Cloud gaming services have a moment. PlayStation and Nvidia are already in the ring while Google and Microsoft are preparing to enter the competition. Another option from a lesser-known French company called Blade is already available. The blade service known as Shadow is more of a full cloud computing service that focuses on streaming games. If you are interested in game streaming, then you should understand all of your options. Here is everything you need to know about Shadow.
What is shadow
Shadow is a cloud gaming service that gives you virtual access to a powerful PC rig. Put simply, Shadow sends a virtual machine on your devices. You simply control a high-end PC without actually owning one. How high quality? If you're using Shadow, you'll have access to a Windows 10 PC with the following specifications: eight-threaded Intel Xeon CPU, Nvidia Quadro P5000 GPU / GTX 1080 graphics cards, 12GB of RAM, and a 256GB solid-state drive.
The GPU offers performance comparable to that of the Nvidia GTX 1080 and 12GB of RAM is enough to run even the most demanding AAA titles. The Intel Xeon series processor is a processor specially designed for intensive functions such as server hosting.
While playing on Shadow, you always have access to the full processing power of this high-end rig. Shadow partitions its data center servers to give each user full power. Essentially, it's tailored for the number of users, so your performance won't change.
While Shadow's 256GB solid-state drive is quite limited given the file size of modern AAA games, Shadow can download new games at 1GB / s, which is almost certainly much faster than your home internet connection. This means you can download games north of 50GB in less than a minute if everything goes as expected. You can upgrade to higher tiers with better performance and specifications. However, this costs considerably more and depends heavily on first-class internet connections (more on this in our price section).
A 15Mbps connection is all that is recommended. So if you have broadband connection, you probably meet this requirement for optimized gaming. Blade claims that Shadow works with 4G LTE too. However, if you don't have unlimited data, it can get expensive quite quickly. Particularly old computers may also experience performance problems. Blade suggests at least one Intel processor around 2015 or equivalent.
One of the great things about Shadow is device support. Shadow supports PC, Mac, Android, iOS, and even Ubuntu. The local hardware requirements are minimal and mainly relate to the operating system. You need to keep your device up to date with a little bit of software in order to run the Shadow app. If your device can be upgraded to the following versions or higher, then you should essentially be able to use Shadow.
- PC: Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10 64-bit
- Mac: macOS 10.10 or higher
- Android: 7.0 Nougat or higher
- iPhone / iPad: iOS 11.0 or higher
- Ubuntu 04/18
With Shadow, you can switch devices in seconds and pick up right where you left off. Google offered a demonstration of this feature during its Stadia reveal, but Shadow did it first. That means you can jump from a laptop to a tablet to a phone in a single gaming session without losing your progress.
One of the biggest concerns about streaming games is latency. When we tested Shadow last year, we didn't experience any latency or input lag issues. However, we did encounter some frame rate issues, which Blade attributed to the distance from the nearest server.
With all streaming services, the experience can vary from user to user, depending on their own internet connection and infrastructure. These are the most unpredictable variables, but the general consensus is that Shadow performs reasonably well.
Shadow can run games in 4K (60 Hz) at 60 frames per second. The 1080p performance is significantly better at 144 Hz.
After starting out in California for the first time, Shadow expanded across the United States. The dark blue states offer the best options for shadow streaming, while the light blue states are less suitable for shadow streaming due to the overall poorer internet.
Supports your game library
As mentioned earlier, Shadow is more cloud computing than a dedicated game streaming service. This means that the first time you start, you personalize your Windows experience, just like at home. Then download the game clients you are using, be it Steam, Origin or Epic Games Store.
Your existing games linked to your various accounts will work with Shadow. However, in order to play new games, you need to buy them as you normally would. Thanks to this feature, you have a wide range of games to choose from on your powerful virtual machine.
For mobile devices, Blade has a Shadow app that you need to install to be ready to use. Just like playing games on a home PC, you can connect a DualShock 4, Xbox One, or other wired controller that is compatible with your devices.
Starting in mid-2020, Shadow will offer three different levels of service at different prices so you can increase performance when you're willing to pay enough.
Tier 1, Shadow Boost – $ 11.99 per month: Here you can find the basic specifications that we discussed in the first section, with no restrictions for the device you want to use.
Tier 2, Shadow Ultra – $ 24.99 per month: This increases streaming to support 4K resolutions, 144 fps at 1080p, and ray tracing compatibility. That translates to a boost in processing power and memory, plus the equivalent of a GeForce RTX 2080 GPU (and you get more storage, too).
Tier 3, Shadow Infinite – $ 39.99 per month: This tier gives you an excellent rig configuration, including a 4 GHz six-core processor equivalent, a Titan RTX graphics card equivalent, 32 GB of RAM, and 1 TB of storage.
Yeah, Shadow is pretty expensive. You can buy an Xbox One or PS4 for less than the annual cost of the basic Shadow tier. However, it would take several years to reach the price of the gaming rig that allows you to use Shadow virtually.
Similar to Nvidia GeForce NowThe cost of Shadow doesn't take into account the fact that you need to buy the games as well. And after you cancel your subscription, you will likely own digital games without a PC that can play them effectively. If you're curious about game streaming and want to get involved, Shadow might be a good option for you. We recommend checking the study first before making the final decision to pay for a monthly / yearly plan.
Although Shadow is primarily a service, Blade is working on a specific hardware package designed to support its streaming capabilities. This situation is very similar to Google's when it went into the stadiums. The only downside is that Blade doesn't currently sell or build the model (now called the Ghost). until the data center update is complete with an unknown timeline.
If you look at the first few reports, you'll find that the Ghost has HDMI, Ethernet, and two USB 3.0 ports. It also offers 3.5mm audio input / output and Bluetooth 4.1 and Wi-Fi support. Of course, this is still completely up in the air as we haven't heard or seen anything suggesting what the ghost will look like when it's back in official status. We're also not sure what specific upgrades it will offer.