Introduction & Presentation
Most game streaming services offer direct access to the titles you want to play. You access a remote computer with powerful gaming capabilities, but you can launch the game of your choice with one click instead of having to use Windows 10 and individual game launchers.
It’s convenient, but it limits the games you can actually play. Shadow by Blade sacrifices convenience for pure power, giving you remote access to a full-featured Windows 10 PC that you can do it all with. It’s by far the most flexible and powerful game streaming service, although it’s also the most expensive. Nevertheless, the amount of games and software it allows you to run from almost any PC, Mac, or Android smartphone or tablet makes Shadow our preferred choice for game streaming services.
Shadow provides full access to a Windows 10 desktop, allowing you to install any game store, or almost any software, on your system remotely. It’s just like installing on a local PC, including storage management. It’s not individual games running on servers like GeForce Now or Stadia; it’s a dedicated Windows 10 PC, where you can play games and keep installed software, preferences and account information between sessions, just like on a local PC. Shadow recommends a connection of at least 15 Mbps for good performance, but as with all streaming gaming services, the faster your connection, the better the experience you will have and the less display lag you will see.
The Shadow application allows you to connect to your remote PC with one click. If the system is not already running, it will take a few seconds to a minute longer to connect when the PC boots up, otherwise the connection will be immediate. Once you are in, a window will open to reveal a Windows 10 desktop, like a virtual machine. You can set Shadow to automatically switch to full screen when you log in, or switch from the window to full screen with the Alt+Windows+F command.
The different price ranges
Shadow is available in three subscription levels. Shadow Boost costs €14.99 / $14,99 per month or €11.99 / $11,99 per month if you take out a 12-month subscription, and allows you to remotely install your own Shadow PC with 256GB of storage and the processing power to run any current PC game at 1080p or 1440p at a comfortable frame rate. Shadow Ultra is priced at €29.99 / $29,99 per month or €24.99 / $24,99 per month with a 12-month subscription, and adds a GeForce RTX 2080 graphics card for up to 4K gaming, or up to 144 frames per second at 1080p, as well as ray tracing capabilities. Shadow Infinite is priced at €49.99 / $49,99 per month or €39.99 / $39,99 per month with a 12-month subscription, and includes a GeForce RTX Titan graphics card and 1TB of storage.
These prices are high compared to services such as Google Stadia or Nvidia GeForce Now, but the extra charge allows you the flexibility of a dedicated remote PC rather than individual games streamed from any number of remote servers. To test Shadow, we were given access to a Shadow Boost account.
Graphic Card : GTX 1080 (equivalent or best)
Processor : 3.4 GHz – 4 cores (equivalent or best)
RAM: 12 Go
Storage: 256 Go SSD
Graphic Card : RTX 2080 (or equivalent)
Processor : 4 GHz – 4 cores
RAM: 16 Go
Storage : 512 Go SSD
Graphic Card: TITAN RTX (or equivalent)
Processor : 4 GHz – 6 cores
RAM: 32 Go
Storage : 1 To SSD
I installed Origin, Steam and the Xbox application on my Shadow test, which all worked exactly as if I had put them on a local computer. A two-factor authentication was applied to my accounts that use it, and validation on the remote PC required the same process of entering a security token and confirming that I authorized the system. Subsequently, each game store opened and allowed me access to my libraries without any solicitation.
I installed a handful of small games on my Shadow via Steam and Xbox Games Pass, as well as Apex Legends on Origin. The download and installation of each game was incredibly fast, with speeds in the 50-60 Mbps range (from the game library servers like Steam to Shadow, not the connection between Shadow and my local PC).
All the games I played on Shadow were fluid and responsive. Apex Legends is one of the trickiest tests for streaming games, as it requires excellent ping to feel comfortable in the game and prevent motion sickness, and as it is an online only game, it requires top latency when fighting with enemy players. I’ve only had occasional losses that caused my display to jump slightly or lose a few inputs, but in general, I felt as responsive as when I was playing on a local system. The graphics seemed fluid for a 1440p resolution on a computer screen, and the sound of the game was clear and accurate.
Moonlighter, an indie action-adventure game similar to a 2D The Legend of Zelda, also worked very well on Shadow. My keyboard or gamepad was responsive, and I could easily and comfortably crawl through the dungeons and fight monsters without any noticeable lag.
World of Horror, a point-and-click adventure game, also worked well. Although it was the simplest game visually and mechanically that I tested, clicks were responsive and the game window could be resized anywhere on the Shadow’s desktop, just like a window on a local PC. I could easily have a web browser open separately on my Shadow while I was playing the game.
The Shadow application
The PC application locks your input devices on the remote PC when it is in full-screen mode, so that all mouse and keyboard inputs are sent directly through it. It also automatically sends outputs to your active audio device, so you can get sound directly from the remote PC. If you connect a USB or Bluetooth compatible gamepad, Shadow will automatically configure it to work with the remote PC as well. We had no problem connecting a gaming headset and Xbox Wireless Controller to Shadow; both devices appeared instantly in the system.
In addition to the desktop application, you can access Shadow on your Android device with the Shadow mobile application (Shadow is also available for macOS and iOS). It provides the same access to Shadow as the desktop application, and even allows you to boot directly into Steam’s Big Picture mode instead of the Windows desktop.
If you use Shadow on a phone, you can pinch to zoom and drag with two fingers to move around the desktop, with standard typing and dragging emulating mouse commands. Text input is done through your phone’s on-screen keyboard, so don’t expect an experience as responsive as with a physical mouse and keyboard. The application also allows you to add an optional on-screen virtual joystick so you can control games using your thumbs, but like all touchscreen controls, they only work well for a small number of games. However, you can connect a mouse, keyboard and gamepad to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth to get the same experience as the desktop application (just on a smaller screen).
Although Shadow is primarily intended for PC gaming, the service provides a powerful and fully functional Windows 10 computer, so it can also be used for creative applications. It is conceivable to load multimedia production software on your Shadow and use it for photo editing, video editing, 3D modeling and even game creation.
We have not tested this aspect of Shadow, but based on the hardware available through the service, it seems suitable for this type of use. That said, you will need to use some form of cloud storage or transfer service to get media files on your Shadow for editing, since there is no direct download from your local computer.
Shadow is the most expensive game streaming service on the market, but it is also by far the most flexible and powerful. Instead of relying on a limited list of games that are compatible with all other available services, Shadow simply gives you a powerful Windows 10 PC that you can access remotely. It even opens up the service to non-game activities and may be of interest to creative content producers who may not have the local processing power to edit and render whatever they want.
Yes, it’s expensive at €11.99 / $11.99 per month with a 12-month commitment for the entry level, but even this system is powerful enough. Considering what a comparable gaming PC would cost you to buy or build, Shadow’s prices seem much more attractive. As long as you have a good network connection, you don’t need a powerful computer to be able to play on all the PCs you want. This is more than GeForce Now or Stadia and their limited libraries can offer you. With this in mind, Shadow has been awarded Editor’s Choice for its game streaming services.