Shadow has finally lifted the veil on the streaming service upgrade that was first promised in 2019. But that was before the company sadly filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently reborn. However, we now have RTX 3070-level PCs in the cloud, but that’s been a long time coming. I’m certainly concerned, not necessarily by the company’s staying power under new ownership, but by the value proposition it now offers.
Shadow has been one of my favorite streaming services since I first got my hands on a cloud gaming PC in 2018, and I use it a lot when I travel – when travel was still a thing – so I just Need to carry a small ultrabook with you and still use a powerful gaming laptop effectively.
It’s unlike every other game streaming service, which essentially hides their system from the end user and just gives you the game. Then only the games it has licensed access to will give you. Instead, Shadow is a permanent PC that is entirely yours and lives entirely in the cloud.
This means you can install anything you want on it, run whatever you want, and access it from anywhere you want.
It’s an impressively powerful service, it’s just that the four Xeon cores attached to the GPU are really disappointing, which really hinders gaming performance.
It was impressively powerful until at least four years ago, when a GTX 1080-powered gaming rig had the best system ever. One of Shadow’s founding promises as a long-term service, and in the face of exorbitant subscription prices on a local machine, is around future upgrades.
The idea is that you pay £27 a month for a subscription and you’ll end up paying the same price as a full-priced gaming PC over three years. But within those three years, you can expect Shadow to upgrade the hardware in its servers, and you’ll continue to pay the same amount of cash and get better performance.
Shadow can offset this by offering new audiences a low-cost tier that uses older hardware.
This seems to be confirmed, facing the launch of Stadia, which received a cash injection of 30 million euros in 2019, Commitment to launch two new higher tier packages in February 2020. The original GTX 1080 equivalent is discounted to £13 per month, the middle RTX 2080 equivalent and the RTX Titan package are priced at £25 and £50 respectively.
But 2020 has been tough for everyone, with new packages repeatedly delayed until the company files for bankruptcy in 2021.
Ownership has changed, and new employees, as well as a large number of original employees, make up the workforce. They’re all now trying to get Shadow back to the top of the streaming service’s tech tree.
new Power upgrade package Offering RTX 3070-class GPU performance, but in some undisclosed locations will actually come from AMD RDNA 2-powered hardware Radeon Pro V620. It also has the ability to switch to AMD CPU cores, the EPYC 7543P for your quad-core, eight-thread equivalent processing. You also get some extra memory, including 16GB of RAM.
However, it looks like you’re still only getting the same 256GB of storage, so you’ll likely have to pay an extra £2.99 for every extra 256GB.
So the cost will increase as the power upgrade will cost an extra £15 on top of the base figure of £30 per month. Yes, a £30 a month subscription will still only give you access to a GTX 1080 equivalent, which means you’ll be paying £45 a month for your RTX 3070 cloud PC. With only four cores connected, and only 256GB of storage, it’s still slightly limited, and will be the latest generation of hardware when it launches, as Nvidia’s RTX 40-series may have been released by then.
I would say that storage level is not a huge issue for me. With a 1Gbps connection on the Shadow side, you can install a new game in 13 seconds, absorbing 1GB of game data, so Steam library management is no longer a pain it could have been.
But it still feels stingy considering the promised specs it once promised in an “unlimited” package. That RTX Titan-powered system will have the equivalent of a six-core CPU, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for £40 a month.
Shadow told me that the cost of everything has gone up substantially, and maintaining these servers certainly isn’t cheap. But power upgrades aside, a GTX 1080 tier costing £30 a month in 2022 is certainly unacceptable in four years. Especially when it’s £12/month, which Shadow now calls a ridiculous price, a few years ago.
For less than half the price of a Power Upgrade, you can have GeForce Now’s top-of-the-line kit that lets you game with all the power of the RTX 3080. It may be more limited in terms of access and overall use, but as a game streaming service it’s a great value option, making Shadow a tough recommendation.
Honestly, I’m more excited about its free Shadow Drive online storage solution, which is also launching in the fall, with 20GB of space for free.
There’s no doubt that Power Upgrade will feel great, and the actual experience of using a Shadow PC is always excellent, even when on vacation with the limited bandwidth of an AirBnB Wi-Fi network at random. Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of the service itself. But at this price, and the low certainty of future upgrade possibilities, it’s hard to see it as a valid alternative to buying your own local machine.
Pre-orders for the Power Upgrade will go live in the summer, with a global release expected in the fall, so we’ll see how popular it is, and how the GPU upgrade actually feels when it’s still tied to a quad-core processor, and when we get a brief Shadow PC to test yourself again.