Price : Free- $ 5
This is what we like
- Huge library of existing PC games
- … that you don't have to buy again
- High quality, low latency
- Free or cheap service
And What we don't do
- Not quite fast enough for the fastest multiplayer
- Windows virtualization peeks through the user interface
- Support for non-Steam stores is limited
Stages has billed itself as a streaming revolution, nothing less then a paradigm shift that would change the way we think about gaming. It's … a little less than that. NVIDIA's entry into the streaming games market is not that daring, but it has much more to gain from launch than Google's offer. Or someone else by the way.
The biggest advantage of GeForce NOW is the library. By using existing PC games and connecting to established market places such as Steam and Epic, this service uses the vast collection of digital titles that PC gamers have been building for years. It is also wonderfully cheap: free for many options, but not without limitations, not even for the paid $ 5 layer.
Is this the streaming service we have been waiting for, which can disconnect us from both gaming PC & # 39; s as consoles? Frankly not, but it is certainly the closest we have at the moment.
The biggest problem with Stages is a limited selection – just a few dozen games, even months after the much-discussed launch. For comparison: I counted 553 individual games that were available to play on GeForce NOW, following the main list in the SHIELD app. That's probably not a definitive story – there are a few games available through multiple PC-based game stores, and NVIDIA claims that "thousands" of older PC games can be played through limited installation sessions. But suffice to say, it's a lot.
And for most of that destiny, you don't have to buy them again if you already have them on a PC. With GeForce NOW you can sign in to Steam, Epic, Blizzard Battle.net, EA & # 39; s Origin and Ubisoft & # 39; s Uplay stores and stream the purchases you've already made. If you don't have a game, you can buy one via GeForce NOW, after which the title is still available in the PC store where you made the purchase.
Sounds great, right? It is definitely an improvement. But it is not unlimited: a game must be supported by GeForce NOW to gain access to the service. If it is not in that list of 553 (or maybe a little more, when you play on the PC), you cannot play it.
The GeForce NOW selection is primarily focused on games that are new, popular, or both. Most games that fall into those categories are supported, and if you have built a Steam library for a decade or so, chances are that you have a very wide selection to choose from.
That said, selection may seem random based on your taste. Search for Fallout and you will find the newest title in the series, Fallout 76 . You will also find the much older but still popular Fallout 3 and New Vegas . But Fallout 4 the hit of 2015, is nowhere to be found. You can play Epic exclusives Fortnite and Borderlands 3 but no indie darlings like the Untitled Goose Game or The Outer Worlds . You can play Apex Legends from Origin, but none of the recent Battlefield or Madden games.
Don't get me wrong, the selection is extremely impressive. But if you've read how GeForce NOW is better than Stages because it & # 39; your entire PC game library & # 39; , that is by no means true. I think NVIDIA will work to expand its already impressive selection as quickly as possible.
How does it work?
When you start the game for the first time via GeForce NOW, it is installed on the NVIDIA external virtual machine with an essentially immediate download from the data center. From that moment you can start it at any time via the GeForce NOW app on Windows, Mac, Android or the NVIDIA SHIELD. Controller, mouse and keyboard entries are available on all systems. Chrome OS support is coming later this year, but strangely enough, no mention is made of an iOS app.
Visual loyalty uses the latest graphical version of NVIDIA. The Windows-based virtual systems in GeForce NOW are equipped with the latest GPUs, although only those who pay for the Founders layer have access to RTX lighting effects (in the few games they support so far). Unless you have an advanced gaming PC, or you play at higher resolutions and frame rates than normal, GeForce NOW can probably give you better graphics than on your own computer.
You need at least 15 Mbps of up and down bandwidth to run GeForce NOW, although NVIDIA recommends 25. Although the service will try to play you at lower speeds, let you know you are going to have a bad time. If you choose to ignore the fairly comprehensive warnings, you will find that it is good.
If you happen to have a solid connection, you will find GeForce NOW a pleasant experience. For single player games, I was able to enjoy a rock-stable 60 frames per second at 1080p (the only resolution supported at the time of writing), with hardly a hiccup when I scaled Skyrim and jumped through Doom twice. 19659025] Multiplayer is of course something completely different. Latency problems, which are hardly relevant in a single-player game, can suddenly cause a headache while streaming. GeForce NOW treats them surprisingly well, but I was able to play Overwatch Fortnite and Brawlhalla (a free play on platform fighters, a la Super Smash Bros ) with only occasional dips in my reaction time.
But there is a torture test that I have developed for streaming games, both locally and in the cloud, and this is called Rocket League . I have noticed that the irreverent three-in-three soccer racing game is far more dependent on timing and response than any shooter or fighter, and so far no streaming platform has taken on the challenge of giving me the same experience as my desktop. This also proved to be true for GeForce NOW.
Latency was just a hair that was acceptable beyond the competition. (I'm sorry, random teammates, it was for science.) With an Ethernet connection on my desktop I could get the game aaaaaalmost where I was used to the input. Even 5GHz Wi-Fi couldn't handle that challenge.
Moreover, the NVIDIA system seemed to chug powerfully when there were more than two cars in the same area. Sometimes the frame rate dropped to less than 10 per second. Keep in mind that this is a game that can run on almost all hardware, including the Nintendo Switch, and NVIDIA should have optimized all these GeForce NOW games in advance.
To be honest, I only saw this terrible performance in a matter of a few hours – after that I couldn't replicate it, nor a friend I asked to test on his own GeForce NOW account. But it does show that the platform is not as smooth and ready for action as NVIDIA likes to think.
Speaking of platforms, it is worth noting on which NVIDIA is based. Unlike Stadia and Sony & # 39; s PlayStation Now, both built from the ground up for streaming, GeForce NOW is very firmly based on Windows. When managing games in Steam and other stores, especially on your own desktop, you see the bones of Windows under GeForce NOW as if you were looking at an X-ray.
That is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Windows has the largest selection of games in the world, one of the most important advantages that NVIDIA benefits from. But it does mean that things are a bit rough at the edges. Especially when starting and closing games, you can hardly see NVIDIA's virtualized Windows system hiding its applications. It's not bad in itself, it's just like taking a look at the kitchen in a greasy eatery. It would generally be better if you couldn't do that.
It is a little less shocking to use GeForce NOW on the SHIELD set-top box or an Android phone. The interface there is set by default to the controller-friendly Big Picture mode of Steam when it is visible. However, it is still less than ideal, especially if you have to enter text to log in to games or services. (I noticed that I stumbled more than once on the keyboards for Android, Android TV, Steam Big Picture Mode and the game itself.) Stages have many problems, but the buttery presentation is much more attractive here.
Speaking of platforms, there is a clear preference for Steam over almost everything in GeForce NOW. Although the system works with Epic and Origin, the vast majority of games are available in their Steam flavors, which can be a headache if you've dived in multiple PC stores.
For example, I picked up Subnautica Celeste and and FTL: Faster Than Light on Epic when they were offered for free. And I can play all three on GeForce NOW … but only in their Steam versions. To stream these games from the cloud, I have to pay Steam for the privilege. A few games are available at multiple storefronts – Ubisoft games such as The Division and the latest Assassin & # 39; s Creeds are available on both Uplay and Steam. But this is largely the exception, not the rule.
What is the catch?
GeForce NOW is free – you can now download it on the supported platforms and play any PC game that is in your library. If you don't have PC games, you can still use them to play freebies, even technically demanding games such as Apex Legends Paladins or Dauntless . You use NVIDIA & # 39; s powerful cloud hardware, not to mention some expensive bandwidth, on the dole.
So what's the catch? Although both free and paid levels are limited to 1080p and 60 frames per second, you have to pay a reasonably reasonable $ 5 per month to get great RTX graphics. That is of course not true & # 39; n bitter pill – only a few dozen games even support RTX graphics, many of which have not even been released yet.
No, the greater benefit is the time limit. Free users are limited to one-hour sessions, after which GeForce NOW kicks you off. That is an absolute killer for gamers who played long sessions, twice as much as they are in multiplayer. You are also in a slow lane: if the GeForce NOW system is overloaded, you will not enter it immediately. Paid users get priority access and their sessions can last four hours and can be repeated indefinitely.
Those are some pretty hefty limitations, even on top of the required bandwidth. But GeForce NOW also has a bit of a conceptual problem. While services such as Stages want to appeal to users who don't have the powerful hardware needed to play the latest games, the use of the vast existing user libraries means that the primary target audience is people who already have gaming PCs. . And, apart from the novelty of accessing their library somewhere else (provided there is bandwidth somewhere), those people … well, already have gaming PC & # 39; s.
It's undeniably cool to be able to play games anywhere, and it's even cooler to get more and more. But here the current limitations of the system are clear and users who rely on iOS or ChromeOS for mobile computing will feel irresponsibly excluded.
A competitive offer
Nevertheless, NVIDIA has made an excellent first offer. If you only have a free layer, GeForce NOW comes for Stages (still planning to launch free options later this year) and PlayStation Now ($ 10 per month), and $ 5 for non-free-unlimited access is undeniably competitive. That means nothing like a built-in library for users who are already behind PC games.
Sony and Microsoft might fight better. PlayStation Now contains a library of games for the monthly price with unlimited playing time, many of which are tempting exclusive PlayStation games. Microsoft will only begin testing its streaming system prior to the launch of the Xbox Series X later this year, but it is likely to contain something similar, since Microsoft is already offering the Xbox Game Pass. PlayStation Now is limited to 720p playback – a shortage of pixels at the age of 4K – and Xbox cloud streaming is months at best.
The best comparison on the market is perhaps Shadow, an independent service that lets you rent an external Windows virtual machine for $ 35 a month. It is definitely made with gaming in mind, thanks to powerful GPU hardware, but it is also meant for people who are quite technical. Unlike GeForce NOW, the Windows 10 machine is fully unlocked, so you can use Shadow to stream something like Photoshop or Blender, something your typical low-power machine can't handle. And yes, it can play almost any PC game. View our review of Shadow here. Although technically much more capable than GeForce NOW, it is also much less accessible without free (or even cheap) options.
GeForce NOW is, in one word, cool. In two words, it's really cool – and refreshingly accessible to boot. But don't believe me on my word. If you live in the United States or one of the other supported areas, give it a try and make your smartphone jealous while playing Fortnite at full settings at 1080p. If you do not live in one of the supported areas (the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Japan, Russia and South Korea at the time of this writing), you can still try … but you is likely to lose a lot.
Price: Free- $ 5
Here's what we want
- Huge library of existing PC games  … that you don't have to buy again
- High quality, low latency
- Free or cheap service
And what we don't do
- Not quite fast enough for the fastest multiplayer  Windows virtualization peeks through the user interface
- Support for non-Steam stores is limited