Rainway 1.0 Early 2019 Review

Rainway started as a beta back in January of 2018. Things were rough in the beginning and then slowly began to improve throughout the year. As of January of 2019, Rainway has ended their beta and launched their 1.0 version for computers. Were they ready to launch? Let’s take a look and find out!

What is Rainway?

For those of you that aren’t familiar, Rainway is a streaming software. It’s designed for gaming and offers excellent video quality with low input latency. Rainway can be installed on your Gaming PC and then be used to stream your games to another device (like a low-powered laptop). It can also be installed on a Cloud Server and then be used to handle the streaming for Cloud Gaming.

One point that can be confusing is that Rainway is not a Cloud Gaming provider. They don’t offer any servers or hardware to power your games. They also don’t offer any actual games. Instead Rainway provides technology that encodes a video stream of your host computer and then streams it to another device. It allows you to enjoy gaming on devices that normally wouldn’t have enough power.


Focused on Accessibility

Game streaming can be very technical. In some cases it’s so complicated that only very tech-savy gamers can take advantage of it. This is a problem that Rainway wants to solve. There are other streaming softwares available to gamers, and Rainway separates themselves from the pack in two big ways.

One is that you only need a web browser on your client device to take advantage of Rainway. They don’t require you to install any custom software on the computer that you’re streaming to. This opens up a whole slew of possibilities. You can enjoy gaming on a work computer, a school laptop, or even a chromebook. Rainway makes easy to jump right into gaming.

Rainway uses a launcher system to make getting to your games as quick as possible. When you install the Rainway Server App on your host computer, it automatically scans the system and discovers all of the games that you’ve installed. They support your Steam Library, Blizzard, Epic Games, Origin, GOG and more.

Rainway Sever App

1.0 Launch

As we mentioned earlier, Rainway was available as a beta for almost a year. During that time Rainway developed their core technology and made steady improvements. They left beta and launched their 1.0 version on January 31st 2019. Unfortunately their launch didn’t go as planned.

The developers at Rainway had hoped to include a new streaming technology in the release version of their App. Throughout the beta they used a consistent bitrate to handle the streaming process. With a consistent bitrate, streaming bandwidth is defined ahead of time in Rainway’s settings. An example would be using Rainway’s High Quality Profile which streams at a consistent bitrate of 12 Mbps. Rainway’s developers wanted to introduce a variable bitrate technology in the release version of their App.

A variable bitrate is more flexible. It allows the stream to adapt to changing conditions in your network. Maybe things started out fine at 12 Mbps, but your available bandwidth drops to 8 Mbps while you’re playing. A variable bitrate would allow the stream to adjust on the fly to keep things working.

It became clear during the 1.0 launch that Rainway’s variable bitrate was not ready. They chose to continue with their trusty consistent bitrate to ensure smooth sailing. There were also some conflicts for users on Windows that could cause the mouse cursor to jump around the screen. This coupled with some frustrating connection errors led to a few rocky days for both Rainway’s staff and users.

The bottom line is that Rainway is dedicated to both their product and their users. They powered through the first few days and were able to resolve most of the early issues that were discovered. Their variable bitrate technology is still missing, but everything else is working well for the most part.

Performance

We took some time to test today’s version of Rainway. As we mentioned earlier, Rainway supports hosting on your own Gaming PC as well as through Cloud Gaming servers. We tested both, and the improvements that Rainway made over the past year are clearly evident.

When Rainway is used on a local network, input latency is almost non-existent. They’ve really improved in this area. You may still notice some video compression, and we did encounter the occasional dropped frame. However neither is enough to compromise the streaming experience.

Things are still usable on a Cloud Server, but input latency is more noticeable when compared to streaming locally. Again it is nothing that is so extreme that it would prevent you from enjoying your game. We tested using Rainway on a P5000 server from Paperspace. We made the demons that flood the streets of Diablo III wish that Rainway wasn’t a thing. We were able to cleave through them easily and it was a very enjoyable experience.

Final Thoughts

Rainway is much more stable today than it was throughout the beta. It’s easy to see why they felt that it was time to end the beta and release it. We’re still looking forward to their variable bitrate technology, and their compression-to-quality ratio could use a little tweaking. But at the end of the day, Rainway is becoming what CEO Andrew Sampson had envisioned. They are hands-down one of the best options for streaming games through a browser. It will be exciting to see Rainway developed even more, and the promise of clients for game consoles and mobile devices is enticing.

If you’re interested in trying Rainway for yourself, you can download it for free from their website. And if you’d like to see them in action, take a look at the video below.

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