best cloud gaming

GPU cloud gaming – is it the answer for resource intensive AAA titles?

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Cloud gaming takes the intensive processing of games from your local computer into the cloud where you can harness the power of a heavy duty server within a secure data center. With the most basic of computers or devices, as long as you have a stable and fast internet connection, you can play your favorite games online. Your hardware just needs to be able to support and sustain a constant high-definition video stream.

Some of the most common GPU-based cloud gaming services available include Microsoft’s XBox Cloud Gaming service xCloud, GeForce now, Shadow, PlayStation, Amazon Luna and Vortex. Most of these services are subscription based, although some do offer limited free access. You can find more details later in this article.

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 – a pearl hard to find

The NVIDIA RTX 3080 graphics card is coveted by all gamers for its superior superfast performance. Powered by their 2nd gen RTX architecture – Ampere, with streaming multiprocessors, and enhanced built-in RT and Tensor Cores, the RTX 3080 offers realistic and immersive graphics with the lowest system latency. Built for live streaming, with AI-enhanced video and voice, the RTX 3080 offers high-speed, ultra performance – every gamers’ dream.

With all these performance benefits, there is a downside. The high demand for this graphics card, along with recent manufacturing delays due to the Covid pandemic – it has led to a global shortage. This in turn has led to a massive price increase on available stock – making it unaffordable for most gamers.

If you find yourself in this situation, there is good news. This does not mean that you can not benefit from high-end software and also also enjoy AAA games.

GPU cloud gaming is your solution

GeForce NOW is the next generation in cloud gaming. With over 1000 games ready to play, GeForce Now brings the most powerful gaming supercomputer into your home. Previously known as Nvidia Grid, then Nvidia Shield, the rebranding of Geforce Now was launched in 2015.

GeForce NOW is compatible with a wide range of devices and operating systems, including Windows, Mac, SHIELD TV, iPhone and iPad and Android.

Currently GeForce NOW is only available in North America and Europe. For a premium membership, you can take advantage of the following enhanced features:

  • • higher resolutions and faster frame rates;
  • • faster access to games without having to wait for access;
  • • experience real-time ray tracing and AI and programmable shading for cinematic-quality rendering to enhance your gaming experience;
  • • extended session times.

You can choose from 2, 6 or 12 month memberships and you can also buy and redeem gift cards.

In order to use GeForce NOW, you need an internet connection with at least 15 Mbps for 720p HDTV signal format with at least 60FPS. For the best experience, latency to the NVIDIA data center should be less than 80ms but 40ms is recommended.

On a Windows machine, you need 64bit Windows 7 or newer. For Mac users, you need macOS 10.11 or higher. Your monitor needs to support at least 120Hz for 120 FPS streaming. On Android devices, you need Android 5.0 or higher with 1GB of free memory. Your phone must also support OpenGL ES2.0.

How GPU cloud gaming server is built

NVIDIA makes use of a high-density GPU server called the RTX Blade Server. It has 20 CPU nodes and 40 NVIDIA Turing GPUs. With a 8U rack mount configuration and Grid vGaming Software, the RTX Server can run up to 160 games concurrently. 10 twin blades provides all the power and cooling and I/O infrastructure to support the server.

A common backplane connects the nodes to a 40Gb network module, delivering power and 10Gb Ethernet. The enclosure can support up to 10 power supply units (PSUs) with a 2200W 2N redundancy system.

The server is configurable and can be converted into data center pods of 30 RTX servers which can serve 1000s of users concurrently. This can be further extended by deploying multiple pods in Edge Data Center locations – extending the reach to millions of users with low latency.

The best cloud GPU gaming providers

There are a number of cloud gaming service providers available – some from big name tech giants, but also some smaller independent companies.

Amazon’s cloud gaming service Luna lets you play your favourite games on any device. Luna differs from other platforms as it only offers about 500 games. Luna is cross-platform, compatible for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android. An internet connection of a minimum 10 Mbps is recommended. Costs to use Luna starts from $9.99 but with an Amazon Prime subscription, you can access a number of games on Luna for free.

Stream games to your device with Google Stadia. When using a TV, you will need Google Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia Controller. After a free month, a subscription to Stadia Pro will cost you $9.99/month. You can also buy and play and visit the Stadia Store to buy individual games.

Industry leader Nvidia introduced GeForce NOW in 2015. GeForce is free to use but there are upgrade options available with added benefits. Free gameplay does have an hour game time limit. If there are a number of players online, you have to queue and wait. All members with a Pro subscription do not have to queue.

XCloud is the cloud gaming offering from Microsoft, manufacturers of the XBox, but you can access Xcloud from any device. You do need to subscribe to the service in order to access the games. For $15/month, you gain access to Xbox Game Pass for console and PC games, as well as Xbox Live Gold.

Playstation Now is Sony’s video game subscription service. In order to access the games, you can use any of the PlayStation consoles from version 2 or later, or a Windows computer. Unlike other popular services, Playstation Now is not, at present, available for mobile. PS Now has a 7 day free trial, thereafter an ongoing subscription is required.

Parsec is free to use. It requires downloading and installation for your operating system. It allows streaming of game play across the internet. You can stream a game from one high-end computer and play on another. Invite your friends to join and play by simply sharing a link.

Shadow gives you the power of a high-end PC on your own device. A subscription will cost you $29.99 a month. Once subscribed, a new cloud PC will be set up in a data center closest to you. Shadow requires a download and installation and it is available on PC and Mac, also for smartphones, tablets and smart TV.

Vortex includes a large-worldwide datacenter network in US, Europe, Latin America and Southern Asia. Connect to Vortex’s powerful gaming servers from any device. Games must be added to the user’s library in order to be accessed and played. Some games must be owned on Steam, Origins or Epic Games. A basic subscription starts from $9.99 up to the Ultra package at $29.99/month. You get a fixed number of play time based on the subscription level you choose, ranging from 50 hours to 140 hours. Unused hours are not carried over.

Conclusion

Thanks to a myriad of cloud gaming services on offer, playing high end gaming is no longer a pipe dream for the average gamer that can not afford the specialized hardware. With a device and an internet connection, you can access and play your favorite games anywhere.

FAQ

Does cloud gaming need a GPU?
No. You can rely on your integrated graphics card to display the video stream from the remote server.
Do I need a PC for GeForce Now?
No. You can use Nvidia Shield TV, Android TV, LG TV or your mobile device.
Do online games use GPU?
Yes. Some games are more graphic intensive than others, especially games that require 3D models to be rendered.