Hi all! Today I suggest you take a quick leap into the future with the Shadow test, the PC… without PC!
What is a Shadow?
Shadow is a product of the French company Blade , created in 2015 with the objective of creating the PC of the future. To put it simply, Shadow is a PC in the Cloud. Your good old central unit is replaced by a box which acts as an interface between you and the Cloud (if you used your central unit as auxiliary heating, you can always keep it in a corner of the room).
Once connected to the interface, you have access to a PC similar to a conventional PC : you have your Windows session, your hard drive and all the software you may have installed. All processing is done remotely , in Shadow servers, and the processed image is sent back to you as a video stream. Basically, the box is simply used to send the mouse / keyboard data and to decode the return video stream (compressed in HEVC format, for the most geek of you!).
The Shadow case has a pretty attractive design , as you can see below. It includes a series of classic connectors for recording user inputs (four USB 2 & 3.0 sockets, one headphone jack) and for reproducing the return flow (two screen outputs, one audio output). The box also has an RJ45 socket to connect it directly to your box (recommended).
I’m talking about the case but it is also possible to use two other types of interface :
A traditional PC , which does the same job as the case. All inputs are sent to the Shadow servers and the processed image returns to your screen, in video streaming. Do you need a physical PC to access a virtual PC? You are not totally wrong! But in the end, you can give a second life to a slightly lagging PC. You will have a war PC hidden in a carcass barely ready to launch Windows 95 (at least, we will not steal your PC…).
A phone ! Yes a phone! You can access your session using the Shadow application, available on the Playstore or the Appstore. Add a Playstation / Xbox controller and you’re ready to play! You can also connect the whole to a TV without great difficulty. A simple 4G connection is enough to obtain a fluid rendering.
Note that the PC belongs to you. Most of the components are not shared with other users (graphics card, hard drive, etc.). Only the CPU and the RAM are shared so as to distribute the costs and offer an affordable price (we’ll talk about it soon, I promise).
So it’s nice to have a remote PC, but what is it worth? Well you will not be disappointed. Each Shadow PC has 1GB of RAM, a dedicated 500MB graphics card and 50GB of storage! No, I’m kidding … You will have:
- From an Intel processor equivalent to a Core i7.
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card
- On the hard drive SSD 256GB
- Windows 10 license
- In connection Internet 1Gb / s
As you can see, the configuration is very correct. It roughly corresponds to a high-end PC worth € 1,500. In addition, the components are replaced regularly when new graphics cards, processors etc … enter the market, at no additional cost to the user. It remains to be seen how long the Shadow team will take before replacing a particular component…
I tried Shadow for gaming and video editing for a month and tested several configurations.
The first and most classic: the Shadow box, connected directly to a screen. And there it was the slap. Absolutely no discomfort in latency, the games run very well even after the graphics pushed to the max. The video editing is ultra reactive, the rendering of the films is done in a flash. The image is clear and the experience without a hitch. Note that the box was connected to a fiber box via an RJ45 cable. Finally, the only limitation came from the hard drive, 256GB being just for Gaming (some games are close to a hundred GB). For video editing it is insufficient.If you try to edit 4K rushes, the disc will not even be able to store the pre-rendered cache memory… too bad. That said, customer service assured me that the configurations would soon be revised upwards to include a higher capacity hard drive (500GB would be a minimum …).
The second configuration: an office laptop, connected to a VDSL box (30MB / s down, 5MB / s up) via wifi or RJ45, depending on our mood. The balance sheet? A more mixed experience in Wifi with some impurities on the image , some bugs at the level of the inputs (some letters went through the door during seizures). Once connected by cable, the experience was immediately smoother, with fewer bugs and better image quality. Some slowdowns / latencies still occurred from time to time, making the experience a little frustrating.
In the end, the second configuration was borderline, 30MB / s being the minimum speed in my opinion. Therefore, we would recommend that you head for this technology only if you have a good fiber connection. Fortunately, I believe that this is the case for many of us
The prices are decreasing according to the duration of engagement desired. Count 30 € per month for a one-year commitment, 35 € for a quarter and 45 € without commitment. Add 120 € for the box if you want to use it. You can also choose to rent it for € 8 per month. We recommend that you take a month without obligation in order to test the technology and then commit for a year if the experience has pleased you. You will lose € 15 but avoid unpleasant surprises!
For one year, your PC will therefore cost you 360 € or 480 € including the price of the purchase of the case. Rather correct for a PC worth € 1,500… and whose components are replaced over time! Clearly, the price is a no brainer for someone for whom the technology is suitable.
A leap into the future
I can’t resist the idea of dreaming a little with you. Using Shadow for several weeks made me realize how likely this type of technology is going to take hold in our future lives. Our consumption patterns are constantly evolving towards subscriptions allowing access to content or services (Netflix, Spotify, etc.). It is likely that the living room PC will become the next object to reach the shelf of technological curiosities. In the future, we may have only one phone, transforming into an interface connected to a virtual session once connected to a screen. Samsung has taken the first step by offering with its new phones, a docking station allowing them to be connected to a screen, a mouse and an internet box.
Imagine coming home from work in the evening, just put your phone on the docking station and presto! you are connected to an ultra high-end PC, ready to support any application. Of course, it is still quite distant today because many do not have access to a good connection. However, with 5G fast approaching (2020) and the current government having committed to providing a broadband connection to everyone within 2 years, this kind of configuration could democratize faster than expected, and that is so much better!
And for once, the Frenchies have their chance. The United States is lagging behind in terms of its broadband service, they will surely not be the leaders in this market. So why not join the Shadow wave, and help France become a leader in Cloud computing ?!