Nvidia GeForce Now Ultimate – is it over for the gaming PC?

Rocket League is super smooth on GeForce Now Ultimate (Barry Collins/Epic Games)

Rocket League is super smooth on GeForce Now Ultimate (Barry Collins/Epic Games)

High-end PCs are still considered the pinnacle of gaming technology, but they come at a steep cost. However, with a recent update to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, GeForce Now, it really delivers top-notch gaming rig performance on pretty much any PC or Mac.

The GeForce Now Ultimate series is based on RTX 4080 graphics. That means you can play demanding games like Cyberpunk 2077 at 4K resolution at a smooth 120 frames per second. You can also drop down to Full HD and play titles like Rocket League or Fortnite at a ridiculous 240 frames per second – provided you have a decent gaming screen that supports those rates. There is even support for ultrawide screens.

In my tests on various PCs and Macs, performance was brilliant. Even with Fortnite at the most detailed graphics settings, the action didn’t glitch for a nanosecond. The only thing that reminds you that you’re playing through the cloud rather than on a local computer is that the PC fan isn’t screaming and you haven’t spent £1,000 upgrading your graphics card.

For Mac owners, it opens up gaming experiences like no other. On my MacBook Pro, I was able to play Rocket League on the 4K screen at 60 frames per second. It was just as responsive when playing the same game on my Xbox Series X. The latency hovered around the 30ms mark, which means you’re not at a competitive disadvantage compared to most other online players.

It’s head and shoulders above the streaming experience on Microsoft’s Game Pass, which tops out at Full HD resolution and can suffer from stuttering or even screen redrawing when the action is intense.

GeForceNow Ultimate: broadband requirements

That slick performance comes with a few caveats. You will have a much smoother experience if you connect your computer to the broadband router via an Ethernet cable rather than Wi-Fi. It’s possible to play over Wi-Fi, but if there’s other activity on the home network – and there almost always is – you run the risk of lag and dropped frames, which can ruin a game like Fortnite Battle Royale. Even with my high-end Wi-Fi 6 setup, performance stuttered from time to time.

You’ll also need bandwidth to spare. Nvidia says you’ll need at least 45Mbits/sec to stream 4K at 120 frames per second, which practically means a very strong fiber-to-the-cabinet connection or full-fiber broadband you need. The resolution/frame rate reduces the bandwidth requirements – and Nvidia has all sorts of automatic tools to adjust these and keep the action smooth.

GeForce Now Ultimate: the price

Then we come to the cost. The new ultimate tier costs £17.99 per month, excluding the cost of games. The service is connected to Steam, the Epic Games Store and Ubisoft, so games you’ve already purchased on those services are free to play through GeForce Now. However, not all games are compatible with GeForce Now. In my Steam library, for example, games like Civilization VI and Fall Guys were not available. Visit the GeForce Now website and check the list of games before you commit.

If you do, you’ll enjoy impressive levels of detail in fast-moving action games, even through standard laptops or desktops crawling past their sell-by date. Makes you wonder why anyone would shell out thousands of pounds for a great gaming PC that would be running again.

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