A Weekend with Shadow

Shadow has officially launched their Cloud Gaming service on the US East Coast. They offer unlimited hours of Cloud Gaming for $34 per month. We spent the weekend testing Shadow, and it’s been an interesting experience. Do they live up to all of the hype? Continue reading to find out.

The Closest thing to a Real Computer

Shadow wants their product to feel like a real physical computer. This goal is evident from the moment that you boot up your server. Shadow chooses to run Windows 10 instead of Windows Server 2016. In fact, they are the only Cloud Gaming Service that is powered by Windows 10.

When you turn on your server for the first time, you’ll be prompted to set up Windows 10. This includes signing into your Microsoft Account and setting up Cortana. It’s these little touches that remind you that this isn’t a normal server. There are moments when you forget that you’re playing through a Cloud Gaming system. There aren’t many Cloud Gaming Services that can say the same.

Complete Control

Although you can jump in and start playing without changing anything, Shadow has deep controls that allow you to fully tweak your experience. They support a wide range of technologies such as USB-Passthrough, TCP Audio, TCP Input, Voice Chat, and H.265.

Some of these features are still in beta, but we didn’t experience any problems while testing. The H.265 feature has the potential to cut Shadow’s quality requirements in half. Instead of needing 30 Mbps for decent 1080p Gaming, you can have a good experience with 15 Mbps.

Setting up Games

Using Shadow is like using your own PC at home. Once you’ve booted up your server, you’ll be greeted by a Windows 10 desktop. From there you can install Games in the normal fashion. We chose to download Steam and install a few titles.

Shadow offers Gamers a full gigabit connection, and we experienced that as we downloaded content. We Happy Few only took about 5 minutes to download and install. Because Shadow is powered by a real version of Windows 10, we also had the option of installing Windows Store Games.

Gears of War 4 took much longer to download and install. It is a larger Game, but we also didn’t get the full download speed that the server is capable of. After downloading Gears of War 4, we were excited to experience it for the first time through a Cloud Server. This is where we encountered our first hiccup.

Gears of War 4 would launch to the splash screen and then immediately crash. After reproducing the behavior a few times, we took to the internet to find an answer. It turns out that Gears of War 4 requires the absolute latest Windows 10 updates, and we didn’t have them. In a funny way, this moment reminded us that we are using a real version of Windows. We had to go into Settings and run Windows update to get all of the latest content from Microsoft. After doing so, Gears of War 4 still wouldn’t launch until we uninstalled it and and downloaded it again. While this bug was annoying, it’s not something that we would attribute to Shadow specifically. It’s more of a limitation of Gears of War 4.

Performance

So let’s get to the important stuff. Streaming through Shadow is a dream. The input latency is extremely low, and it supports controllers without any additional configuration. We were able to stream 1080p at a bit rate of 50 Mbps. There were no dropped frames or packets. At first glance you might be inclined to think that this is largely expected. And to an extent it is, but remember that this was also their launch weekend.

Their servers have been hammered more than they usually would be. If you reflect on the launch weekends for your favorite Games, you’d be hard pressed to find one that went completely smoothly. During launch weekends, we are accustomed to long queues and occasional bugs. We experienced none of that with Shadow. This fact by itself is quite impressive.

Recommended?

Our first impression of Shadow is that it is polished and friendly. You can expect top notch performance from their servers and software. It only takes the server about 2 minutes to boot up, and then you’re dealing with the Windows 10 that you already know. Shadow offers a largely glitch-free experience that is backed by powerful hardware. You get all of it for $34 per month, and it’s unlimited.

The biggest downside to Shadow right now is that they aren’t available everywhere. They currently support a wide range of states along the East Coast, but some are still missing. Shadow still doesn’t support Georgia or Florida. And they aren’t reaching anyone in the south or midwest. That’s all set to change in October when they add further support for the United States.

It’s also worth mentioning that Shadow’s mobile Apps aren’t quite ready for prime time. You can test the beta of their Android App today, but iOS is still invite-only. You’ll have the option of requesting beta access when setting up Shadow on your computer. From there you’ll need to wait for an invitation. So there is still some work to be done.

Overall we definitely recommend trying Shadow if you live in a supported region. They offer one of the best Cloud Gaming experiences available today.

Have you tried Shadow? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Author Details
Josh is a long-time Gamer and Technology Guru. He is known for his writing and troubleshooting skills. Josh can solve just about any problem, and is especially good at getting to the bottom of technology challenges. He has a background in Networking and holds a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree. When he\'s not gaming, Josh can be found blogging, testing new tech, and interacting with Flickstiq\'s social media following. He lives in Ohio with his wife and children.

Also published on Medium.

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