The future of PC-slash-console-slash-mobile is here. Game streaming technology has definitely matured well over the years, and now with the availability of free, open-source game streaming software, it just keeps getting better.
Moonlight Game Streaming
Moonlight allows you to stream your collection of games from your PC to another device.
Moonlight (formerly “Limelight”) is an open-source implementation of NVIDIA’s GameStream protocol (as used by the NVIDIA Shield).
The Moonlight client allows you to stream your collection of games from your GameStream-compatible PC to any supported device and play them remotely.
It’s gaming on-the-go with the graphics quality and processing power of your gaming computer.
Note: If you’re not using a compatible GeForce GTX GPU, I’m listing Moonlight alternatives at the end of this post.
How it works
In the demo video, I was playing the PC game “Moon Hunters” on an Android phone while using an Xbox 360 wireless controller that’s connected to my Desktop PC via receiver.
The game is installed and running on the PC. It’s just being served/streamed to the Android device through an app via WiFi (same local network as the desktop PC which is connected via ethernet cable).
Gaming Performance & Quality
The quality and performance has exceeded my expectations. A lot.
The thing is that I tried to cast a PC game to our living room TV via Chromecast before and the input lag was nowhere playable (maybe unless you’re playing board games or anything that doesn’t require instantaneous reactions). Horrible experience.
With Moonlight, the network latency was so low it feels like you’re playing directly on your PC. Okay, maybe there was a bit of lag but it’s really negligible unless you were playing competitive shooters perhaps or games that require super quick reactions.
The graphics quality? Indisputable. It looks as it would on your PC monitor, and would just depend on how good your mobile device’s screen is.
For reference, here are the hardware details as used in the video:
OS: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Proc: Intel Core i5 4460 @ 3.20GHz
RAM: 8 GB DDR3
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960
Display: 1366 x 768
Model Name: Cherry Mobile Flare S4
OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop
Proc: 1.3GHz MediaTek MT6753 octa-core
RAM: 2 GB
Display: 1280 x 720
Can this be a NVIDIA Shield replacement?
I think no, not at the moment. Moonlight just provides part of what the Shield can give. If you’re still undecided about buying a Shield though, give this setup a run and see if handheld gaming your thing.
Maybe a contender to the PC-to-TV gaming hardware Steam Link?
It could be, but not as good. You could connect your HDMI-capable mobile device to your TV. The Steam Link though supports wired 100 Mbit/s fast ethernet so unless your device is similarly specced, nothing beats that at the moment.
These are ones that I’ve also tried before settling with Moonlight (mostly due to performance and ease of use):
It’s also free, at least for now. Supports only Android devices as of this writing though coming soon for iOS.
Controls are overlayed on the screen but somehow I wasn’t able to figure out how to disable/remove that as well as allow me to use my Xbox 360 controller. Give it a shot if you’re not into using an external/separate controller.
Easiest one to setup and has the most user-friendly UI. Also free and performs almost on par with Moonlight but with a 30-fps cap (still fairly playable) unless you’re willing to pay for the Pro features which includes the removal of the fps cap, among other unlocked options.
I haven’t tested any of the following at all but they were tagged as alternatives to Moonlight by some in online forums/discussions:
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