OnLive Cloud-Based Gaming: Is This The End Of High-End PCs?

Using OnLive

Use Case 1: Desktop

Not surprisingly, OnLive shows poorly on a Core i7-960-based desktop with a pair of GeForce GTX 480s installed. There’s simply no reason to pay for a service like this if you already have the hardware to back up better quality settings. Nevertheless, a large percentage of the Tom’s Hardware audience has capable components at its disposal, so it’s absolutely worth noting that the enthusiasts already running 1280x720 or higher probably aren’t going to like what they see, quality-wise, from OnLive.

If you want a better comparison, check out the two videos below in 720p—one captured via OnLive and the other captured locally—of Just Cause 2. Try to look past the choppy frame rates. They don’t accurately convey the performance of playing on both systems. Even on machines with SSDs, FRAPS doesn’t seem to like capturing at a 60 FPS target while gaming. Take my word for it, the OnLive version ran at a constant 20 FPS or so, while the local version ran at 120 FPS. While 20 frames per second sounds low, it turned out to be playable. With that said, real-world gameplay did get choppy on occasion.

The OnLive Gaming Service


But I think we can all agree that this isn’t the market for which OnLive is gunning. They want the guys on notebooks with Intel integrated graphics, or the guys using Macs without much choice when it comes to game access. So let’s move on to the more ideal test case.

Just Cause 2, Local Play


Use Case 2: Notebook

I have an older Core 2 Duo T9300-based laptop with 4GB of RAM and Intel’s GMA X3100 graphics engine. It’s wholly incapable of playing Just Cause, Batman, F.E.A.R., or any other of the games OnLive is hosting. It'll handle WoW, so long as you turn every setting down to its lowest option. But the system does satisfy OnLive’s minimum hardware requirements for running its client.

This is where the service is totally in its element. In DiRT 2, Just Cause 2, and Batman—the three games I spent some time in—frame rates were ample to play smoothly, though nowhere near an even 60 FPS. With my 1280x800 screen running much closer to OnLive’s native 1280x720, quality appeared much better than the professional Dell 1920x1200 displays on my workstation. Latency, though perceptible, still didn’t prevent me from doing well in single-player campaigns.

Truly, this is where OnLive really shines. I have to wonder, though, how many folks with four-year old notebooks and no better desktop system at their disposal pay for 5+ Mb/s Internet connections? As it stands today, I’m certainly not worried about cloud-based gaming impinging upon what enthusiasts expect from a desktop gaming experience. Note also that you need a wired connection. There goes the novel idea of fragging out at Starbucks.

And there’s another factor to take into account here. Just because OnLive relieves you of the hardware burden doesn’t mean that load is magically alleviated altogether. Server-side requirements for each physical connection are substantial, and the service is still in its infancy. Performance is respectable right now, but we’ll have to see how OnLive handles scaling as an increasing number of curious gamers take a peek under the kimono.

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  • I know for me it isn't the end of high-end machines.
    Reason? Well...
    1. My internet isn't all that fast (1.6mb/s down, which is the fastest available in my area), which is far from their required 5mb down.
    2. I actually enjoy shopping for parts and putting together a PC. I often spend hours on Newegg searching for parts, even if I have no plans on buying them.
    3. I rather not pay to "rent" a game. If it is game I enjoy, I'll buy it.

    Do I think this service will help people who don't know how to build their own computer, and who are willing to fork out the cash for fees and fast internet? Yes I do.
    Is this service right for me? No.
    29
  • Nice article! Great for gaming on the go for low end PCs and notebooks, but the gaming PC remains king!
    21
  • Keep the cloud away from my PC. I need local control, not big brother control.
    21
  • Other Comments
  • Nice article! Great for gaming on the go for low end PCs and notebooks, but the gaming PC remains king!
    21
  • i singed up for this and still have not been accepted, also i would prefer my local PC to play don't trust online companies
    16
  • I know for me it isn't the end of high-end machines.
    Reason? Well...
    1. My internet isn't all that fast (1.6mb/s down, which is the fastest available in my area), which is far from their required 5mb down.
    2. I actually enjoy shopping for parts and putting together a PC. I often spend hours on Newegg searching for parts, even if I have no plans on buying them.
    3. I rather not pay to "rent" a game. If it is game I enjoy, I'll buy it.

    Do I think this service will help people who don't know how to build their own computer, and who are willing to fork out the cash for fees and fast internet? Yes I do.
    Is this service right for me? No.
    29
  • It's the calm before the cloud computing storm.

    With the big companies pushing towards the cloud such as Apple, Microsoft, and Google (Cloud Video Editing). Cloud computing is only going to become more prominent. It's just not "there" yet.

    Don't get me wrong, i'm all for locally based computing, but cloud computing is only going to grow bigger.
    2
  • Somewhere I heard that thing service is a POS. So I'd say NO it is definitely not an end to high end gaming PCs.
    -7
  • Sure all is good till the network is down or suffers some high pings then all hits the fan. I much rather stick with the traditional rig when it comes to gaming and other things. Reliability is paramount when gaming.
    20
  • Keep the cloud away from my PC. I need local control, not big brother control.
    21
  • Quote:
    OnLive Cloud-Based Gaming: Is This The End Of High-End PCs?


    Answer: No. Especially not until we have better broadband speeds and availability here in the U.S. Nothing beats a LAN party. Nothin.
    9
  • Chris, I'm curious why you posted a picture of yourself. Do you love yourself that much? Its nice to try to get a connection with your readers, but in all honesty I don't care about you - I care about the tech. Posing yourself on here just seems kind of weird to me. I can already recognize you. Which is silly since I will most likely never know you unless I decide to run for president someday and decide to give you audience. :)
    -12
  • I was invited to beta, and it still has a a long way to go. I played dirt 2 on Onlive then i played the regular game there really is a big diffrence. Still too laggy for onlive ill stick to high end pc. High end pc gaming will never die.
    2
  • JonnyDoughChris, I'm curious why you posted a picture of yourself. Do you love yourself that much? Its nice to try to get a connection with your readers, but in all honesty I don't care about you - I care about the tech. Posing yourself on here just seems kind of weird to me. I can already recognize you. Which is silly since I will most likely never know you unless I decide to run for president someday and decide to give you audience.


    Because it's an editorial. =)
    3
  • No. On-live to me is a dead end service. The end of High end PC's not likely in my life time. I take what another said i like spending hours, days, weeks, months of my time researching parts for my new build even if i don't build my next PC for another 2 years. I think this will work for ppl who get bored with games easily and don't care on OWNING the game. No thanks not for me, but i am sure it will sucker in quite a crowd. Good for them.
    8
  • but I enjoy having and upgrading hardware. I fiddle with my PC probably almost as much as I spend actually gaming on it. a cloud service takes out half the fun.
    9
  • Every1 keeps forgeting something, and that something has "the size of the world", wich is: What is the position of Nvidia, AMD and Intel,Sony and Nintendo, and at some level Microsoft with their XBox, and Asus...etc ? These guys are on the hardware busyness, and if cloud goes deep, the domestic market will shrink heavely, taking out of business a lot of companies.

    I won´t be surprise if these giants would join forces and started doing something to stop, probably only partialy, cloud computing.

    I, on the other hand, think this system, at least for gaming, is a fail system, only because it´s 100% online.
    -2
  • any chance you can tell us how much data you transfer every hour or so? Most people have internet bandwidth caps so it would be great if we could ballpark how much we use based on number of hours.
    7
  • This isn't exactly new. Hasn't anyone heard of StreamMyGame?
    http://www.streammygame.com/
    1
  • zfsnoobmanany chance you can tell us how much data you transfer every hour or so? Most people have internet bandwidth caps so it would be great if we could ballpark how much we use based on number of hours.


    Well, let's do a little math.

    They require 5 Mb/s for an HD stream. Let's say they allow 20% for overhead, so you might be using 4 Mb/s, which is 500 KB/s (note the difference between bits and bytes). That's 30 MB/min or 1.8 GB/hr. That's by no means scientific, but a ballpark figure making a big assumption about what the service actually needs for fluid game play.
    0
  • I tried it the other day for less than 30 minutes before calling it quits. I definitely wouldn't pay for it at this point. It was too choppy and slow to respond to input. My internet connection wasn't the problem (have a 20Mbps connection that is consistently tests at that level, and I was the only on at the time) and my computer was well above the minimum specs.
    3
  • I doubt that Cloud will topple the High End PC as King. When Citrix Winframe and Terminal Services appeared around 1996 it was claimed that we would see an end to client PC's in the work place. That did not happen. The netbook was supposed to topple the PC and the Notebook and that didnt happen. Playstation 3 and XBox were supposed to kill off the PC as gaming platform. Again that didnt happen. The PC is too versatile to be toppled anytime soon. Not only does a PC game it does a whole lot of other things that are beyond the capabilities of any specialised piece of hardware or Internet service. Care to try video editing on your Xbox? It would be like telling everyone that they will trade their cars for a bus service or their houses for a tiny apartment in a huge block of units to be shared with many others. The PC is one of the few areas of life left where you can make something in your own image and people are not going to turn their backs on that. Cloud computing is awesome for the many people who have low resources and require access to services they normally wouldnt be able to afford. For people who have a choice however Cloud has a limited appeal.
    13
  • A great man once said "Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." This will allow Geeks like me to ditch MS (I only use it for Games) and run high end games on our Linux Distro's. This works, not well, but it is after all a young technology, and at the rate TV's are developing how long before they meet the minimum spec for this service. Crisis on your 50" LCD at 1080P anybody?
    -1