Getting Started with NVIDIA GeForce Now Ultimate: Enthusiasts’ Choice for Cloud Gaming

This week as the lights go down for good on a major game streaming serviceNVIDIA updates GeForce Now with a bunch of features thanks to the addition of new SuperPODs equipped with RTX 4080 GPUs. And after testing some of the service’s improved capabilities, the addition of expanded support for high refresh rates and ultra-wide resolutions really turns GeForce Now into a truly premium cloud gaming app.

For those who missed the initial announcement Back at CES, GeForce Now’s recently renamed Ultimate plan (formerly the RTX 3080 level) gets a number of new features, including support for refresh rates up to 240Hz at Full HD or 4K at 120fps and an expanded set of usable widescreen resolutions (3840×1600, 3440×1440, and 2560×1080) . On top of that, NVIDIA is also adding better HDR support on Macs and PCs, as well as the ability to use full ray tracing with DLSS3 in supported games. Right away, that elevates GeForce Now above rivals like Xbox Cloud Gaming, which is capped at 1080p/60fps. But in practice, the service’s new features have an even bigger impact as they allow you to get the most out of a wider range of games and gaming setups.

Take my current gaming PC, for example, which centers around an aging RTX 2080 card (GPUs don’t come cheap) and a 4K/120Hz display. In newer AAA games, my graphics card just doesn’t have enough oomph to hit 120fps on higher graphics settings, which means I always have to play around a bit before I get game performance. But with the new resolution support in GeForce Now Ultimate, I can suddenly play a game with all the bells and whistles on while taking full advantage of my monitor’s specs.

With so much happening on screen, you need all the performance you can get.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

This effect was most evident when I played the demo Ghostrunner, which is a fast-paced first-person slasher set in a dystopian future. It’s exactly the kind of game where you need quick reactions to dodge bullets while slicing through your enemies. Unfortunately, at least on my desktop, hitting 120fps I had inferior things like texture settings and anti-aliasing, which meant I couldn’t fully experience the game’s gorgeous cyberpunk aesthetic. But this wasn’t an issue in GeForce Now, where I was able to max out the graphics while hitting 120 fps. And even though I ignored NVIDIA’s instructions and was connected to the internet via Wi-Fi, the gameplay was so crisp and responsive that after just a few minutes I completely forgot I was relying on servers in the cloud instead of the PC next to my feet.

Although I don’t have the equipment at home to properly test it, the addition of NVIDIA’s Competitive Mode toggle in GeForce Now gives you more freedom to achieve very high refresh rates (up to 240 Hz at 1080p) no matter how fast (or slow) your PC might be. And while I could only go up to 120 fps on my monitor while gaming League of Legends and Apex Legends, I only encountered one stutter in several matches, which would be impressive even if I was relying on local hardware, let alone a server hundreds of miles away. And when you take into account that the service also works with the company Reflex technology to reduce latency, the whole experience was incredibly smooth.

Pressing CTRL+N in the GeForce Now app lets you see what type of server is powering your game as well as stats like network information and streaming settings.
Pressing CTRL+N in the GeForce Now app lets you see what type of server is powering your game as well as stats like network information and streaming settings.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now, there are some important caveats. The first is that you need a fast internet connection. NVIDIA’s recommended minimum bandwidth for gaming at 1080p at 240 fps is 35 Mbps. If you’re like me and want to max out at 4K/120fps, you’ll need at least a 45Mbps connection, not to mention the extra overhead to handle anyone else who might be using the internet in your home. It also means that while the idea of ​​gaming in 4K on the road sounds great, you’ll still be at the whim of your hotel or the Airbnb network, which aren’t usually very fast or reliable.

The other main thing to think about is that after the new Ultimate tier goes live today (January 19th), at least initially, the availability of the new SuperPODs might be limited. At launch, the new servers with 4080 GPUs will be located in four locations: San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Frankfurt in Germany. This means that only people in the United States and Central Europe will have access to the Ultimate level of GeForce Now, and even then, if there are too many people online, you may be downgraded to a server still equipped with 3080 cards. (Tip: If you’re using GeForce Now and want to see what hardware your cloud games are running on, you can hit CTRL+N to see stats, including your server type, network specs, and more.)

Even with the addition of RTX 4080 GPU servers, NVIDIA's top-tier Ultimate plan will remain priced the same at $20 per month.


The final hurdle is that at $20 per month compared to $12 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which includes cloud streaming), GeForce Now UItimate is a bit pricey. But as the old saying goes: you get what you pay for. And for an additional $8 a month, NVIDIA’s latest update to its game streaming services offers better performance, more control over your resolution and refresh rate, and support for fancy features like the ray tracing and reflex. Admittedly, it’s a little strange to think about the specs of hardware you don’t actually own, but for people who want their games to look as good as possible no matter what hardware they’re playing, GeForce’s new Ultimate tier Now is positioning itself as the choice of cloud gaming enthusiasts.

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