Shadow Ghost full review
Gaming on a PC is arguably the best way to enjoy games; depending on the hardware, PC games usually run at higher frame rates and resolutions and boast higher-quality textures than console counterparts. The issue is that, traditionally, gaming PCs are very expensive, with some of the most powerful gaming PCs on the market costing well over £1000/$1000 – not affordable for the average gamer.
But thanks to advances in cloud technology and internet infrastructure, a new kind of gaming experience is emerging; cloud-based gaming. The highlight is that you don’t have to slam down hundreds to get access to a high-end gaming rig – instead you can buy a budget-friendly box (called the Shadow Ghost) and pay a monthly subscription to play your favourite PC games.
Intrigued? You should be, because the Shadow Ghost (and Shadow streaming service in general) has the potential to change the way that we game. Find out why in our Shadow Ghost review.
Pricing and availability
Unlike with a traditional gaming PC, there’s not just an up-front cost for the Shadow Ghost – you’ll have to pay for the Shadow Ghost, and then pay for the monthly cloud gaming PC subscription. The Shadow Ghost costs £109.95 in the UK and $139.95 in the US, and then either £26.95/$29.95pcm with a 12-month contract or £29.95/$34.95pcm on a rolling contract. If you’re interested, simply head over to the Shadow website to find out more.
That may seem expensive on the surface but compared to a decent gaming PC that can cost upwards of £1000 and will need to be upgraded every few years, the Shadow Ghost is a cheaper and more convenient option for those with high-speed internet connectivity.
You don’t even need the Shadow Ghost if you’ve already got a PC or Mac, as you can download the Windows and Mac app and access your cloud PC that way. There are options available, you just need to figure out which is best for you.
That's a gaming PC?
The main draw of the Shadow Ghost is that it offers the capabilities of a full-blown gaming PC without taking up as much space or using as much energy. And believe us when we say that the Shadow Ghost is impressively small, especially when compared to the unnecessarily large Shadow Box that was launched in 2018. It measures in at 182 x 123 x 50mm and weighs in at only 190g, allowing it to sit snugly on a table or alongside an Apple TV or PS4 as part of a TV setup.
The small dimensions of the Shadow Ghost mean that it’s easy to transport. While it’d be a lot of effort to transport a traditional gaming PC setup, it’s easy enough to throw the Ghost, a wireless keyboard and a mouse in a bag and take it with you wherever you go. That’s the magic of Shadow’s cloud-based service – as long as you’ve got a decent internet connection and a display to plug it in to, you’ll have access to your entire game library from anywhere.
The Shadow Ghost itself is a blend of black and white, offering a triangular textured design on the body and a matte finish on the lid. Even the power button is disguised, giving the Ghost a clean look wherever it lives in your home. It features a red LED on the bottom of the box to indicate when it’s powered on and active, but after a month of using the Ghost, we’d love the option to disable it as it can be distracting when near eye-level.
While we’ve become accustomed to hearing the whir of a gaming PC or console when playing the latest games, that’s not an issue with the Shadow Ghost. As all the processing is handled remotely at one of Shadow’s Data Centres around the world, there’s very little that the box has to do. That lack of local processing means that the Ghost has no need for moving parts or a fan to keep itself cool, providing a near-silent gaming setup.
Of course, the lack of local processing has a knock-on effect on power consumption. It takes only 5W of power to bring life to the Shadow Ghost – that’s around 30 times less than a standard gaming PC, and is even three times less than the original Shadow Box. It won’t bring huge savings to your electricity bill, but every little helps right?
Ports upon ports
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true gaming PC replacement without enough ports to plug your accessories into, and the Ghost has you covered there too.
On the rear of the Ghost you’ll find 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm port and an Ethernet port – plenty of space to plug in your keyboard and mouse, and even a controller too. One of the highlights of the Shadow Ghost is that alongside Ethernet, it features Dual-band Wi-Fi with download speeds up to 400Mbps, allowing you to ditch the cable without a noticeable effect on streaming quality – at 1080p, anyway.
The Shadow Ghost supports most if not all peripheral drivers, instead of registering your high-end keyboard and mouse as generic input devices. What does this mean to you at home? You’ll be able to use your peripherals in the exact same way as if you plugged them into a standard gaming PC, allowing you to customise macro settings and more to get the perfect gaming setup.
The wonders of the cloud
That’s the physical box, but the impressive part of the Shadow Ghost (and Shadow’s streaming service in general) is what happens in the cloud. If you hadn’t guessed by now, everything you do is sent over the internet and rendered remotely before being streamed back to you with little-to-no lag – it sounds like an impressive feat and while many cloud services claim to offer a lag-free experience, none come close to the quality of Shadow.
First up, the Shadow Ghost’s HDMI 2.0 support means that you can achieve [email protected] (if you’ve got a 144Hz monitor) or for those that want something a little more high-end, [email protected] We had no issues with streaming gameplay at 1080p both over an Ethernet connection and Wi-Fi, and across online and single-player games.
It’s recommended that you have at least 15Mbps internet download speeds if you want to sign up, but the service also offers a Low Connection mode that should make streaming possible on slow connections.
We did have a few issues when we tried to bump the resolution up to 4K; it was fine while navigating Windows 10, but we struggled to get a consistent 60 frames when playing games like Anthem and Far Cry New Dawn. This is seemingly down to our home internet connection rather than the capabilities of the system, but we’ll be testing it on a faster connection in the coming days to confirm 4K performance.
We suspect that it’s down to our internet connection and not the tech that the cloud gaming service runs on as according to Shadow, it’s the equivalent of a GTX 1080-equipped PC, along with 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage to store your favourite games. That should be capable of running most games with Ultra graphics settings at 1080p and even 4K, depending on how much post-processing the games feature.
While you admittedly don’t get as much storage as a standard PC, the good news is that the Shadow data centres have insanely fast 1Gbps internet connections, allowing you to download entire games in a matter of minutes. We downloaded Anthem (over 50GB) in little over 25 minutes using Shadow, compared to over two hours with our standard home internet connection, with updates taking no more than a few seconds to download and install. It’s not instant, but it’s damn near!
While the Shadow Ghost is one way to access a cloud gaming PC, you don’t need it if you’ve got a PC or Mac – you can download the Shadow app and have the exact same experience without paying upfront for the box.
The app is also handy for those who want to access their cloud PC from work or a friend’s house – just log in with your account and you’ll have instant access. There’s even a Shadow app for iOS and Android with controller support, and although we haven’t tested it out ourselves, it should be possible to stream gameplay to your smartphone or tablet.
Essentially, the Ghost is designed for users that don’t have any PC or Mac to run Shadow on, along with users that want a portable gaming setup and those that want PC-level quality when playing games on TV.
While the price of the Shadow Ghost combined with a monthly subscription will put many off, we think it offers great value. You don’t have to pay out hundreds, if not thousands, for a top-of-the-range gaming PC that you’ll have to upgrade again in two- or three-years’ time – instead, you pay a flat rate and leave the performance upgrades to Shadow.
The GTX 1080 equivalent GPU powering your cloud gaming PC experience is enough to play your favourite games at 1080p and even 4K, and without even a hint of lag or latency issues during gameplay, it offers an experience almost indistinguishable from using a standard gaming PC.
The fact that we used it as our primary system for over two weeks without having to revert to our gaming PC says it all. The Ghost is a combination of impressive hardware and incredible software, and we wouldn’t be surprised if this became the main way for PC gamers to play in years to come.
Shadow Ghost: Specs
- Equivalent to GTX 1080
- 12GB of RAM
- 256GB storage
- Remote 1Gbps downloads
- 15Mbps download speeds required
- HDMI 2.0 port
- dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Gigabit Ethernet
- 2x USB 3.0
- 2x USB 2.0
- 3.5mm port
- 182 x 123 x 50mm