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Nvidia’s GeForce Now gets an RTX 3080 upgrade to take on Stadia and xCloud

Nvidia is launching dedicated, low-latency RTX 3080 gaming pods in the cloud before the end of 2021. GeForce Now will offer access to what Nvidia describes as “the most powerful gaming supercomputer ever built,” to stream PC games from Steam and the Epic Games Store to Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Android TV devices. Preorders begin today for select members of GeForce Now.

It’s a big moment for game streaming, as it’s rare to get access to machines in the cloud with the latest GPUs, especially one that PC gamers are still struggling to purchase in stores right now. Nvidia is also promising incredibly low latency for these dedicated RTX 3080 pods, with performance that should beat the majority of game consoles, PC gaming rigs, and competitors like Google Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud).

GeForce Now can stream games to most devices.
Image: Nvidia

“[Ten] years in the making, it’s a combination of everything that we’ve learned about cloud gaming and all the of best technology of GeForce gaming,” says Phil Eisler, the head of GeForce Now at Nvidia.

The RTX 3080 option will be offered first to existing Founders and Priority members of GeForce Now in the US and Europe, with six-month memberships priced at $99.99. Preorders begin today, and the service should go live in the US in November and across Europe in December.

You’ll be able to stream at up to 1440p resolution with 120fps on PCs and Macs, and 4K HDR at 60fps on Nvidia’s Shield TV. The 4K option is limited to Shield TV at first, as not all TV streaming devices can handle h.265 decoding, so Nvidia is starting with its own Android TV device first before expanding to other hardware based on feedback.

Nvidia’s data center with dedicated RTX 3080 pods.
Image: Nvidia

While Nvidia is marketing this as an RTX 3080 in the cloud, the company isn’t literally plugging retail RTX 3080 cards into data centers. Instead, it’s the equivalent performance from an Ampere GA102 chip that fits into servers. Still, Nvidia is equipping these servers with eight-core AMD Threadripper CPUs, 28GB of DDR4 memory, and a Gen4 SSD. Nvidia is promising 35 teraflops of GPU performance (that’s more like an RTX 3090), which is roughly three times what an Xbox Series X is capable of.

With all this hardware, Nvidia is hoping to greatly improve the latency you’re used to experiencing on game streaming services. Nvidia says an RTX 3080 in the cloud should result in less than 60ms of latency at 120fps playing Destiny 2. The company claims it beats the 93ms latency seen with the same game running on an Xbox Series X at 60fps, and the 175ms latency of Xbox Cloud Gaming (xCloud). “Some of our competitors are still on their first generations, they’re still streaming close to 200ms of latency, which still feels pretty laggy,” says Eisler.

Some titles, like CS:GO and Apex Legends are even faster, with Nvidia claiming below 50ms for CS:GO on its cloud RTX 3080 solution. To hit such impressive numbers, Nvidia is using its new Adaptive Sync technology to keep things smooth. It’s essentially the result of Nvidia’s work on G-Sync and Reflex to reduce latency in PC gaming, and put simply it’s the opposite of G-Sync. Nvidia is varying the game rendering to match a synchronous monitor, which allows it to sync streamed games to any 60Hz or 120Hz monitor.

Nvidia claims its RTX 3080 in the cloud can even beat an Xbox Series X.
Image: Nvidia

On the server side, Nvidia uses its Adaptive Sync technology in the form of a driver that sits between the CPU and GPU to pace a game engine to sync with your local display refresh rate. It should reduce stutter by eliminating dropped and repeated frames, and on the server side it’s also eliminating some buffering between the CPU and GPU which should reduce latency overall.

“The result is a perfectly smooth and synchronous cloud gaming stream, that’s the smoothest we’ve ever seen, as well as lower latency,” explains Eisler. “So really, I think a great technology to make it feel like you’re playing on a local computer.”

Pricing options for GeForce Now.
Image: Nvidia

Ultimately, latency will depend on how far away you’re playing from Nvidia’s data centers. The company has 30 data centers worldwide, covering 80 countries in total. Four new data centers are opening in the Southern Hemisphere, with one in Singapore, two in Australia, and a first data center in Brazil. You’ll also need a 35Mbps connection for 1440p at 120fps and a 40Mbps connection for 4K HDR on GeForce Now.

We’ll be testing Nvidia’s RTX 3080 tier soon to see whether the latency claims hold up against game consoles, PC gaming rigs, and even services like Google Stadia and Xbox Cloud Gaming.

Alongside these data center upgrades, Nvidia is also rolling out a new GeForce Now client today. It includes beta support for the Microsoft Edge browser, which should also allow Xbox owners to stream PC games to their consoles through Edge. The update also includes Nvidia’s new Adaptive Sync technology, which will improve latency even for GeForce Now members who don’t opt for the new RTX 3080 tier.

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