Given the current situation, even the World Health Organization recommended games as one of the possible activities in isolation. It would seem, sit and play. But we all understand that modern 3D games are very demanding and do not work well on systems with weak processors, and without a video card of at least the average level it is better not to approach them at all.
If you do not have a powerful gaming system, the easiest option would be to subscribe to a streaming gaming service that allows you to play modern games even on weak systems, without losing image quality.
First about a freebie
Many companies have similar services, from console manufacturers to mobile operators. Each has its own nuances. I decided to experiment with partner GFN.RU, which differs from the others by official support of NVIDIA. Especially since this game service is free for all users for the entire “quarantine” period. Moreover, no hidden fees or credit card binding is required, just register.
How it works
GFN.RU service allows you to turn even an old laptop into a powerful gaming PC. Like other cloud services, it works like this – on the company’s servers virtual configurations are installed that correspond to the productive gaming computers on which the game is running. A high-quality video stream with a minimum delay in 1080p resolution with a frequency of up to 60 FPS is transmitted from the server to the user via the Internet, and control commands from the gamepad, keyboard and mouse are sent in the opposite direction.
Server GFN.RU based on NVIDIA solutions
Are all old laptops suitable?
GFN.RU system requirements are small. You will need Windows 7 or a newer version, but always 64-bit. In terms of hardware, you need: any dual-core processor with a frequency of 2 GHz or more, 4 GB of RAM, any video card supporting DirectX 11 (NVIDIA GeForce 600 or later, AMD Radeon HD 3000 or later, Intel HD Graphics 2000 or later), and also a keyboard and mouse, preferably with a USB connection.
In addition to Windows devices, Apple computers are also supported. The macOS version must be 10.10 or later. A keyboard and mouse with left and right keys and a wheel are also required. There is also support for smartphones with the operating system Android 5.0 and higher with 2 GB of RAM, but with additional restrictions. In addition to the mouse and keyboard, game controllers are supported: Sony DualShock 4 and Microsoft Xbox One gamepads, as well as other models.
Network Requirements – High Speed Connection Required from 15 Mbit / s. The recommended speed is 50 Mbps. But more importantly, minimal delays. It’s better to use a wired Ethernet connection, and with a wireless connection, it is recommended to use Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz frequency range.
The service supports several hundred games, and their list is constantly expanding. I note that you can only play games purchased in digital stores (the same Steam). And here there is a plus – the system supports cloud saving by synchronizing them with the accounts of digital stores, so by playing, for example, on a laptop in the country, you can easily continue playing at home on a powerful PC.
However, in addition to purchased games, you can play free games – the same World of Tanks.
As in practice
For the game you need to create two accounts: NVIDIA and GFN.RU. They are both needed for the service to work. At the initial setup, it is not always clear where and what login and password to enter, but then everything falls into place.
GFN.RU offers two access options: free and paid. You can pay in several ways, including through us. It’s clear that a free account has limitations. For example, before the start of the game you will be put in the queue, and you will have to wait for the release of server resources. In addition, the time of free sessions is limited to one hour, after which you will be kicked out of the game. In connection with the influx of “self-insulated” you can play freely from morning to 16-17 hours or at night, but in the evenings you have to wait about half an hour.
Service Access Options
Happy owners of premium subscriptions are in standby mode for no more than a minute and can play up to six hours in a row. And in the premium account there is support for ray tracing NVIDIA RTX (more about it here this clip), previously available only to owners of expensive video cards – which can now be tested even on a laptop! True, only in rare compatible games, including Battlefield V, Wolfenstein Youngblood and five others.
After authorization, you need to find all your games by searching in the application. There is no list of supported games on the site. This is not very convenient, but not critical. Anyway, you will play mainly those games that you yourself have purchased before. There is also some confusion with digital distribution services – the Wolfenstein: Youngblood game is on Steam and Bethesda.net, and The Division 2 in Epic Games and Uplay – and you must definitely indicate the platform where the purchase was made.
Library of games in the client GFN.RU
Some time ago, some publishers, including Bethesda, Take Two and Activision Blizzard, decided to abandon the GeForce Now service, and now they can’t play their games in GFN.RU. Some of them have entered into agreements with competing services or plan to launch their own cloud service. NVIDIA continues to negotiate with them, and we can only wait for the news.
After starting the game, the download process follows – the launcher starts first, and sometimes there are delays in entering the game services with it. At the first start, you will have to enter passwords and logins from the platforms (Steam, Uplay, EGS, etc.) where you bought the games. Installing the game in the GFN.RU library occurs instantly, as well as its updating. Driver and digital store updates are also installed automatically.
Connection Quality Test Result
Each time the game starts, the network connection speed is estimated. Based on the results, two warnings may be issued: red – connection parameters do not meet the minimum requirements; yellow – connection parameters meet the minimum requirements, but not recommended. It is better to provide ideal conditions (shake your provider).
The game server is located in Moscow, and the network delay for most places in the European part of Russia should be small. I tried to play from the capital itself, the Moscow region and from a large city 800 km from Moscow – and in the latter case, the delay was only 20 ms, at which it plays perfectly in dynamic 3D shooters.
The traffic consumption per hour approximately corresponds to what the GFN.RU client predicts – it took me about 13-14 GB, which on average gives a stream of 30 Mbit / s. But you can always lower the connection settings if you need to save:
GFN.RU broadcasts a video stream with a resolution of 1920×1080 with a frequency of up to 60 FPS. This is the maximum, and the actual characteristics depend on the quality of the connection and the game. For all games, comfortable graphic settings are selected that provide the best quality with acceptable performance. Although NVIDIA itself does not recommend changing the settings, their choices are not always optimal, and you can set the quality a step or two higher. Unfortunately, in the service it is impossible to measure FPS in games without built-in benchmarks. In the frames I tested, the frame rate was always above 60 FPS, and the user always gets exactly 60 frames per second (unless you set a lower value).
I tested the service using a lightweight 14-inch laptop based on a mid-range Intel Core i5 6200U processor with integrated graphics, 4 GB of memory and a wired network connection. Access to the Internet at a speed of 100 Mbit / s with settings, as in the screenshot, gave a very smooth and stable gameplay in the tested games: Metro Exodus, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Control, World of Tanks and F1 2019. The picture was at least slightly worse than the one which is obtained locally, but overall the quality is very good, if you use a small laptop screen, and acceptable when connected to a 55-inch TV, some disadvantages are better visible on it.
Screenshot from Metro Exodus via GFN
The connection speed can greatly affect the picture when video compression artifacts become visible. Also, the image quality deteriorates in dynamics – with fast movement in the game or sharp turns, which can be seen in the example of two fragments of the frame. In such cases, video compression does worse and the picture is blurred:
A fragment of the frame from The Division 2 with increasing network delays (drop in detail, shadow quality and blurring)
A fragment of the frame from The Division 2 with high-speed connection
But this rarely happens, and in general the sensations from the game are excellent. You won’t set accuracy records in network games: aiming with an aim has become more difficult, but the same headshots are quite real. Games designed for gamepads are generally perfect to play, but first-person shooters are very playable. Only occasionally with an increase in network delays did a warning appear on the screen, but no slowdowns were observed.
For those who want a month to drive some devils in the next new 3D-action, it is not necessary to consider the benefits. Everything is clear here – paying one thousand rubles, you kind of rent a very cool computer and play on it without queues.
But if you play more than once a year, the question is. It is hardly possible to spend less than 50-60 thousand rubles on a modern gaming PC today. The subscription to the game service for 5-6 years will cost the same. In addition, this period is approximately equal to the deadline for the gaming PC. The price of games in both cases will be the same, since they need to be bought separately. As a result, there is no obvious solution. Here, everyone decides for himself.
As a joke, I’ll calculate the cost of electricity. A modern gaming PC is unlikely to consume less than 400-450 Wh, while an old laptop will be more economical by exactly an order of magnitude. If you play 10 hours a week, the difference will be approximately 4-5 kWh. With a conditional price of 5 rubles. ~ 1 rub. runs for 1 kWh per month, which can be regarded as an additional 10% discount on cloud gaming.
In fact, there were no surprises. GFN.RU allows you to safely play modern high-tech games without a powerful computer. The main condition is a stable and fast Internet connection.
The network delays measured by me in different locations indicate that through the service you can successfully play multiplayer shooters from all major cities of the European part of the country. If the connection quality is poor, the picture quality may deteriorate somewhat, but on small laptop screens video compression artifacts are not too noticeable.
Among the other advantages of GFN.RU is the ability to play projects you bought on the Steam, Epic Games Store, Origin, Uplay, GOG services, as well as popular free games, including World of Tanks and League of Legends. Alas, some of the games are not in the library due to difficulties in relations with publishers (Bethesda, Take Two, Activision Blizzard). Among other roughnesses of the service, I note the not the most convenient registration process with two accounts, but I have no other complaints.
– top graphics on the screen of the old laptop
– low price compared to gaming hardware, plus the possibility of a free game
– need a stable connection speed of 30+ Mbps
– making headshots will be a little harder
– you need to register two accounts: on GFN and NVIDIA