Gaming

Why GeForce Now is Finally a Solution to the GPU Shortage | Digital Trends


There’s never been a worse time to evangelize the greatness of PC gaming as a hobby. All the best benefits are out of reach from the average person, thanks to the current price of graphics cards.

The cloud gaming solution, whether it’s Xbox Game Pass or GeForce Now, just never captured the magic.

But now, GeForce Now is now offering an RTX 3080 — perhaps the most coveted card throughout the shortage — in the cloud. And after using it for about a week, I’m excited to recommend PC gaming to people again.

Although GeForce Now has always been a temporary solution to the GPU shortage, the new RTX 3080 tier makes cloud gaming feel more native than ever. I’m absolute in my willingness to recommend GeForce Now as a solution — not a band aid fix — to one of the worst pricing crises the GPU market has seen.

Closing the (latency) gap

The GeForce Now RTX 3080 plan tells you everything you need to know in the name. It’s a GeForce Now plan, but powered by an RTX 3080 GPU. With better hardware, Nvidia is able to offer 1440p at up to 120 frames per second (fps). Higher frame rates are better, sure, but it does more than smooth gameplay. It decreases latency.

There are two factors at play here. First is Adaptive Sync, which is a new Nvidia technology that’s available to all GeForce Now subscribers. It syncs the frames between the server and your device to offer a smoother gameplay experience. And it works.

If you’ve ever used GeForce Now, you’ve become all too familiar with stuttering. About six months ago, I replayed Control on my Samsung Galaxy Note 10 using the Razer Kishi controller, hopping in and out of sessions while laying in bed at night. I was able to make it through the game, but it wasn’t the ideal way to play. Constant stuttering reminded me time and again that I was not playing Control on my phone.

Adaptive Sync changed that. I was distracted from finishing this article because I was so engrossed in Guardians of the Galaxy on my phone. It stuttered once in two hours of gameplay. I felt like I was playing a brand new AAA video game natively on my phone.

That’s not only because of the smoothness of the game, but also because I didn’t have to deal with repeated or delayed frames, which normally translate into inputs feeling like they’ve been delayed as well.

More frames means lower latency.

This feature helps all GeForce Now subscribers. The RTX 3080 plan takes Adaptive Sync and furthers it with a higher frame rate. I was able to play Guardians of the Galaxy, Destiny 2, and Deep Rock Galactic — each for several hours — while rarely dropping below 120 fps. That’s the RTX 3080 at work.

More frames means lower latency. You have more information to work with, and you’ll see the game react to your inputs faster. Together, Adaptative Sync and 120 fps streaming makes the cloud gaming experience natural. Network conditions apply, of course, but I found myself continuing to play games on GeForce Now, blissfully unaware that they were coming from a distant data center.

Still, the cloud isn’t perfect. Network interface makes playing wirelessly a gamble, and the odd smear of visual artifacts can break the immersion. I’ve used GeForce Now exclusively to play games since I got my hands on the RTX 3080 plan, though, and I haven’t played any fewer games or enjoyed the experience any less.

Annoyances abound

GeForce Now isn’t perfect, and the new RTX 3080 tier doesn’t change that. It’s a platform built on tech, not usability; you don’t have to look further than starting a game to see that. Instead of launching into the experience, you’re met with a Steam or Epic Game Store login screen, where you have to struggle to navigate a infinitesimal cursor to get your game to launch.

The apps are still bad, too. You can sync your Steam games with GeForce Now, but that’s it. Otherwise, you have to add games manually to your library to quickly access them in the future. There’s no way to browse the catalogue of games, either. You’re forced to use the few curated collections on the home screen or the search bar to find what you want.

GeForce Now Windows application.

There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to filter games based on genre or narrow down the games I want to add to my library based on the platform they’re available on. Not too long ago, I added every Ubisoft game available through Ubisoft Connect to my GeForce Now library, just so I didn’t have to search for them every time I wanted to play. With a couple of checkboxes, I wouldn’t have to do that.

Then, of course, there are the network issues. Even when testing GeForce Now RTX 3080 on a wired connection — measured at 460Mbps down and 23Mbps up before testing — games would inexplicably fall apart into a mess of visual artifacts from time to time.

The RTX 3080 tier doesn’t change any of that. It improves the experience of playing games, not the experience of using GeForce Now. At twice the price of a standard subscription, I hoped for more. Nvidia has proven with this new tier that it has cloud gaming tech down. Now, it needs to prove that it has the cloud gaming experience down, too.

An imperfect answer to the GPU shortage

A close-up image of Nvidia's RTX 3080 Ti graphics card.

GeForce Now has always been an imperfect answer to the GPU shortage. Because it uses established platforms, you can start building your PC library while waiting for GPU prices to drop. It also supports a massive number of titles, including several of the most popular Steam games, like Destiny 2, New World, and Dead by Daylight. 

The new RTX 3080 tier simply enhances the experience. I used GeForce Now exclusively to play video games for almost a week, and I never had any problems. Most of that was done on a wired connection, which I highly recommend you use. However, Adaptive Sync and improved responsiveness from the increased frame rate makes the wireless experience better, too.

You could buy up to 10 years of GeForce Now RTX 3080 for the price of an RTX 3080 right now.

You need to take all of this in the context of price, though. GeForce Now RTX 3080 is twice as much as the standard subscription, totaling $100 for six months — and you can’t buy just a month. You have to spend $100 upfront, even if you decide that you don’t want to use the service for half a year.

You could buy up to 10 years of GeForce Now RTX 3080 for the price of an RTX 3080 right now. In that context, the service is a no-brainer. Still, you’re not actually getting an RTX 3080 with this plan. You’re getting the rendering power and features like DLSS and ray tracing, but the issues with GeForce Now’s app and the cloud still sour the experience a bit.

I’m willing to overlook those issues, though. After playing GeForce Now RTX 3080, I’m convinced not only that cloud gaming can adequately bridge the gap during the GPU shortage, but also that the technology has a bright future ahead. Even with multiple annoyances, the core gameplay experience is too good to ignore.

If you’ve been waiting for a GPU, you’re going to need to wait a little longer. In the meantime, GeForce Now offers a compelling alternative — as long as you’re willing to pay up.

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