Cloud gaming services are having a bit of a moment. PlayStation and Nvidia are already in the ring, while Google and Microsoft are gearing up to join the competition. Another option from a lesser-known French company, called Blade, is already available, too. Dubbed Shadow, Blade’s service is more of a complete cloud computing service centered on game streaming. If you’re interested in game streaming, you should get to know all of your options. Here’s everything you need to know about Shadow.
What is Shadow?
Shadow is a cloud gaming service that gives you virtual access to a beefy PC rig. To put it simply, Shadow broadcasts a virtual machine on your devices. You’re simply controlling a high-end PC without actually owning one. How high-end? When using Shadow, you have access to a Windows 10 PC with the following specs: Eight-thread Intel Xeon CPU, Nvidia Quadro P5000 GPU/GTX 1080 graphics cards, 12GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive.
The GPU gives you performance on par with Nvidia GTX 1080, and 12GB of RAM is enough memory to run even the most demanding AAA titles. The Intel Xeon series processor is a processor specifically designed for intensive functions such as server hosting.
While gaming on Shadow, you always have access to the full processing power of that high-end rig. Shadow partitions its data center servers to allocate the full power for each user. Essentially, it’s built to scale for user counts, so your performance isn’t changed.
While Shadow’s 256GB solid-state drive is pretty limited considering the file sizes of modern AAA games, Shadow is capable of downloading new games at 1GB/s, which is almost assuredly much faster than your home internet connection. This means that you can download games north of 50GB in less than a minute if all goes as expected.
If you need more power, Shadow will begin offering two additional plans in 2020. The “Ultra” plan includes an upgrade to an Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU, a four-core CPU at 4GHz, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage. The “Infinite” plan, meanwhile, includes an Nvidia Titan RTX GPU, a six-core CPU at 4GHz, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage.
A 15 Mbps connection is all that’s recommended. So if you have a broadband connection, you likely meet this requirement for optimized gaming. Blade claims Shadow also works on 4G LTE, though unless you have unlimited data, that could get pricey rather quickly.
One of the big pluses of Shadow is its device support. Shadow supports PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Ubuntu. Local hardware requirements are minimal and largely pertain to operating system. You need to have your device somewhat up-to-date software-wise to run the Shadow app. Essentially, if your device can be updated to the following versions or later, you should be able to 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
With Shadow, you can switch between devices in a matter of seconds and pick up right where you left off. Google offered a demonstration of this same feature during its Stadia reveal, but Shadow did it first. That means you can jump from a laptop to tablet to phone in a single gaming session, without losing your progress.
One of the biggest worries about game streaming is latency. When we tested Shadow last year, we had no problems with latency or input lag. We did, however, run into some framerate issues that Blade attributed to the far distance we were from the nearest server.
With all streaming services, the experience may vary from user to user depending on their own internet connection and infrastructure. These are the unpredictable variables, but the general consensus is that Shadow performs quite well.
Shadow is capable of running games in 4K (60Hz) at 60 frames per second. 1080p performance is significantly better at 144Hz.
After its initial launch in California, Shadow expanded throughout the United States. To maintain the advertised level of performance, Blade has been careful about where Shadow is supported due to proximity to the server hubs. As of now, 38 out of 50 states support Shadow. Residents in states such as Florida, Arizona, and Washington cannot currently use Shadow, but Blade is expected to continue to rollout Shadow until it reaches all residents nationwide.
Supports your library of games
As mentioned, Shadow is more cloud computing than dedicated game streaming service. That means that when you first boot it up, you personalize your Windows experience just like you would at home. Then you download the game clients you use, whether that be Steam, Origin, or Epic Games Store.
Your existing games linked to your various accounts will work with Shadow, but to play new games, you have to buy them just like you normally would. As a result of this feature, you have a vast library of games to choose from on your high-powered virtual machine.
For mobile devices, Blade has a Shadow app that you have to install to get up and running. Just like gaming on a PC at home, you can hook up a DualShock 4, Xbox One, or other wired controllers that are compatible with your devices.
While Shadow is first and foremost a service, Blade does have an optional piece of hardware. The Shadow Ghost, an evolved version of the Shadow Box, released earlier this year for $150. With its sleek, curved design, the Shadow Ghost definitely would stand out in your entertainment center. What’s the point of Shadow Ghost?
Essentially, this boils down to your personal preference. It’s unlikely that you don’t already own a device that supports the Shadow service, but the Shadow Ghost frees up those devices and lets you game on your TV, creating a proper couch play alternative.
The Ghost has HDMI, Ethernet, and two USB 3.0 ports. It also has a 3.5mm audio in/out, as well as Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi support. It has the same performance specs as streaming on other devices, but chances are your TV screen is the best and biggest screen in your home. So it may be worthwhile if you like the service.
Blade’s pricing model for Shadow has fluctuated since launch, but as of now, you can try it out for ten days for $10. After the trial, you can choose whether to opt-in for an annual plan or be billed month-to-month. The annual plan costs $25 a month ($300 per year), while going month-to-month will set you back $35 ($420 per year).
The pricing structure for the additional plans haven’t been revealed for the U.S. yet but based on the prices outlined for the U.K., you can expect to pay about double for Ultra what you would pay for Boost, and nearly double that price for Infinite.
Yes, Shadow is quite pricey. You could buy an Xbox One or PS4 for less than the yearly cost of Shadow. However, it would take multiple years of subscribing to equal the price of the gaming rig Shadow lets you use virtually.
Like Nvidia GeForce Now, Shadow’s price doesn’t factor in that you have to buy the games as well. And once you stop subscribing, you will theoretically have digital games without a PC capable of playing them. If you’re interested in game streaming, Shadow might be right for you. We recommend checking out the trial first before pulling the trigger on a monthly/yearly plan.
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