I’ve spent a whole lot of cabbage on PC gaming hardware over the years. As a theoretical grown-up with a mortgage and a husky who eats me out of house and home, I think my days of buying ultra-powerful GPUs like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 are numbered. And you know what? I’m okay with that.
The main reason I’m becoming less enthused about cutting-edge graphics cards isn’t just down to the credit card-obliterating costs involved. The best cloud gaming services keep making real strides as broadband quality and global internet infrastructure improve. As such, my current favorite streaming option has led to me turning on my powerful gaming rig less and less.
I’ve written a lot about Nvidia GeForce Now during my time here at Tom’s Guide, because it’s a service I’m unapologetically passionate about. I’m a subscriber to its premium ‘Ultimate’ tier, which gives you access to a cloud version of an RTX 4080 for $20 / £18 per month. As a graphics-obsessed rube who sunk $2,000 into his 4090 a year ago, my depleted bank balance wishes I’d embraced the power of the cloud before making such a financially unwise investment.
I’ve previously messed around with Nvidia GeForce Now Ultimate on a $120 laptop, and the results blew me away. Over the past few days, though, I’ve taken the experience to the next level by installing the GeForce Now app on my brand new LG G3 OLED TV. And yes, I shouldn’t be let within 500ft of a credit card application ever again.
My wincesome monthly payments are a bed I willingly jumped into. And you know what? After experiencing some of the best PC games on one of the best OLED TVs in the world at 4K / 60 fps on GeForce Now Ultimate, I’d max out my credit card again in a heartbeat.
Not that I’d recommend regular Tom’s Guide readers should do this — I’m just cursed with the impulse control of a small, tech-obsessed child.
Doom with a view
Playing games in Ultra HD at high frame rates on brilliant games like Doom Eternal, Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Cyberpunk 2077 on one of the brightest OLED panels is an astonishing experience. And for the record, playing Starfield on the LG G3 OLED looks pretty dang sweet, too.
But the real, far more accessible appeal of GeForce Now is you don’t need anywhere near this level of display tech to enjoy your Steam or Xbox Game Pass libraries on Team Green’s streaming service. That’s kind of the whole point.
Provided you have solid to strong broadband (Nvidia recommends minimum connection speeds of 45 Mbps to stream games in 4K at PS5-toppling frame rates), you could go wild in a Steam sale, then enjoy your games from the comfort of a couch on your main TV via GeForce Now Ultimate.
Not that streaming games through Ultimate doesn’t have its flaws. Despite having 1TB full fiber optic, I can still feel noticeable input delay while playing titles, be it those in my Steam or GOG Galaxy libraries.
It’s definitely not a game-breaking issue, but compared to playing locally on my ultrawide Alienware AW3423DWF QD-OLED gaming monitor, the lag is a lot more noticeable on Nvidia’s streaming platform.
I still think the trade-off is just about worth it, though, because the visual fidelity you get through a good internet connection with Ultimate is stronger than Thor after he’s binged on a dozen protein bars. I notice no visible video artifacting while streaming games through my OLED TV, and picture quality remains pretty much pristine at all times.
The future is Now
As a market leader in the GPU space, Nvidia is hardly going to stop manufacturing high-ends cards overnight, even if subs for GeForce Now shot through the stratosphere.
Yet there is a sense that, like with Microsoft and its approach to consumers playing Xbox titles through non-native hardware, the company probably wouldn’t be devastated if certain gamers started forgoing buying its high-end silicon in favor of a monthly Nvidia streaming fee.
In the here and now, having a cloud-based RTX 4080 at your disposal at least gives PC gamers the opportunity to venture down a different avenue. Thanks to advances in cloud gaming, you can now experience cutting edge, triple-A titles where the issue of lag has become far less of a problem since the failed experiment of Google Stadia.
Will GeForce Now Ultimate stop Nvidia from producing and selling top-end GPUs at eye-watering prices anytime soon? Of course not. At the end of the day, that remains the company’s (hugely profitable) bread and butter.
Still, I’m all for a future of gaming where anyone with decent internet bandwidth can enjoy experiences that aren’t a million miles off what the best gaming PCs can currently produce.