Grid, ShadowPlay And Twitch
GameStream plus the cloud equals Nvidia Grid. Rather than using a local PC for rendering, Nvidia’s servers handle the pixel wizardry and stream H.264 video over the Internet to a Shield portable device running the Nvidia Grid app, available for free from the Play Store. The service also requires an Internet connection with at least a 10Mb/s download speed and 40ms ping times to the Grid servers.
Nvidia Grid is currently in beta with game servers singly located in San Jose, CA, which may degrade the experience for those outside the western U.S. For gamers who aren’t geographically challenged, the service is free during the beta phase. As of now, there are 18 titles available. Check out the Nvidia Grid Cloud Gaming Beta page for more information.
I played some of the games at different times spread over a couple of weeks. Living in close proximity to California and with a connection rated for 50Mb/s down and 10Mb/s up, I found the Grid gaming experience to be generally excellent. The video was smooth and there wasn’t any conceivable input lag, myself being about average in lag sensitivity. Only a single gaming session was marred by lagging inputs.
I see a bright future for Nvidia Grid and other similar cloud gaming services, freeing us from the tedium of downloading, installing and updating games; no more license keys or intrusive DRM. Nvidia will need more game servers to expand Grid’s reach and more games to broaden its appeal, but the potential is obvious.
ShadowPlay And Twitch
The Shield Tablet includes Nvidia’s ShadowPlay screen recording technology. Like the desktop version, ShadowPlay on the tablet directly accesses the frame buffer at a low level and then passes the frames to the NVEnc hardware H.264 video encoder. In addition to capturing a video of the screen, regardless of what app or game is in use, buttons along the top of the Nvidia Share menu individually toggle options to record audio from the microphone, overlay video from the front facing camera or even overlay a chat window. The size, location and opacity of the chat and front camera video overlays are adjustable.
There are two different options for video recording. Manual Record allows precise control of when to start and stop recording. The Auto Record mode, once it starts, continuously records video into a fixed length rolling buffer like a DVR, which works well for capturing your prowess while gaming. It also keeps videos from consuming too much valuable storage space. The buffer is user configurable for durations of 1, 3, 5, 10 or 20 minutes. There are also four different quality settings for capturing video: low (360p, 25FPS), medium (480p, 30FPS), high (720p, 30FPS), and ultra (1080p, 30FPS). All four modes use a variable bit rate.
ShadowPlay also enables the Shield Tablet to broadcast live gaming sessions, complete with your eloquent commentary from the integrated microphone and video overlay of your noble face from the front camera, directly to Twitch.