Experience report after two weeks of shadow with low bandwidth and low-end hardware.

  • 29 January 2021
  • 0 replies

Hello everyone. First of all, I would like to say that I am excited about Shadow.
No other provider got managed up to now to offer a cloud gaming environment where
you get a normal Windows PC and can use all of the games you have bought so far.


My setup: I have completely said goodbye to my previous devices and specifically
opted for passively cooled clients with low power consumption and h.265 support.
An "old" Haswell without an external GPU was not suitable (!)

Although h.265 support for the 4th generation was submitted later.
My laptop has an Intel N3350 (2 core) & 4 GB RAM, the stationary PC has an
Intel J4105 (4 core) and 8 GB RAM, each with an Intel (U)HD and Full HD screen.
In addition, there is a full HD television that is mirrored on the monitor.

We have a 50 mbit line from O2, everything runs over 5 GHz WiFi and in addition,
I am the proud owner of an Unlimited LTE flat rate with a capped 10 mbit for the mobile
phone in Germany in 2021 - why do I mention that? More on that later.


About the shadow-boost itself for cheap 12,99€ / month there isnt much to say.
Feels like an older i5 with a higher mid-range card. Like it is. And it works well.


In absence of transmission encryption (as far as I know), the cloud PC is only used for games.
And here we are; No matter the time, the Shadow was ready for use after a few seconds, nice!


On the first day: functional check. First all game launcher installed and apart from GOG
there were no problems. For GOG I had to download an older launcher, it was easy to install
and then update. You quickly notice that the 256 GB SSD storage is quite tight.
After a few days it turned out that exactly this problem is not a problem at all,

after all, you are connected to a gigabit connection in the cloud!
Even huge titles can be downloaded in minutes. Local "storage" is no longer necessary
and saves me the purchase of an expensive 8 TB SSD for my around 600 games.


As a second step; Test flexibility using a controller on the TV and a Android Handheld.
After all, i want to use everything on one platform - I've sold my consoles.
3 of 5 controllers work. Seems like a bit of gambling. Xbox Wireless is running.
As expected, the reflection on the TV goes without any problems. Due to the small delay
in Shadow (here 30-35 ms) *and* TV's own delay (+X?), It had to be switched to gaming mode,
otherwise the delay would be "noticeable". At least with Shooter.


The days after that, step 3; Optimize. The transmission speed was initially on recommendd’

at 70% of the maximum bandwidth of the DSL. With WLAN and low-end hardware:

stupid idea, the initial experience wasn't particularly great, even though the 50 mbit was
always reliable in some speed tests arrived at my devices. The response time was poor and the
frame rate was not constant. Speaking of frame rate: VSYNC not needed, there cant be tearing.


It now looks like this: The laptop is usually connected to the Android phone via
USB cable / tether in the LTE network, which is limited to 10 mbit. Set here in Shadow 8 mbit
(mind you, half of the recommended), h.265, UDP (TCP lags @ LTE, dunno why), 30 FPS.

The stationary PC is connected to the 5 GHz WLAN, is limited to 16 mbit, h.265, UPD, 60 FPS.
The logic advised me here: FPS x2 = bandwidth x2. This way I avoid low frames and lags that
occur from 30 mbit, sometimes from 25 mbit. Source unknown, don't believe its Shadow.


Especially about the magic "25 mbit" it should be said: Apparently Shadow throttles the FPS
below 25 mbit with the setting "TCP" instead of "UDP". The picture becomes sharper, but jerky.
With UDP below 25 mbit, the frames remain constantly high, but this has the side effect,
the more action is happening in the picture, the more the resolution will be dynamically
reduced - the sparse bandwidth has to be noticeable somewhere. Good solution.


Conclusion from step 3: WOW! Stream a full HD @ 30 FPS image in usable (grade 3+) quality
with a very meager 8 mbit. And even via LTE. In Germany. The consistently stable transmission
and response times of 40-50 ms are particularly impressive. In the forest. All over! Of course,
this is not the case everywhere. We are lucky to have an LTE mast in front of our noses and
relatively few residents who use it. On the tower computer with 24 "TFT and 55" TV, I am still
happy that the 60 FPS at 16mbit (picture note 2) stable without picture or sound dropouts
(I had concerns about UDP) to be able to use and apart from a certain blurring with a lot of
movement even on the big TV not to notice a difference to previous gaming PC. In my opinion,
with a stable cable connection from 25 mbit in 1920x1080 @ 60fps h.265, you should not notice
any more deviations. h.264 can't do that, delay is about the same at low bandwith.


Finally, a few ugly marginal notes that have so far not robbed me of my enthusiasm for Shadow:
- Red font in games: certain red tones with sharp edges appear very frayed
  due to compression (with low bandwidth?). If very small it is almost illegible.
- Saving electricity is also important in the data center: Reduction up to 1 FPS on desktop.
  Understandable but unfamiliar. Moving wallpaper solves that, but it's annoying.
- Adjust volume: Memorize WIN + ALT + F well to switch between full screen and window to
  turn louder / quieter. Because the hotkeys are passed into the VM too!
- It must always be in the back of your mind: stay away from the network and graphics card
  in the control panel. Windows 10's safe mode is nasty too. Reinstallation may be needed.

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