Product Name: Shadow Ghost
Product Description: A tiny, attractive, silent gaming 'PC' that relies on the Shadow streaming service
Price: £109.95 (+ £26.95 per month)
Value for money
A great alternative to a conventional gaming PC and likely to work out cheaper in the long-run too
Runs in complete silence
Small, attractive design
Performs flawlessly with Shadow streaming service
Perhaps a little fussy with peripherals
Dependent on a fibre broadband connection
It’s about the size of a paperback book, it makes not a whisper – even when you’re playing Fortnite at full graphics quality – and it costs just over £100. As I ask in the headline, is the Shadow Ghost the quietest, cheapest gaming PC that has ever been made? Yes, although that statement is loaded with caveats.
Shadow Ghost review: is it actually a PC?
In the conventional sense of the word, no. But it acts just like one.
The Shadow Ghost is effectively a terminal for the Shadow games streaming service. We’ve written about Shadow at length in the past, but to recap, Shadow lets you stream a high-end gaming PC in roughly the same way you stream a film from Netflix.
The ‘PC’ itself is sat in a data centre in Paris and you connect to it over the internet. Shadow subscribers can access that PC from any Windows or Mac PC, from tablets or even from a smartphone. And now they can access it through the Shadow Ghost too.
Plug the Ghost into your TV and monitor, and to all intents and purposes, you’ve got a powerful gaming PC at your disposal. You can install Steam and download games from your library; you can download and install games direct from the developer or games stores; you can install regular Windows applications – anything from Photoshop to Dropbox. It’s a PC, just a few hundred miles away across the Channel.
Shadow Ghost review: what’s in the box?
Just like Brad, we don’t really know. But then in terms of raw specs – processor, memory etc – it doesn’t really matter. Because the Shadow Ghost does none of the heavy lifting. It’s basically just streaming a feed. Think of it as the gaming equivalent of an Amazon Fire TV Stick or the Apple TV.
That said, we do know it has all the essentials. It has 802.11ac (now redubbed Wi-Fi 5) built-in, so you don’t have to locate the Shadow Ghost within a cable’s reach of your router. If you want the best possible gaming performance, however, there is a Gigabit Ethernet socket on the rear.
There’s Bluetooth 4.1 if you have a wireless keyboard, mouse or controller, but there are also four USB ports on the rear (2 x USB 2, 2 x USB 3) if you want to plug those devices in. Oddly, the Shadow Ghost refused to acknowledge one of my USB keyboards, but it worked fine with a spare. It was also fussy about which ports we used for our Xbox controller, only working with the USB 3 ports for some reason.
The only video output is an HDMI 2 socket and the only dedicated audio output a 3.5mm jack, so there’s no support for any surround-sound speaker setups or such like.
The device itself is beautifully designed. There’s a glowing red LED on the base of the unit to add extra menace, and it’s small and attractive enough to have on display in the lounge. Likewise, it could be tucked out of sight behind a monitor. If you’ve got a teenager with no space for a full-blown gaming PC in their bedroom, this could be just the ticket.
Shadow Ghost review: how does it perform?
Spotlessly. I’m going to deal with its two biggest advantages first: silence and energy cost.
The Shadow Ghost itself is absolutely silent. I’ve seen countless ‘silent’ gaming PCs that actually make a gentle rumble or gurgle from the water cooling, but this is inaudible. There are no fans, no hard disk clicks, nothing. Because there’s nothing of great note or power inside that swirly case.
That also means that it sucks through a fraction of the power of a conventional gaming PC. The Ghost uses 5W when it’s powered on – about the same as an energy-saving lightbulb. Gaming PCs often consume upwards of 300W. The energy savings will be substantial. Shadow estimates about £85 over the course of a year for an average gamer, which might be a bit punchy, but is in the right ballpark.
In terms of streaming, both on Wi-Fi and wired connections, we didn’t notice any lag, dropouts or other areas of concern. I’ve been running Shadow on my reasonably high-end laptop for the past few months and the experience was identical using the Shadow Ghost.
Shadow claims the Ghost is capable of 60 frames per second at a 4K screen resolution, although I only tested the device at Full HD (Chez Collins is yet to join the 4K revolution).
There’s only one slight snag we’ve come across. This review was meant to go live in early February, but Shadow pulled the product to address performance issues. We hadn’t spotted any problems previously, but after the Shadow firmware update we’ve noticed a very slight crackle from the audio when we connect the Shadow via HDMI to our TV. It’s nothing more than a minor irritation, but it’s there.
Shadow Ghost review: what’s the true cost?
So let’s deal with that “cheapest” part of the headline. The Shadow Ghost itself costs £109.95, but then you need a Shadow subscription to do anything with it. That starts from £26.95 per month, so your total cost of ownership over the first year will be (reaches for calculator) £433.35.
That sounds steep by itself, but if you were to buy a PC capable of playing the latest games at max quality and decent frame rates, you’d do well to get much change from £1,000. And after two or three years, the graphics card in that PC would be starting to show its age and struggling to keep up with the new titles. Shadow, on the other hand, promises to upgrade the spec of your PC every so often, as new hardware arrives on the market.
When you factor in the energy savings, I think there’s a compelling case for the Shadow Ghost on cost alone, not to mention the space-saving and sheer silent bliss it brings. And that’s why it wins a BTQ Buy Now award.
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