Streaming media

NVIDIA GameStream vs. GeForce Now: What’s the Difference?

When it comes to PC gaming, NVIDIA arguably rules the roost. And in recent years, the company has gone to great lengths to take its gaming presence to the next level with services like GameStream and GeForce Now. The thing is, these services can be kind of confusing for new users, especially when you’re trying to figure out which one best fits your needs.

Before we get into what makes them different, however, let’s take at where they share common ground.

  • Both services stream games to the device in front of you, so it isn’t carrying the heavy resource load.
  • Both services require NVIDIA SHIELD devices.
  • Both services need a 5GHz Wi-Fi router.

That’s about it. Each service has its own set of requirements, too, but we’ll get into that down below.

What Is NVIDIA GameStream?

If you’re a PC gamer with a large collection of games, GameStream is probably the service you’re after. Basically, this allows you to stream your games from a PC to a SHIELD device—be it SHIELD Portable, SHIELD Tablet, or SHIELD TV. That way, your gaming PC is doing all the heavy lifting, but you can play your games on a handheld device or on your TV, even if you’re away from home.

Of course, it’s not entirely that simple, either—you’ll also need a GameStream-compatible GeForce GTX graphics card in the PC doing all the work. Those include:

  • GeForce GTX 1000 series
  • NVIDIA TITAN X
  • GeForce GTX 900 series
  • GeForce GTX 700 series
  • GeForce GTX 600 series
  • GeForce GTX 900M series
  • GeForce GTX 800M series
  • GeForce GTX 700M series

Otherwise, you’ll just need enough horsepower in your PC to push the game, but the odds are you’ve already got that covered if you have a large catalog of games to choose from. The quickest way to know if you meet all the criteria is to install NVIDIA’s GeForce Experience—it’ll let you know if your PC is ready or not. The main thing you’ll want to make sure you have outside of a good gaming PC is a good network—while a 5GHz router is required for streaming over Wi-Fi, ethernet is always going to be a better choice. That’s really only practical if you’re streaming to SHIELD Android TV, though.

How to Use Ethernet with Your Chromecast for Fast and Reliable Streaming

The Chromecast is a pretty awesome little streaming device, but if you have cruddy Wi-Fi (or no Wi-Fi at all), you’re going to have a really bad experience. Thankfully, it’s trivially easy to add Ethernet support to the otherwise wireless Chromecast and improve the speed and reliability of the Chromecast’s connection in the process.

If you’re having trouble with your Chromecast, you can always work your way through our Chromecast troubleshooting guide to rule out (and potentially fix) a variety of problems. But if you experience poor network connectivity and stuttering video, there’s a good chance the culprit is your Wi-Fi. While you could always upgrade your wireless router in the hope that cranking up the juice fixes your issue, there’s a much cheaper solution that cuts Wi-Fi right out of the equation altogether—you can hook your Chromecast directly to your wired network for superior speed…

Which Roku Should I Buy? Express vs. Stick vs. Premier vs. Ultra

So you’ve decided you want a Roku, but there are so many choices. There are currently six different models (not including full TVs with Roku built-in), and it’s not at all clear what the difference between them is. Which one do you want?

Well, to start, there are no bad choices: every Roku device can stream Netflix, Hulu, and thousands of other channels in full HD, not to mention some great free video channels. It’s when you get to other options, like 4K streaming and wired connectivity, that the models differ.

Here’s a very quick summary of the various devices currently offered by Roku:

  • Roku Express, $30. This is the cheapest option, and probably good enough for most users.
  • Roku Express+, $40. This is identical to the Express, but comes with an A/V cable for use with older TVs that don’t have an HDMI port.
  • Roku Streaming Stick, $50. This is Roku in an HDMI stick form factor with a quad core processor.
  • Roku Premier, $80. This is the cheapest Roku you can get that supports 4K output.
  • Roku Premier+, $100. The Premier+ Roku’s remote contains a headphone jack for private listening. It’s the cheapest Roku with an ethernet port.
  • Roku Ultra, $130. This is the only current Roku with a USB port for external hard drives. It also offers voice search via the remote, and optical digital audio output.

That’s just a quick overview. Let’s dive into the complete Roku lineup, starting with the Roku Express and working our way up the price scale. More expensive options (almost) always include every feature offered by the cheaper models, so I’ll only be listing the new features as I work my way up the chain. Our advice: buy the cheapest model with all the features you care about.

The $30 Roku Express: the Cheapest Option

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This is it: the most affordable streaming device on the market. If you just want to watch the services you’re already paying for, and aren’t concerned with specs, this is the model for you. Here’s a quick roundup of the features offered:

  • Support for full HD video: 1920 by 1080 pixels (1080p)
  • Connects via HDMI
  • Dolby Audio via HDMI
  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless connectivity (no MIMO)
  • Voice search and private listening using the Roku mobile app (but not using the remote.)
  • Cast videos from YouTube on your phone.

It’s barebones, but it works. If this is all you want, there’s absolutely no reason to pay anything more than $30, which (not coincidentally) is $5 cheaper than a Chromecast.

For $10, more you can get the Express+, which works with older televisions thanks to an included A/V cable. The Express+ is otherwise identical to the Express.

The $50 Roku Streaming Stick: More Power for a Little More Money

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It’s easy to confuse the Roku Streaming…

What Is PlayStation Vue, and Can It Replace Your Cable Subscription?

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Getting away from traditional TV service is becoming more and more popular, with streaming TV services leading the charge. Today we’re going to take a closer look at Sony’s take on TV streaming: PlayStation Vue.

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What Is PlayStation Vue?

PlayStation Vue is Sony’s take on traditional TV. It streams live TV over the internet, with most of your favorite cable and network channels along for the ride.

Despite its namesake, PlayStation Vue isn’t just available on PlayStation devices—there are also apps available for Android, Android TV, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, and Chromecast. It also works in the browser, though the experience is pretty watered down compared to the full application experience. Either way, even if you don’t have a PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, or PlayStation 4 Pro, you can still benefit from PlayStation Vue. Good move, Sony.

When you sign up for Vue, you’ll have to select your home location. That’s probably the biggest thing worth noting about Vue: some channels are geo-restricted. I’m going to assume these are local channels, but restricted channels will only work when you’re inside of the Home Location that you set when you sign up for service. You can modify your home location if you move, but you can only do so once. Otherwise your account may be blocked from service. It’s really kind of bizarre, and something I’ve never experienced with other streaming services. That said, it does make sense—they don’t want you living in Dallas but getting access to Chicago’s local channels.

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Otherwise, Vue is straightforward. It offers an absolute ton of channels, along with what I feel is a pretty aggressive pricing model. It’s broken down like more of a traditional TV service with its packages, not a more à la carte structure like some other services offer. Here’s a quick breakdown of what you’ll get with each package:

  • Access, $39.99/Month: This is the entry-level package, which offers 45+ channels including ESPN, Fox, Disney, and more. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $39.99 a month, with a normal price of $49.99 a month.
  • Core, $45.99/Month: All of the channels included in Access, plus access to regional and national sports channels, for a total of 60+. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $45.99 a month, with a normal price of $55.99 a month.
  • Elite, $54.99/Month: All Core and Access channels, plus more sports, movies, and entertainment channels, for a total of 90+. At the time of writing, this package is on sale for $54.99 a month, with a normal price of $64.99 a month. This is the service I used for testing.
  • Ultra, $74.99/Month: All the channels from Elite, plus HBO and Showtime.

If you’re looking for a bit more from your plan, there are also a handful of add-ons that you can tack onto any plan:

  • Showtime: $10.99/Month.
  • HBO: $15.00/Month.
  • Epix Hits: $3.99/Month. Included in Ultra.
  • Premium Pack (Showtime + Epix): $13.99/Month.
  • Cinemax: $15.99/Month.