persona 5. The developer also uploaded new screenshots for the game on its official website.
Computing

HyperX gives the Fury DDR4 memory line a face-lift and adds RGB lighting

HyperX has refreshed the popular Fury DDR4 line up with a new look and added LED lighting to the Fury DDR4 RGB. The memory is plug-and-play ready and has predefined Intel XMP profiles for optimal performance.