After ambition and bankruptcy, the best PC streaming service finally got its hardware upgrade
Shadow has finally lifted the lid on an upgrade to the streaming service that was first promised in 2019. But that was before the company sadly filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently reborn. We’re now getting an RTX 3070 level PC in the cloud, but it’s been a long time. And I certainly have concerns, not necessarily for the sustainability of the business under new ownership, but for the value proposition it offers now.
Shadow has been one of my favorite streaming services since I got my hands on the cloud gaming PC in 2018, and I used it regularly when traveling – when travel was still a thing – so I don’t only had to take a small ultrabook with me and still had access to a fairly powerful gaming laptop.
It’s unlike all the other game streaming services, which basically hide their systems from end users and just give you the games to play. And then only the games it has licensed access to give you. Instead, Shadow is a persistent PC that is completely yours and lives solely in the cloud.
This means you can install what you want on it, run what you want on it, and access it wherever you are.
It’s an impressively powerful service, only really let down by the four Xeon cores the GPU was attached to, which held back gaming performance.
At least it was insanely powerful four years ago, when a GTX 1080-powered gaming rig was up there with the best systems on the market. One of Shadow’s founding promises as a long-term service, and what made its high subscription price acceptable in the face of spending on a local machine, was for future upgrades.
The idea was that you would pay your £27/month subscription and end up paying the equivalent price of a full-priced gaming PC in three years. But during that three-year period, you can expect Shadow to upgrade its server hardware, and you’ll continue to pay the same amount of money and get better performance.
Shadow could make up for this by offering a cheaper tier using old hardware to a new audience.
And that seemed to be confirmed when, faced with the launch of Stadia, it recovered a cash injection of 30 million euros in 2019, promising that it would launch two new package top tiers in February 2020. The original GTX 1080 equivalent tier was discounted to £13/mo, with the RTX 2080 Mid and RTX Titan equivalent packages costing £25 and £50 respectively.
But 2020 was tough for everyone and new packages were repeatedly delayed until in 2021 the company filed for bankruptcy.
A change of ownership has taken place and new people, as well as a significant number of the original employees, make up its workforce. And they are all now making efforts to bring Shadow back to the top of the streaming services tech tree.
New Power Upgrade Pack offers RTX 3070-class GPU performance, albeit in some as yet undisclosed slots that will actually come from AMD RDNA 2-powered hardware, the Radeon Pro V620. It also features a move to AMD CPU cores, with an EPYC 7543P doing the processing for your four-core, eight-thread equivalent. You also get extra memory, with 16GB of RAM.
However, it looks like you’re still only getting the same 256GB of storage, so you’ll have to shell out an extra £2.99 for every extra 256GB you might want.
So the costs go up, as the power upgrade will cost an additional £15 on top of the base figure of £30/month. And yes, that £30/month subscription still only gets you access to the GTX 1080 equivalent system, meaning you’ll have to shell out £45/month for your RTX 3070 cloud PC. Which is still slightly hampered in being connected to just four cores, and only has 256GB of storage, and will be last-gen hardware when it launches, as Nvidia’s RTX 40 series will likely have been released by then.
I will say, for me, the storage level was not a big issue. With the 1Gbps connection on the Shadow end, you can install a new game sucking up 1GB of game data in about 13 seconds, so managing the Steam library wasn’t the pain it could have been. be otherwise.
But it still feels stingy given the promised specs of the ‘Infinite’ package it once promised. This RTX Titan-powered system was supposed to have a six-core CPU equivalent, 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage for £40/month.
Shadow tells me that the costs of everything have gone up dramatically, and maintaining these servers certainly doesn’t come cheap. But still, Power Upgrade aside, the GTX 1080 tier costing £30/month in 2022 certainly seems hard to swallow four years later. Especially when it was £12/month, what Shadow now calls a ridiculous price, a few years ago.
For less than half the price of the power upgrade, you can have the best package of GeForce Now, which allows you to game with the full power of an RTX 3080. It may be more limited in terms of access and global usage, but as a game streaming service. it’s a great value alternative that makes Shadow a tough recommendation.
Honestly, I’m almost more excited about the free Shadow Drive online storage solution, which will also be launching in the fall, with 20 GB of free space.
I have no doubt the power upgrade will feel good, and the actual experience of using the Shadow PC has always been excellent, even on the limited bandwidth of random AirBnB Wi-Fi networks on vacation. Like I said, I’ve always been a fan of the service itself. But at this price, and with less certainty about future upgrade possibilities, it’s harder to call it a worthy alternative to buying your own local machine.
Pre-orders for the power upgrade will go live in the summer with an expected worldwide release in the fall, so we’ll see how popular this is and how effective the GPU upgrade is when it’s still tied to a quad-core CPU, when we get our hands on a short-lived Shadow PC to test ourselves again.