Gaming Reviews

Nvidia GeForce Now review: a great gaming PC for free?

GeForce Now review
Feel the GeForce: Nvidia's streaming service has now fully launched

Last Updated on

Mark my words: the next generation of consoles will be the last. The industry is moving full tilt towards streaming, where games are beamed over the internet to any device, much like movies are streamed from Netflix. Nvidia – the graphics company that has much to lose if games consoles/PCs do die off – is future-proofing itself by becoming one of the first to fully launch a streaming service, and you don’t even have to pay to play. But is it any good? Here’s our Nvidia GeForce Now review, which has been fully launched today.

How does Nvidia GeForce Now work?

GeForce Now works on pretty much any Windows PC or Mac, and even Android phones. It means PCs that are barely capable of playing solitaire can play the latest 3D action games. You download the GeForce Now app, log in and take your pick from a massive library of supported PC games.

However, you will have to pay for those games – and you can’t buy them from Nvidia. In effect, GeForce Now is a ‘bring-your-own’ games service.

This means that if you’ve already bought the PC version of the game you can play it for free. GeForce Now is compatible with Steam and other online games stores, so if you’ve already, say, bought Civ VI on Steam, you simply need log in with your Steam credentials and play the game right away.

In stark contrast to Google Stadia, you don’t have to buy games you’ve already bought, just to play them on the streaming service. And, unlike a regular PC or even a streaming PC service such as Shadow, there’s no tiresome wait to install games or updates. Everything is automatically updated in the background – you just click and play.

Which games are on GeForce Now?

You can get your Fortnite fix on GeForce Now

At the time of writing, there were around 400 supported games on GeForce Now. They include massive AAA titles such as Call of Duty 4, Metro Exodus and Civ VI. It also supports a wide range of big-hitting freemium games such as Fortnite, PUBG and World of Tanks, which means you can get up and running on GeForce Now even if you don’t have an existing PC games library.

For example, Fortnite is preloaded onto the GeForce Now system. You can set up an Epic account (Epic is the publisher of Fortnite) from the launcher and play that game. It’s the same for World of Tanks and League of Legends.

There are biggish holes in the GeForce Now catalogue, though. There’s limited support for EA’s catalogue, which mean games such as FIFA 20 and Battlefield V are out. Football Manager 2019 is supported, but not the latest 2020 version, which has been out for some months now and is available on Stadia. And games do come and go from GeForce Now, so there’s no guarantee that what you’re playing now will still be supported next week.

How much does Nvidia GeForce Now cost?

There are two GeForce Now plans available now the service has fully launched. A free tier and the so-called Founders tier.

The free tier has limitations. If the service is busy, you might have to queue before you’re allowed to start a gaming session and those sessions are limited to one hour. That could be incredibly frustrating if you’re halfway through a game level or closing in on a Fortnite Victory Royale, only to be booted off the server. That’s a real fist-through-the-monitor pain point.

Founders – who pay £4.99 per month – have no such worries. They get to jump the queue of waiting freebie players and their gaming sessions can run for up to six hours, which is long enough for all but the most diehard players. What’s more, they enjoy enhanced graphical performance, with ray tracing switched on.

Note that Nvidia has guaranteed to keep the Founders price at £4.99 for at least the first year, although we’d expect it to climb after that. Google Stadia’s Premier Edition, by comparison, is £8.99 per month.

What’s performance like on GeForce Now?

I’ve been using GeForce Now for a couple of weeks, but I’m going to caveat this immediately by saying this was under the beta and performance may change – for better or worse – now that the service is being officially launched.

GeForce Now offers a streaming resolution of up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,200 if you’re using a 16:10 screen or 1,920 x 1,080 on a more regular 16:9 display), at a frame rate of up to 60 frames per second. On paper, that compares poorly to rivals such as Stadia and Shadow, which both support up to 4K at 60 frames per second, although in Stadia’s case games rarely support 4K anyway.

Nvidia told us that the service is more than capable of supporting 4K and may well do so in the future, but right now it’s launching at Full HD – probably to ensure that the influx of new joiners have a smooth experience.

Will they get one? That depends on how they connect, in my experience. When plugging an Ethernet cable into my Mac, the service runs very smoothly. Oddly, even on my 80Mbits/sec fibre connection, the software does occasionally complain of a “spotty connection” – despite being plugged in – but apart from a sporadic dropped frame or two, you’d do well to notice you weren’t playing on your own gaming PC.

Connecting via Ethernet cable is recommended (Photo by Webaroo.com.au on Unsplash)

Things are definitely more patchy over Wi-Fi. Even when playing in the same room as my BT Smart Hub router, frames drop more frequently and I suffered the occasional drop in bitrate, which makes the graphics look blurry on screen. On the much weaker Wi-Fi connection in my office, GeForce Now is very patchy – much more so than either Stadia or Shadow.

It’s hard to tell why GeForce Now is so delicate over Wi-Fi. Things improved marginally when I replaced the Smart Hub with a Netgear Nighthawk AX8 router, but there were still wibbles and dropouts.

If you’re looking to play AAA action games on GeForce Now where every dropped frame might cost you your life, I recommend hooking up via Ethernet.

Nvidia GeForce Now review: verdict

GeForce Now is definitely going to cause a stir in the streaming market. It’s cheaper than Google Stadia, doesn’t force players to rebuy their games collection and even offers a free tier so that you can try before you buy (we’re still waiting for Stadia’s promised free tier).

Those wanting the highest-quality graphics should look elsewhere, and I have concerns over how fussy GeForce Now is when using Wi-Fi, but if you can hook up your PC or laptop via Ethernet you’re likely to have a smooth, fuss-free gaming session.

If you want to get into PC gaming, or are struggling to justify spending over £1,000 on a new games PC, GeForce Now might have arrived at just the right time.

Nvidia GeForce Now
  • Performance
  • Games library
  • Value for money

Verdict

A cheap way to get into games streaming – even on the paid-for tier – but it does have performance issues when connecting via Wi-Fi

Overall
4.2

Pros

  • Free or cheap subscription
  • No need to rebuy games
  • Smooth performance over Ethernet

Cons

  • Limited to 1080p
  • Can be choppy on Wi-Fi connections

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: