Moonlight review; PC game streaming for NVIDIA to almost any device
We are lucky enough to try and buy almost all new tech products(often early then others) for reviews and if you read our previous posts, you are aware that we have in our hands a “lab” computer with 2 NVIDIA 1080 GTX in SLI and you know that this is the real deal for gaming. Since it’s that powerful, game streaming for remote play is now a thing that works really well. Not that any other solutions never worked, but they never had the rendering and horsepower to deliver a nice 60FPS at 720p or 1080p lag-free. Now it’s possible and if you have a powerful enough card like this (1080 or the 1070), this review is for you.
If you are like me, you might have two PS4 in two different rooms or even tried HDMI splitters with HDMI cables running all over the walls just so you can play wherever you want. Recognized yourself here? The problem is the cost or a poor or signal either from HDMI or with your controllers because you are too far away from your TV or one support 5.1 and not the other one. It creates a mess where you ended up unplugging and plugging cables every time. There is now a simple solution that works if you have an NVIDIA 1080 or 1070 (I know it works with older cards, but if you want the best results, sell your card and upgrade). Here is what you need;
- GeForce CARD NVIDIA GTX 1080 or 1070
- GeForce Experience (the latest version as writing this article is 126.96.36.199)
- Steam and couple of games
- The same PC connected via a 1GBIT Ethernet switch
- Moonlight App client for either :
- Windows, MacOS or Linux using a Chrome extension
- Embedded version for the Raspberry Pi (2 or 3 works best)
- Stream Theater inside Sideload VR (Android Gear VR App)
- Ps Vita (with Henkaku)
If you have all of the above, you can play from your tablet, phone, laptop and even on a Raspberry Pi plugged to your TV. There are tons of tutorials online and I will highlight what you need to know to get this working. I’ll also tell you the pros and cons and how to get the best experience. Assuming will choose one Moonlight client from below in the article ;
- Open up “GeForce Experience” and enable game “GameStream” under “shield” section.
- You have to pair your Moonlight client with GeForce Experience. Once you initiate the “Pair” function, you will be prompt to enter a “pin” on your PC.
- Start Moonlight and start streaming
It’s that easy, but you need to know the limitations and the best way to tweak things.
Mobile device (wireless) clients
If you want to use your phone or tablet to stream your PC games, you will need a good wireless access point. I recommend a wireless access point capable of doing AC. N will work if on 5GHZ and with a good signal. The other problem with mobile devices is often the controller pairing, especially for iOS. The fact is that you will probably to Jailbreak your iOS if you want to pair a PS3 or a PS4 controller. I will suggest avoiding iOS devices. Plus, because the way Apple designed joystick support (MFI), you won’t have the “clicking stick” buttons L3/R3 available. It’s sad because the iPad screen quality is great. Avoid the iOS version.
Android tablet/phone, on the other hand, is just a matter of pairing a PS3 or PS4 and they work right off the bat with Moonlight. You won’t have any trouble making 1080p at 60fps (with a good signal) and no drop in packets.
The same is true with a Macbook (MacOS) or Windows laptop using the Google Chrome extension. You can go anywhere between 20mbit to 35mbit and have perfect results. Don’t waste time with an Xbox One controller. You can, but I don’t recommend and if you are reading this, it’s because you want it to work. PS4 controller works right away. The Chrome extension is very easy to setup, but be aware that you won’t be able to just install it like any other app. You will have to allow it manually so Chrome let you use it. I suggest you also install the extension “Chrome Launcher” which make your life easier to launch any app on Chrome.
If you have the Gear VR headset you can download an application called “Sideload VR” which is a repository of many other VR applications, often homemade or made by the community. Inside, you will search to install “Stream Theater” (Moonlight for VR) which will allow you to stream your computer games or movies to your Samsung Sx. We tried it with a Samsung S7 Edge and it’s been flawless. The only downside is the pixels that are annoying. Because your eyes are so close to the screen, you see the pixels, but that’s already better than the Rift or the HTC Vive for pixelization-wise as your phone resolution dpi is better.
Raspberry Pi wired clients
The Raspberry Pi version is neat because for $35 dollars, you plug it somewhere behind another TV in your house and it’s like having the most powerful console in the world. The downside? It works best with 720p with a bitrate of 12000 to 15000(15Mbit) to get a decent 60fps and lag-free control. Raspberry Pi 2 or 3. Don’t try to overclock, you won’t achieve 1080p at full 60fps and the fun won’t be the same. You will get around 45-50fps, sometimes peaking higher, but it’s annoying enough to keep it at 720p. If you do go to 1080p, you will only see a difference if you change the clock of h264_freq=500 in the config.txt file(boots file your Rasbian OS refers for booting settings). Be aware that overclocking can damage your Raspberry or even burn yourself. Don’t forget that if you want to use the Raspberry Pi version, you will have to do some more reading to use command lines and create yourself scripts to automate the whole thing. The best honest, this is the most interesting way and learning this stuff if great. I recommend downloading Retropie(all kind of emulators) and add a section called “Moonlight” with your commands/scripts. Retropie has all the drivers you need to pair a PS3 or a PS4 controller. You can also easily create a mapping file for your Xbox One controller. You can also create a script that will wake up (Wake On Lan) your computer when you want to play.
Over the Internet
You can if you want open ports on your router/firewall and stream your game when you are away from home. I don’t recommend because of the lag with the control. Internally, you are about 1ms to 3ms respond time, which is almost closed to no lag. This is the measure for the latency. The problem won’t be the downstream. Most of us has a 10mbit upload, meaning that if your bitrate is set to 8000, you will be fine, but because of higher respond time (ms), you will experience lag. Especially on a game like “Mario”‘ where your character has to jump obstacles, it’s unplayable. This is the main reason why gaming streaming services are still not ready yet. Not until you have fibers at home and a latency under 5ms with them(Sony/Microsoft/EA..). For the moment, chances are you from 40ms to 70ms when you ping your computer from the Internet, which is not an option for gamers. But again, this article is about having “multiple console relay” in your home so you don’t have to buy two or more of the same entertainment system.
We will give you some links to some tutorials so you have a place to start. To summarize, this is the first lag-free solution that we’ve tried on every single device available for us and the best results are always if you are connected wired. We also got near to perfect results with a Macbook Pro Retina 2012 over wireless on N (450mbps) to give you an idea. We are not saying it won’t work, but never forget that if you play example Doom or Call Of Duty, every millisecond counts.
The big cons would be that streaming with Moonlight/NVIDIA uses H264 and because it’s compressed codecs, the picture might look a bit washed out on big quality TVs. But that’s not a big of a deal if you are not a perfectionist and play example on a tablet. You won’t really notice it.