GeForce Now, aka 'a dirt-cheap $200 laptop can now play games'

PUBG, Rainbow Six: Siege and more -- these laptops couldn't possibly run these games. Until they could.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read

Even the lowly HP Stream can become a gaming machine.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is a $200 laptop. The HP Stream, to be exact. And take our word for it -- this computer's lowly Intel Celeron processor couldn't possibly play most modern video games . There's no discrete graphics chip, and barely enough storage (generally 32GB) to install a single title.

But watch this:

What you just witnessed was the magic of playing a game through the internet. 

Today at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, Nvidia launched its GeForce Now game streaming service in beta for Windows PCs in North America and Europe, following a beta for Macs last year. (It'll become a paid service eventually, but for now it's free on an waitlist basis.) 

Windows is kind of a bigger deal. While it's awesome that Macs without access to Windows games could play them, your typical Mac costs north of $1,000. It bears repeating: This is a $200 laptop. 

To be fair, the game didn't look gorgeous -- mostly because the laptop's low-res 1,366x768-pixel screen isn't great -- but it was definitely very playable. And Nvidia's also launching a new feature that makes things even smoother: In games that support it, like Fortnite, you'll be able to stream at up to 120 frames per second. (It isn't locked at 120fps; I saw a game drop to 60 or 90fps on occasion.)


Nvidia had two $400 Acer Swift laptops side by side -- one of them running PUBG off a drive, and one of them from the cloud. The GeForce Now cloud game looked great and played beautifully; the locally installed one was hot garbage.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The most important feature of GeForce Now, though, is probably still what Nvidia revealed at CES last year: You can install your own games from Steam, Blizzard's Battle.net or (new for 2018) Ubisoft's UPlay, and carry over your savegames (!).

Here's a list of supported games. You might be happy to know PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is among them -- and here at CES, it played better than it does on my gaming PC at home, and way the heck better than it does on Xbox. Admittedly, Nvidia probably has a pretty killer internet connection at the show. 

Speaking of that, you'll need a 25Mbps internet connection or better (Nvidia recommends 50Mbps if possible) to take full advantage of the service. We'll give it a try when we get home from Las Vegas. Here's the company's FAQ.

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