Word comes from NVIDIA this afternoon that they are rolling out a beta update to their GRID game streaming service. Starting today, the service is adding 1080p60 streaming to its existing 720p60 streaming option, with the option initially going out to members of the SHIELD HUB beta group.

Today’s announcement from NVIDIA comes as the company is ramping up for the launch of the SHIELD Android TV and its accompanying commercial GRID service. The new SHIELD console is scheduled to ship this month, meanwhile the commercialization of the GRID service is expected to take place in June, with the current free GRID service for existing SHIELD portable/tablet users listed as running through June 30th. Given NVIDIA’s ambitions to begin charging for the service, it was only a matter of time until the company began offering the service, especially as the SHIELD Android TV will be hooked up to much larger screens where the limits of 720p would be more easily noticed.

In any case, from a technical perspective NVIDIA has long had the tools necessary to support 1080p streaming – NVIDIA’s video cards already support 1080p60 streaming to SHIELD devices via GameStream – so the big news here is that NVIDIA has finally flipped the switch with their servers and clients. Though given the fact that 1080p is 2.25x as many pixels as 720p, I’m curious whether part of this process has involved NVIDIA adding some faster GRID K520 cards (GK104) to their server clusters, as the lower-end GRID K340 cards (GK107) don’t offer quite the throughput or VRAM one traditionally needs for 1080p at 60fps.

But the truly difficult part of this rollout is on the bandwidth side. With SHIELD 720p streaming already requiring 5-10Mbps of bandwidth and NVIDIA opting for quality over efficiency on the 1080p service, the client bandwidth requirements for the 1080p service are enormous. 1080p GRID will require a 30Mbps connection, with NVIDIA recommending users have a 50Mbps connection to keep from any other network devices compromising the game stream. To put this in perspective, no video streaming service hits 30Mbps, and in fact Blu-Ray itself tops out at 48Mbps for audio + video. NVIDIA in turn needs to run at a fairly high bitrate to make up for the fact that they have to all of this encoding in real-time with low latency (as opposed to highly optimized offline encoding), hence the significant bandwidth requirement. Meanwhile 50Mbps+ service in North America is still fairly rare – these requirements all but limit it to cable and fiber customers – so at least for now only a limited number of people will have the means to take advantage of the higher resolution.

NVIDIA GRID System Requirements
  720p60 1080p60
Minimum Bandwidth 10Mbps 30Mbps
Recommended Bandwidth N/A 50Mbps
Device Any SHIELD, Native Or Console Mode Any SHIELD, Console Mode Only (no 1080p60 to Tablet's screen)

As for the games that support 1080p streaming, most, but not all GRID games support it at this time. NVIDIA’s announcement says that 35 games support 1080p, with this being out of a library of more than 50 games. Meanwhile I’m curious just what kind of graphics settings NVIDIA is using for some of these games. With NVIDIA’s top GRID card being the equivalent of an underclocked GTX 680, older games shouldn’t be an issue, but more cutting edge games almost certainly require tradeoffs to maintain framerates near 60fps. So I don’t imagine NVIDIA is able to run every last game with all of their settings turned up to maximum.

Finally, NVIDIA’s press release also notes that the company has brought additional datacenters online, again presumably in anticipation of the commercial service launch. A Southwest US datacenter is now available, and a datacenter in Central Europe is said to be available later this month. This brings NVIDIA’s total datacenter count up to six: USA Northwest, USA Southwest, USA East Coast, Northern Europe, Central Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Source: NVIDIA

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  • D. Lister - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    If you think about, Nvidia has to basically chose between:

    a) Allowing their code to run in a graphic system which will be shared by a piece of hardware, over which they have no direct or indirect software control, and in case of a recently released hardware, have no understanding of. Doing that adds an unknown variable to their equation. Which means risking at best, system instability and inconsistent performance, and at worst, damage to user's hardware, like VRAM getting damaged, or user's software environment (OS, apps, data) getting damaged. ALL this, plus the ensuing law suites, just for something that ultimately benefits the competition.

    OR,

    b) Disable the cuda code altogether and be done with it.

    Would you chose "a" being in their position?

    You want Nvidia software? Provide a hardware environment which is understood by their software. If you want it on AMD hardware, convince AMD to give full software/hardware access to Nvidia (lol) or at least pay the license fee, so there is a financial incentive for Nvidia to work for them.
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    "a" was literally the state of affairs before they locked out hybrid physx. Incidentally, your misunderstanding aside, that wasn't listed as supported and wasn't actually supported, thus it was done at the user's risk. But that meant that users could get physx without spending their entire graphics budget on nv cards, and nv can't have that, so they claimed they couldn't support something that could exist just fine unsupported and locked it out of their drivers. Reply
  • yannigr2 - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    BS. PhysX runs on GeForce cards not on Radeon cards whatever configuration you have in your system. It is proven many times with the use of a patch that PhysX CAN RUN PERFECTLY FINE on secondary Nvidia cards, while having a primary AMD card. NO ONE asks PhysX to run on AMD cards.

    Let me tell ask you something. If Seagate's hard disk drives where dropping at IDE 33 mode if a Western Digital drive was detected to be the boot drive, would you do all this effort to justify Seagate's decision? I bet you wouldn't.
    Reply
  • close - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    It's a "you can use what you paid for ONLY if we're exclusive" kind of deal. Imagine Mercedes turning off your navigation or disabling 2 cylinders because you also own a BMW. Reply
  • D. Lister - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    I am sorry but your analogy is far from apt. Mercedes (since you brought them up) has its own IPs. One such is called "4Matic all-wheel-drive system"...

    http://www.mercedes-benz.ca/content/canada/mpc/mpc...

    ... which according to them, provides optimal traction, plus a number of other benefits, ultimately making driving safer. Now if only Merc made that particular IP available to smaller companies, a lot more lives could potentially be saved, with safer cars. Why wouldn't the govt. interfere and make Merc give that "value added feature" away?

    That's the thing with humanity you see. The govt. essentially lets those people die because it knows that without the incentive of a big payoff, big investment in R&D would plummet, which means that technological development would come to a crawl and the country would be left behind in the tech race. Like it or not, IP laws are a byproduct of capitalism, and aren't going anywhere anytime soon, and companies are going to continue to be willing to fight tooth and nail over them.
    Reply
  • yannigr2 - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    No one asks Nvidia to make PhysX run on AMD GPUs or give PhysX on AMD. What part of the phrase you don't understand? Reply
  • D. Lister - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    @close

    You car analogy suggests that if you place a system with an Nvidia gpu next to another system with an AMD gpu, then the Nvidia gpu would turn off some cores. Which is not the case. Vehicles are complete systems, not componants like GPUs.

    The proper comparison would be someone wanting to run a BMW's system software on a Merc, and the Merc's system responding with "unknown software, cannot execute". Go ahead and ask BMW to do that for you, because you prefer their software over Merc's. I wager their response would boil down to something like, "please buy a BMW vehicle, if you want the BMW software."
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    No, the entire point is that you have nvidia code and an nvidia card to execute it on but you can't because there's also an AMD card in there even though the AMD card is totally irrelevant to the execution of the nvidia code. You can do this on a system with an nvidia card and an older nvidia card just fine, where you just use the weaker card for physx no problem. But suddenly if you change the main card to an AMD card without changing the card the physx code was executed on, you can't execute the physx code.

    Nvidia is trying their hardest to replace pc gaming with nvidia gaming, and that's not a good thing.
    Reply
  • D. Lister - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    @xthetenth

    Nvidia is trying their hardest to replace pc gaming with nvidia gaming, and that's not a good thing.

    Good or bad, PC gaming appears to be changing into "Nvidia gaming" because instead of fighting for their primary products, AMD chose to invest on consoles, and got left behind where it really mattered.
    Reply
  • xthetenth - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    I agree, AMD really needed to put more effort into marketing. Reply

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