That new PC feel.. in the cloud: The NVIDIA GeForce Now RTX3080 Service

Finding a good gaming PC these days is difficult. The main problem is getting hold of the graphics processing unit (the GPU) due to (a) the current worldwide chip shortage and (b) people buying them in bulk for cryptocurrency mining.

I’m much more of a casual gamer, so I don’t need a fully-fledged desktop PC with all the bells and whistles. I have recently bought (through EE) the hard-to-find Xbox Series X which comes with the Xbox Ultimate Gaming Pass which is a subscription service that gives you access to AAA titles for the Xbox and PC (including Microsoft Flight Simulator which looks absolutely stunning). The game pass represents excellent value for money and allows for the discovery of great new games. And Microsoft really knows the gaming world – pity it can’t apply their gaming technical expertise to Microsoft Windows OSes.

Trollface by Carlos “Whynne” Ramirez – used under Creative Commons fair use terms

But I do own a gaming PC. Well, laptop. I bought an HP Omen 15″ laptop earlier this year to start preparing for, and become familiar with, Windows 11. It happened to be cheap enough and still come with 16Gb RAM and an Nvidia RTX2060 GPU – something substantially more than I have ever owned in any Windows PC prior to that.

The HP Omen plays Fortnite and No Man’s Sky extremely well, and the level of detail is second to none. Not bad for the lower end tier of the RTX2000 series.

But I use a MacBook Pro for everyday work and play, and as well know, while even the new M1/M1 Pro/Max architecture improves the graphics capabilities of the Mac platform considerably – it’s still no RTX device. And Epic Games shot themselves in the hand, the feet and gonads when they violated Apple’s terms and went ahead and ran the “Free Fortnite” campaign and got themselves banned – something a judge as upheld after going to trial. So I can’t play Fortnite on any Apple device.

Yet, I can. Thanks to Nvidia’s Geforce Now service (which is somewhat controversial in its own right – and it boils down to game studios again), I can play Fortnite on my Mac by streaming the game over the internet via Nvidia’s servers running a high-end GPU that’s usually reserved for other applications, but still a capable gaming GPU. The resolution is a bit limited, and the graphic detail isn’t the highest that you can get – but with the release of their new RTX3080 Founders tier, this changes everything.

Fortnite running on Nvidia’s Geforce Now (paid) Priority level service
Fortnite running on Nvidia’s Geforce Now (paid) new RTX3080 level service

What these videos don’t show is the true level of detail. The RTX3080 adds shadows, motion blur and a lot of the Epic/High options within Fortnite. This is in addition to the higher resolution (up to 1440p) and a rock-solid 120fps. The same applies to other games (where applicable) – it’ll use the higher options over the other service levels on offer. You can also make your own changes and have Geforce Now save them with the RTX3080 level – something you can’t do with Priority or Free.

Certainly, when I started playing Fortnite with the RTX3080 subscription, it felt as if I were playing on my HP Omen. Not bad given I’m playing on the Mac!

The downside to this service is that the number of titles is limited, and you need to own the game. And there is the somewhat bothersome of issue games studios allowing their titles on the service too. But there’s certainly enough to keep me going until July 2022 which is what I’ve paid £80 for (plus the remaining time I had on the Priority service). Is it worth £80 for six months? Only time will tell. But it does give gamers an extra option to play anywhere and without having to spend thousands on new PC gaming kit. The only thing you’ll really need is fast internet, with your machine preferably connected via ethernet.

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