NVIDIA GeForce NOW review: Is PC streaming service a force to be reckoned with?

NVIDIA GeForce NOW review: Is PC streaming service a force to be reckoned with?



If you’re new to PC gaming like me, then you might not be aware of NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW streaming service, which lets subscribers access and play their PC libraries on a wide selection of devices. This includes phones, tablets and browsers, as well as PC, Mac and Shield TV.

Not only does this make your PC library more portable, but the ability to play high-end games on underpowered PCs could potentially save you lots of cash.

The paid membership – which costs £8.99 a month or £89.99 a year – includes priority access to game servers, as well as extended play sessions and RTX support. This means ray-traced visuals, graphical upscaling and VSync frame-rate boosts. This is the same for Founders members who subscribed before the new Premium tier was introduced.

There’s also a free membership option, which caps play sessions at one-hour. However, you can log back in and carry on playing after the time expires. 

As a Founders member (thanks to my recent acquisition of a 3060Ti), and after the introduction of the new, more expensive Premium tier, I thought now would be a good time to put GeForce NOW through its paces, and see if it’s a subscription service worth paying for.

I tested the GeForce NOW technology on a 2015 iPad with a PS4 DualShock controller, a Samsung Galaxy S8 (with a Razer Kishi attachment) and an NVIDIA Shield TV with an Xbox One game pad. Here’s what I found.

Compared to something like Stadia where you buy games directly from the Google Store, or Xbox Cloud Gaming and PlayStation Now where you pay to access hundreds of random titles, GeForce NOW’s subscription model is a little different.

On paper, it’s actually a pretty hard sell. Other than free-to-play games like Fortnite, subscribers can only access titles they already own. 

The plus side, of course, is that because you already own the games, they’re presumably titles you actually want to play.

GeForce NOW’s big selling point, however, is that you can play fully optimised and upgraded versions of these titles wherever you like and on whatever device comes to hand. 

If you recently picked up the PC version of Outriders, for example, then GeForce NOW lets you play the same full fat version on your mobile phone.

When launching a game that you own on Steam, GOG or Epic Games Store, you’ll need to enter your login details for that particular platform, but only for that initial session.

Because GeForce NOW works with multiple launchers, there are a few quirks here and there, but nothing that will cause you to tear your hair out in frustration.

Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 with ray tracing on (Image: CD PROJEKT)

Once your library is synced and you’ve paired a controller, the hugely impressive GeForce NOW streaming technology really starts to come into its own.

Smoother than a slab of butter wrapped in silk, the games I tested mostly performed brilliantly, and without any noticeable frame drops or input lag. 

The only times I noticed any real dips in quality were during the initial few minutes of a game – grainy visuals in Art of Rally, for example –  but these minor blips tended to right themselves within seconds.

Not only do games perform smoothly, but they look absolutely fantastic on every device, even on an older smartphone and tablet.

Indeed, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the whole thing is that games like Cyberpunk 2077 feature the same ray traced visuals on devices that have no right to run the game in the first place.

With ray tracing playing such a big role in the marketing of next-gen consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X, the fact that you can enjoy this complex technology on devices that you can pick up for next to nothing is pretty incredible.

Couple this with the rock-solid frame-rates – something that consoles can’t always guarantee – and it’s easy to see why GeForce NOW is so appealing.

My biggest gripe with GeForce NOW – especially compared to console alternatives like Stadia or Xbox Cloud Gaming – is that not all PC games are designed to be played on anything other than a traditional desktop.

While GeForce Now does a pretty decent job of optimising games from device to device, you might struggle to read text on smaller devices – this is a problem I had with Outriders.

Then there are games like Loop Hero, which don’t support regular game pads, relying instead on mouse and keyboard controls. This particular set-up doesn’t really lend itself to playing on devices other than a PC, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Other games like Black Mesa feature “partial” controller support, but are designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind. After a few web searches followed by some clumsy tinkering outside of the in-game option menu, I was finally able to play the game with a controller, but it wasn’t exactly straightforward.

Needless to say, performance and visual fidelity is also reliant on a stable (and ideally speedy) internet connection, which is something you will need to consider if you’re interested in subscribing.

Fortunately, the free membership option means you can try before you buy, so you won’t be out of pocket if your connection isn’t up to the task.

Black Mesa

Black Mesa is supported by GeForce NOW (Image: VALVE)

Despite a few rough edges, I think GeForce NOW is a pretty appealing subscription service.

While menu screens can be tweaked and new games added (which they are every Thursday), NVIDIA gets it right where it matters most.

Performance is outstanding and games look fantastic, whether you’re playing on a shoddy old phone, or streaming to your TV.

If you’re looking to make a move into PC gaming, then GeForce NOW is a viable alternative to investing in a high-end rig.

It’s also a great way to enjoy the games you already own, especially if a housemate or family member is always hogging the PC!

Published at Mon, 26 Apr 2021 11:00:00 +0000