Nvidia GeForce Now Ultimate – is it over for the gaming PC?

Rocket League is super slick on GeForce Now Ultimate (Barry Collins/Epic Games)

Rocket League is super slick on GeForce Now Ultimate (Barry Collins/Epic Games)

High-end PCs are still considered the pinnacle of gaming technology, but they come at a high cost. However, a recent update to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, really delivers the performance of a premium gaming rig on virtually any PC or Mac.

The GeForce Now Ultimate tier is based on RTX 4080 graphics. You can play demanding games like Cyberpunk 2077 in 4K resolution with a smooth 120 frames per second. You can also fall back to Full HD and play titles like Rocket League or Fortnite at a ridiculous 240 frames per second – provided you have a decent gaming screen that can support those speeds. There’s even support for ultra-wide screens.

In my tests on various PCs and Macs, performance was sensational. Even with Fortnite on the most detailed graphics settings, the action didn’t falter for a nanosecond. The only thing that reminds you that you’re playing via the cloud rather than on a local PC is that the PC fans aren’t clamoring and you haven’t just spent £1,000 upgrading your graphics card.

For Mac owners, it opens up gaming experiences that simply aren’t possible otherwise. On my MacBook Pro, I was able to play Rocket League on the 4K screen at 60 frames per second. It was as responsive as playing the same game on my Xbox Series X. The latency hovered around 30ms, meaning you’re not at a competitive disadvantage against most other online players.

It’s head and shoulders above the streaming experience on Microsoft’s Game Pass, which excels at Full HD resolution and can suffer from stuttering or even screen redrawing when the action gets intense.

GeForceNow Ultimate: Broadband Requirements

That slick performance comes with a few caveats. You will have a much smoother experience if you connect your computer to the broadband router via an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi. It’s possible to play over Wi-Fi, but if there’s other activity on the home network – which is almost always the case – you run the risk of lag and dropped frames, which can ruin a game like a Fortnite Battle Royale. Even with my advanced Wi-Fi 6 setup, performance stuttered occasionally.

You also need bandwidth. Nvidia says you need a minimum of 45 Mbits/sec to stream in 4K at 120 frames per second, which in practice means you’ll need either a very solid fiber connection or full fiber broadband. Reducing the resolution/frame rate reduces bandwidth requirements – and Nvidia has all sorts of automatic tools to adjust these and keep the action smooth.

GeForce Now Ultimate: The Price

Then we come to the costs. The new Ultimate tier costs £17.99 per month, not including the cost of games. The service is linked to Steam, the Epic Games Store, and Ubisoft, so games you’ve already purchased on those services can be played for free through GeForce Now. However, not all games are GeForce Now compatible. For example, games like Civilization VI and Fall Guys were not available in my Steam library. Visit the GeForce Now website and check out the list of games before committing.

If you do, you’ll enjoy lavish levels of detail in fast-moving action games, even through regular laptops or a desktop that’s creaking past its sell-by date. It makes you wonder why anyone would ever spend thousands of pounds for a hulking awesome gaming PC again.

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