Nvidia has just kicked Google’s ass. This is my take out.
A week ago, Nvidia announced that it would indeed start renting its RTX 3080 graphics card that cannot be purchased on the Internet. The graphics giant is now offering a new level of its GeForce Now cloud gaming service, $ 99 for a six-month subscription, which promises 4K HDR gaming at 60 fps, or 1440p at 120 fps, delivered to virtually any device. that you own, with much lower latency than Nvidia’s service has never been offered before.
I spent much of the day yesterday testing it on my phone, laptop, a borrowed Nvidia Shield TV set-top box, and even my own desktop PC with RTX 3080 for direct comparisons. And performance wise, at least I came away impressed.
I must warn you that I tested in the best conditions: I live near the servers on the west coast of Nvidia, I use 5 GHz Wi-Fi and / or wired Ethernet to connect, and although i hate comcast it tends to have favorable peering arrangements which prevent me from seeing a lot of lag in online games. But that also goes for Google’s service, so let’s go. By 2019, it was clear that Google’s Stadia had outperformed all other nascent cloud gaming services in responsive gameplay and clear picture quality, even if “4K” was a lie. It’s equally clear today that Nvidia has taken a leap forward on both fronts – to the point that it’s starting to feel like a worthy alternative to a next-gen gaming console. and a promising stopgap if chip shortages mean you can’t find the console or PC parts you want.
Let’s do the console comparison first, as I think this is by far the most favorable. I pulled Contrôle : Ultimate Edition, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Destin 2 on the $ 150 Nvidia Shield TV, the only platform the company currently offers 4K HDR streaming on. While these aging games don’t have a PS5 Ratchet et Clank levels of detail, it felt like I had just plugged in the best gaming console ever. Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 4K, that’s all the Stadia version wasn’t: crisp, detailed graphics that look like 4K. I relaunched it on Stadia and found it muddy in comparison. Then i shot Destin 2, maximized settings to 3840 x 2160, increased the field of view to 90 degrees and consistently saw it stay well above 60 fps in a frantic firefight.
And I felt proficient in those fights: The controls felt about as responsive as on a console, if not as good as a mouse and keyboard on a PC.
But for me the real console style winner was Control, which ran smoothly at 4K AI upscaled (DLSS) at the highest levels of detail with half of the ray tracing features enabled. While I’m not usually a fan of DLSS on a computer screen, I couldn’t really tell the difference how far I am playing from my TV. Considering the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions are low-res and lock you in at 30fps if you want ray tracing, this might be the best way to play. Control if you have the money and you don’t have a data cap – i clocked it at almost 50Mbps which is a lot of data.
On the phone, too, I was impressed. In native 1080p, Control let me maximize every setting including ray tracing and perform wonderfully – a bit better than my old GTX 1080 desktop, frankly. I measured my Pixel 4a up to 30Mbps while streaming this. (I haven’t tried it on cellphone yet, and I haven’t been able to try 120Hz on a phone.)
I just wouldn’t choose GeForce Now over a real RTX 3080 desktop.
Technically, it has more power than my desktop computer: with a 16-core AMD Threadripper Pro 3955WX and an Nvidia A10G with 24GB of VRAM, the company’s servers were 12% faster in the Shadow of the Tomb Raider reference, and I’m not surprised on the basis of these specs.
But Nvidia made the choice to only offer 4K HDR streaming on its Shield TV set-top box to boot, not on PC – and the lower resolution and lack of HDR really hurt my PC experience.
When streaming games are perfectly still, they can look almost as good as games running natively. Here are some screenshots I captured in Control on different platforms so you can see what I mean (blow them up in full resolution first please):
If you take a closer look you’ll see more detail in Jesse’s hair, leather jacket, and jeans, but it’s only when you get to Stadia (where Google is clearly rendering less detail) that we see a huge difference in quality.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider has even less difference between streaming and native when the game is completely still:
What I can’t easily show you, not even correctly in a video, is how muddy a stream can get when objects move… and those moving objects are compressed into images that can easily be broadcast over the internet … Then this compression creates nasty image artifacts that spread over your field of vision. But I can try:
This has plagued games in the cloud for years, and it’s especially noticeable at lower render resolutions and in remote, gray areas like fog, smoke, steam, or just semi-dark areas. Different video compression techniques can help, and that’s part of why Google Stadia was remarkably better than GeForce Now in 2019. But a higher resolution stream and HDR also help a lot – I don’t see these issues nearly as much in the Stream 4K HDR to my large TV, even when standing up close. But on my desktop at 1440p there is a lot of smearing.
The state of the art of cloud gaming has just advanced with a new infusion of hardware, but there are still plenty of reasons to hesitate. On the one hand, this is the second time this year that Nvidia has doubled the price of its top tier GeForce Now, first from $ 4.99 per month to $ 9.99 per month in March, and now by 99, $ 99 per year at $ 99.99 for six months (although the previous level is still there and “Founders” are grandfathered for life as long as they continue to foot the bill.) This price includes access. to many free games on other platforms, but you will need to bring paid games from Steam, EGS, and Uplay yourself. Your backups are with you.
On the other hand, I am not convinced that GeForce Now is very tolerant of bursts of network congestion: my Destin 2 session became totally unplayable after my wife started syncing a bunch of files with Dropbox, and panicked again when she downloaded a single app installer to her MacBook a bit later.
The reason I won’t be buying, however, is that a lot of my PC game collection just isn’t there because Nvidia can’t get the streaming rights. I can not play Death loop Where Back 4 Blood Where Chopped Where Nier Automata Where PUBG, which are all on my current slate. Nvidia adds new games every week, including titles as new as Far cry 6 and New world, but Nvidia can’t promise that some of them won’t go away as well.
Yet real RTX 3080 cards still cost $ 1,600 on eBay, and PC hardware in general is very expensive to assemble right now. Gaming platforms also use a lot of electricity, and energy costs are skyrocketing in some parts of the world. For the right person, $ 200 a year doesn’t seem like too much to ask for a competent gaming PC in the cloud.