GeForce Experience 3.0 beta puts games front and center

— 3:00 PM on July 5, 2016

Nvidia's GeForce Experience is probably a utility familiar to many a PC gamer by now. At least on my Nvidia-equipped PCs, the software helpfully reminds me when a new driver update comes down the pipe, but I don't really do much else with it. The company's next version of GeForce Experience, version 3.0, is in beta now, so I figured I'd give it a shot and see whether this software has what it takes to earn a pin to my notification area.

The first I noticed upon firing up the beta version of GFE is that Nvidia appears to require an account to use the app this time around. Past versions of GFE could be used without any kind of registration, but it appears version 3.0 is where we'll begin seeing Nvidia's long-promised move to restrict access to its Game Ready drivers to registered users. Initial reports suggested this restriction would arise in December of last year, but I never had any problems grabbing Game Ready drivers from the older version of the app without an account in the meantime.

With an Nvidia account duly created, I was able to get into the main GeForce Experience app. The main screen of version 3.0 is a lot simpler than past versions of GFE. The "Home" tab now serves as an album-like list of all of the games on one's system, whether they reside in Steam, Origin, Uplay, or some other digital storefront. Mousing over each game's box art reveals a "Play" button and a "Details" button. Clicking "Play" launches the game's associated service and the game itself. I tried this feature with games from Steam, Origin, and Uplay, and each title launched without a hitch.

The "Details" view for each title takes over the job the "Games" tab used to do in older versions of GFE. Here, Nvidia pulls in the list of current settings for each game and presents a list of settings it believes to be optimal for that title. Mousing over each graphics option helpfully shows a brief tooltip on a screenshot of the game that explains what changing that setting should do to the gameplay experience. Nvidia's optimal settings can be toggled on with one click, but the reverse isn't true—be careful of enabling those new settings if you have a carefully-crafted group of graphics options for a particular game that you don't want to lose.

Clicking the "Share" icon in the title bar brings up the software features Nvidia first released in September of last year. Veteran Open Broadcaster Software or Twitch users probably won't want to bother with these features, but Share looks like a quick route to Twitch or YouTube streaming for folks who just want to get their feet wet. The software offers a pretty wide-ranging yet straightforward interface for its streaming features, to my inexperienced eye. Share also provides controls for GameStream Co-op and Shadowplay game recording.

I'm a bit chafed by Nvidia's mandatory user account requirement, but this third version of GeForce Experience is otherwise fast, polished, and easy to use once you've offered your personal information up to the cloud gods. If this utility is the only route to getting Nvidia's Game Ready drivers in the future, it at least makes itself useful by putting all of your games in one place and making it easy to launch them, regardless of their host storefronts. If you own a GeForce graphics card, expect to see GFE 3.0 roll out to your system sometime in the coming months.

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