Nvidia's Pascal-based GeForce GTX graphics cards are awesome, but the price tag of a complete gaming PC and the associated maintenance headaches can be formidable barriers of entry into high-end PC gaming. Nvidia's GeForce Now cloud gaming service gives users a way to experience high-resolution, speedy graphics without shelling out all of the coin for a proper gaming PC. The company first announced GeForce Now for the PC and Mac at last year's CES, and the service has just now reached beta status on PC.
Nvidia claims the cloud gaming service can stream games with a resolution of 1920x1080 at up to 120 Hz, depending on the level of service requested and the constraints of the end user's PC and internet connection. For the time being, the beta service is free and includes games from a number of digital storefronts, including the newly-added Ubisoft Uplay.
GeForce Now doesn't include any games itself. Instead, it offers a virtualized system that gamers can use to install their existing libraries. Over 150 popular titles are included in the game compatibility list, though the Rockstar Games catalog appears to be missing. Users can install Steam games not in the list, but such titles can't use the service's express installation feature and must be installed before each session, a process that Nvidia says can take up to 30 minutes.
The system requirements for the service are pretty modest: a Windows PC or Mac computer running Nvidia's GeForce Now application and an internet connection with a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps. The list of supported Mac devices includes a number of Core 2 Duo machines capable of running at least macOS 10.10, but the PC requirements list a Windows 7 machine with 4 GB of memory and a 3.1 GHz Core i3 processor or better. PCs will also need a graphics card with DirectX 9 support, including any GeForce card going back to the GTX 600-series, AMD Radeon HD 3000-series, or Intel HD graphics 2000-series. As for the network connection, wired Ethernet is recommended, but Nvidia says 5 GHz wireless networking should also work.
Nvidia didn't offer information about how much GeForce Now will cost after the free beta is over. Gaming sessions on the beta are limited to four hours to ensure access to all players, though an individual doesn't have to wait to request their next session. The company didn't provide details about the hardware specifications for a virtualized system. Past rumors suggested that the service will be offered with two different hardware tiers: one with GeForce GTX 1060-level power, and a premium level promising a GeForce GTX 1080-esque experience.