The cloud gaming service Shadow gives a promising picture in the test: Without having to have a gaming computer at home, you can play current PC video games in great quality - both on the undersized workstation and on the mobile device. Even competitive online games like Fortnite or Overwatch are easy to play. The operation and the setup are also very easy. The monthly costs seem high at first glance, but can pay off in comparison to your own gaming PC. We mainly criticize smaller, missing features, and express general concerns about the cloud approach - but they can also apply to any other service in the data cloud.
- +Hardly a difference to a gaming PC.
- +Good hardware.
- +Extremely fast downloads and uploads.
- -Occasionally framedrops and delays
- -Games must be bought separately
- -Price only pays off in comparison to an expensive gaming computer
What is Shadow?
Cloud gaming is now a term you find more often in the online world. In addition to Nvidia ( GeForce Now) Blade offers the service "Shadow". But what exactly does "cloud gaming" mean? Instead of having all the hardware you need to play at home, hire a computer with high-end hardware at Shadow's data center in Amsterdam. All you need is a device that packs some video decoding. For example, they connect via their home computer, which receives the input from the mouse, keyboard and controller, and the high-end computer at the other end of the line plays back the result via video stream. The only prerequisite is that you have a bandwidth of at least 15 Mbit / s. Thus, it does not matter what equipment your computer has.
To set up Shadow, you'll need to create an account from the Shadow page . It should be noted that there are two different subscription models: 39.95 € per month or 29.95 € / month for a 12-month subscription. After setting up your account, download the Shadow app. The Shadow app offers several options, but most settings should automatically adapt to your system. After connecting to your rented computer, you need to set up a hired Windows 10 on the remote machine. Then you are on your full-fledged cloud computer.
This is to be regarded as a new computer, which is spent as a kind of video stream on their native computer. Especially in full-screen mode, you forget that you remotely control another computer. You can use the calculator not only as a gaming machine, but also for many other purposes of a high-end computer - from simple office work to professional video editing.
On the Shadow computer tinkers an Intel Xeon processor with 12 GB of RAM, a Nvidia Quadro P5000 (equivalent to a GTX 1080), 256 GB of storage space (expandable by 1 TB), and a download bandwidth of up to 1 GB / s. The components thus guarantee that graphically more complex games run smoothly. In addition, according to Blade the hardware is constantly renewed.
Depending on the bandwidth, Shadow offers streaming with Full HD resolution at 144 Hz or 4K resolution at 60 Hz. The subscription also includes a loan of the Ghost streaming console, which you can easily connect to your TV via HDMI.
What shadow can do ?
The operation of Shadow is very simple and the app is very tidy. With a simple shortcut (Ctrl + Win + F) switch between window mode and full screen back and forth. The surface in full screen is indistinguishable from a normal computer - apart from the fact that you are not an unrestricted admin and get for example no access to the Task Manager. In window mode, you can also use the mouse cursor to browse through to your other applications on the home computer. Cumbersome keyboard shortcuts, which you need to free your mouse pointer from the shadow window, are not required.
In addition to the Windows app, there are also versions for MacOS and Ubuntu (beta). Another advantage is the seamless transition to mobile devices. Thus, you could continue to use Shadow on your smartphone. For mobile use, however, one should pay attention to its data volume - or best of all immediately hang in the WLAN.
The app runs smoothly on Android, but the device for iOS makes some circumstances. According to Shadow, you have to enter your Apple ID on the account page in order to receive an invitation to "Testflight" via e-mail (Note: Testflight is an online service for testing mobile applications), because at the time of the test there are still no Shadow App in AppStore gave. In the test, this did not work, it hooked on the invitation mail, since this never arrived.
Games are Impressive
For our gaming test we use an office computer used with mediocre hardware (Intel Core i7-5600U, 16 GB RAM) and no dedicated graphics card. The Internet connection is a 100-Mbit line. The client usually detected a bandwidth of just over 50 Mbit. After setup, we install various games on our shadow computer. Thanks to around 1 GB / s maximum download transfer rate, games are quickly installed on the computer - although we rarely saw more than 100 MB / s on various distribution platforms such as Steam or Battle.net.
The good news: Many singleplayer games are hardly a problem for the system. GTA V or Far Cry 5 run at full HD resolution at highest settings and around 90 frames per second. Also with Doom (2016) and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided we achieve an average of over 110 FPS in the played sequences with very high details in this resolution. Short framedrops occurred, but we did not perceive as particularly bad. We also tested the system with the 3DMark Time Spy Extreme benchmark suite. The resulting 2,566 points coincide with our expectations: the combination of Nvidia Quadro P5000 and Intel Xeon E5-2667 results in a great Full HD PC, but as a 4K device is rather poor. 3DMark sees the average gaming PC at 3,365 points.
When playing it rarely came to jerks or latency problems - with one exception: At closing time (17:30 clock), the system has on a test day under Doom (2016) geruckelt so much that it became unplayable. However, the system did not experience FPS break-ins. We suspected at the time that it was the connection and increased service utilization. Interestingly, we were unable to notice such stuttering when switching to other games. On other days and at other times, the problem did not reappear, so we can not explain the effect in the end. Irrespective of this, there is always the possibility that you might even have to accept quality restrictions in the event of high service utilization.
Online games Quality:
We were also interested in the online game performance. Because to the streaming-based input delays is still the delay through the communication with the game servers added. For this we have some online games installed that need fast reactions and where the smallest latency becomes a disadvantage.
League of Legends:
- Very high graphics settings: average 100 FPS, 21 ms ping
- Frequent input lag
- Extreme FPS Drops
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
- Very high graphics settings: on average 100 FPS
- Some input lags
- Partial FPS Drops
- Epic graphics settings: average 60 fps, 8 ms ping
- High graphics settings: average: 100 FPS
- Frequent sound lags
- Partial FPS Drops
- No input lag, very smooth gameplay
- Epic graphics settings: an average of 98 FPS
- No FPS drops
- Hardly input lag, very smooth gameplay
In conclusion, online games that are about every millisecond are not fully recommended on a cloud machine. Above all, it is very annoying when it is stable for some time and in important team fights suddenly lags and jerks appear, which ruin an important maneuver. If you want to play games that are a little more relaxed online, you should not encounter any problems.
Want to pay the costs?
Around 30 euros a month - that is 360 euros a year - for a rental computer sounds like a lot. Depending on how you calculate, but you get away cheaper than with a real PC. For a sample calculation, we take a relatively cheap high-end complete PC for 2,000 euros with Nvidia RTX 2070, Intel Core i7-8700, 16 GB of RAM and large SSD and hard disk space for comparison: the Acer Predator Orion 3000.
If you assume that you do not want to replace a component on this PC for five years, then the calculator will cost you around € 33 a month - and there the electricity costs have not yet been calculated. From six years without component exchange, the own gaming PC, however, would pay off.
Defects and Criticism
In our test, we use the somewhat unusual screen resolution of 1,900 x 1,200 pixels - it was not possible for Shadow to accept these settings. Neither within the app nor in the Windows settings or in the Nvidia control panel, the resolution could be adjusted. Thus, there were ugly black edges in our test. Also, multi-monitor setups are not yet supported, but this feature should be under development.
On privacy: Shadow promises that data is processed and analyzed only to a minimum. Nevertheless, we would not recommend storing personal information on a cloud machine. In particular, you should refrain from doing banking transactions or storing sensitive data.
In this sense, it is also incomprehensible how Shadow wants to proceed against violation of the Code of Conduct. For example, the use of the remote PC for crypto-training or illegal activities is prohibited. However, as the company refrains from monitoring the users, the company will only consult the user data on justified suspicion. How easily the company "buckles" to external pressure can not be estimated until such a case arises.
Alternative: Geforce Now
As an alternative to Shadow offers GeForce Now ( to the review ). This is currently in beta and offers a platform with preinstalled games. However, it is expensive to install "unknown" games, since so far only Steam, Uplay, the Blizzard app, Epic Game Launcher are supported. So EAs Origin, the Microsoft Store and GOG are missing from the big digital platforms. According to Nvidia, Geforce Now supports around 400 games.
Alternative: Liquid Sky
LiquidSky ( for the review ) follows the same principle as Shadow. At the moment the project is still in the beta phase with an activation on recommendation. The current offer offers two levels of performance: Power Serve and High Perfomance. Depending on your choice, your virtual machine will have 3- or 6-core processors and 2 or 4 GB of video memory. Depending on your booked model, credits will be deducted from your virtual credit. For example, one hour in gamer mode costs 60 credits (around 50 cents) and twice as much in pro mode with 120 credits (that is, 1 euro).
- Amram is a technical analyst and partner at DFI Club Research, a high-tech research and advisory firm .He has over 10 years of technical and business experience with leading high-tech companies including Huawei,Nokia,Ericsson on ICT, Semiconductor, Microelectronics Systems and embedded systems.Amram focuses on the business critical points where new technologies drive innovations.