Sophisticated Gamer

Shadow Boost cloud gaming makes Google Stadia look like a total joke

Now this is cloud gaming.

Gaming rigs are expensive. But what if you married the power of a high-end PC with the ease and accessibility of cloud-based gaming? For a moderate monthly subscription fee, Shadow Boost from Blade lets you do just that.

Rather than investing thousands of dollars in a top-tier gaming PC, you can pay as little as $11.99 a month to stream from a virtualized PC in the cloud. All you really need is a strong 5G or wired internet connection. At the very least, Shadow Boost offers an enticing way for gamers to dip their toes into the intimidating ocean of PC gaming.

The interface for Shadow Boost is very intuitive.Blade

However compelling Google Stadia's technology might be, the major drawback is that gamers need Stadia-specific copies of whatever games they want to play within its closed ecosystem. By comparison, Shadow offers depth and breadth by simply letting you rent a gaming PC and use it via the cloud, which means you'll have access to your own Steam, Epic Games Store, and Xbox Game Pass accounts. (Even Nvidia's GeForce Now platform has more limitations: Publishers have to opt-in for inclusion, so there's no guarantee what you'll be able to play.)

Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly claimed that GeForce Now only incorporated Steam

If you've spent months claiming Epic Games Store freebies and already have Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, Shadow can allow you to access hundreds of PC games on almost any device.

I spent several weeks with Shadow Boost, which rolled out in the United States in March 2020. And it has me wondering if I'll ever actually buy a "real" gaming PC.

What's great about Shadow Boost

  • Probably the most cost-efficient way to play PC games
  • Allows access to every PC-based distribution platform
  • Can be played on smartphones
Shadow Boost lets you play PC games on virtually any device. All you need is a strong connection.Blade

Shadow Boost costs $14.99 each month, or you can save $35 with a 1-year commitment at $11.99 monthly instead. Stacked alongside your Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, and PlayStation Plus subscriptions, this might feel like a jab right in the face.

In the ideal world, you'd just own a PC gaming rig instead, right? Except if you bought a physical version of this PC, it might cost up to $1,000 and wind up being really bulky. As newer hardware is released, you might feel obliged to upgrade. Or you can spend $143.88 in the next year on Shadow Boost.

It may be more expensive than Nvidia's GeForce Now and Google Stadia Pro, but there are zero limitations in terms of what games you can play. Android users might prefer the cheaper price tag of Xbox Game Pass and its Project xCloud capabilities, but being able to access your Shadow on iPhones and even Apple TV can essentially replace even next-gen gaming consoles.

Particularly once upgraded Shadow Ultra and Infinite variants with 4K resolutions and ray tracing are more widely available, the Ultra's $24.99 a month with a year subscription works out to the same cost of an Xbox Series S. These upgraded alternatives won't be available in California until March 2021 and New York in summer 2021.

"Next-gen" Shadow Gaming offerings are quite impressive.

What's not so great about Shadow Boost

  • The monthly cost can add up over time
  • Low base storage
  • PC gaming is an intimidating mood
  • A wired connection is really a must

Shadow Boost is a great deal, but after that year is over, you don't actually own anything. And as time passes, you're going to want more out of Shadow Boost. Upgrading the initial storage of 256 GB will cost more money, as will upgrading to Ultra or Infinite.

There's also the added drawback that PC gaming is ... hard.

Wielding Shadow Boost made me feel very old, mainly because I got my first MacBook in 2007 and haven't owned a PC since. Windows is disorienting, and I hate it. Sorting out updates and drivers just to get things like controllers and other peripherals working was frustrating but doable. With so many distribution platforms out there, it's hard for a novice PC gamer to know where to start: Should I buy games on Steam or focus on Epic Games Store?

I did experience a noticeable amount of lag, despite sitting virtually on top of the router with a 5G network. Shadow suggests a wired connection, which is unfortunately impossible with my current laptop setup. And relying on a somewhat weak wireless connection on a network burdened by various devices at once was at times frustrating. There are small adjustments that I can and will make to improve the experience, but anyone with Shadow Boost really should pay top dollar for the best possible wifi.

Shadow Boost is a no-brainer for anyone curious about trying out PC gaming. Try it out for a month, and if you like it, upgrade to a year's subscription.

Sophisticated Gamer is a series all about elevated gaming accessories you won't be embarrassed to show to your Tinder date. We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too.

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