Product Name: Shadow Box + Shadow Subscription
Product Type: Streaming Device
Cost at Time of Review: £109.95 (Shadow Box) + £26.95/month (Subscription)
Works With: Any HDMI Display and/or Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS (coming soon)
Release Date: Out Now!
Now, what Blade is advertising here, is a PC that streams to any of your devices. This PC that Blade has, being anywhere in the world right now, is an equivalent to a GTX 1080 and an i7 playing games and streaming to you. Yep, a 1080 and i7. Blade also state that each PC is dedicated to you. You don’t share this PC as long as you have an active subscription, meaning no hardware sharing, getting the full potential. This is an incredible feat, to say the least, and may even be a lot cheaper alternative if you are unable to afford a 1080 i7 build.
When you first boot up the Shadow you will need an ethernet. It’s not a wireless connection setup but at least you’re going to get the best connection there is while you are streaming your games. First thing I noticed was everything was in French, this could just be the French model or they all come in French being a French start-up company, however, it was easy enough changed from the login menu. No need to try and understand French to navigate a settings menu to change it, easy enough done, but I hope they do change this per region.
Essentially, the Shadow box isn’t made just for gaming (although that’s what Blade are focusing on right now). A lot of people looking at Shadow, and I originally was mistaken, that it’s primarily a streamer for games. Just like the Nvidia Shield is with its subscription-based service, Nvidia NOW. It’s completely different. The way the Shadow box works is like a hub for an actual PC. Your PC being somewhere else in the world, probably the closest server hub to your country, and is actually streamed from that PC to this Shadow box. It’s more like a long distance Steam Link but with Windows 10 and not SteamOS. You’re streaming a PC to the Shadow box (or other device), you can have an Android device with a connection to boot up a fully loaded Windows 10. Same goes for a Mac device or even iOS (coming later on). All you need is an active subscription to do this. Which means is that you can go and use Windows 10 on any device and do what you need to do, whether this is photoshopping an image, you can do that, or if you want to edit a movie you were making, you can do that also. It’s your own portable PC without the need for a laptop, just a virtual subscription.
In the box it comes with, it’s very simple and rather nice packaging and that’s all you need. You get the box itself which isn’t big and is very light. You get 2 power cables, EU and UK. You also get a Display Port to HDMI cable. Now I like that they have done this. Not everyone has a PC monitor with a display port and if you’re going to use this on a TV, I don’t recall any TV with a Display Port so they’re compensating with a unique cable to use for everyone with HDMI being the normality now and Display Port still being the best.
The box itself isn’t terrible looking but it seems to hard to look like something from the future while trying to be the future of gaming, on the other hand, it is very compact. No waste materials used, keeping everything clean and no space wasted. You have a foam insert to hold the box in place. Removing this will reveal the cables necessary. That is pretty much it. That’s all you’re going to need to use the Shadow box other than an ethernet cable or wireless USB adapter.
There are 4 USBs in total. 2 on the front, 2 on the back. The 2 on the front are USB 2.0 and the 2 on the back is for USB 3.0, so choose wisely! It also has 2 3.5mm audio jacks for Mic and Speaker. These, funnily enough, are both situated on the front of the box and not the back. I guess it’s better for a headset, but for speakers? Maybe there is more to it in the design feature but I would prefer to hide my cables away at the back, just a niche of mine but still bugs me. There are also 2 display ports so if you wanted to use 2 monitors or TVs (for some reason), you have it right here. Nice idea and not just focusing on one TV to work with it.
One problem I have with the Shadow box. Which way does it stand?! There are so many sides I cannot tell which way it is meant to stand. I’m sure all sides are fine but it’s so crazy looking that I just don’t know the proper way or the way I prefer it.
Once everything was set up the first thing to do was test games on it. It was like setting up your first Windows install so it carried my OneDrive over and pretty much was immediately there for me. You have your very own PC from halfway across the world streaming to your device. I installed Chrome, as you do, and then Steam and went to download a simple game at first, nothing graphically thirsty and shouldn’t be too bad to stream it to the Shadow Box, so I download Devil May Cry 3. Small, nothing bad and a good starting point. After checking the download queue the game was downloading at 80MB/s. Not MegaBits, MegaBytes. I don’t have a terrible connection either. I actually have 80Mb/s but that should only be a download speed of 10MB/s if I was getting the full whack which you wouldn’t. I was actually getting 640Mb/s on the Shadow Box. That is where it shines hugely and impressed me massively. The way it works is, you’re not downloading your game to your Shadow Box but it’s downloading it to the PC on the other side of the planet before it streams to you. That PC is actually getting 1Gb/s so it doesn’t even actually have to use your own broadband to download the game. Essentially all you’re using your broadband for is to send signals to the PC to tell it what to do with the broadband service over there. Amazing. Another reason why it stands out from other streaming services.
While that was downloading (which only took 4 minutes to download the full game) I went searching into the Shadow settings to see what there was to change around and mess around with to optimize it better. There isn’t a lot, to be honest however one major factor that you can change is the bandwidth. This is a sight for sore eyes. You can change how much bandwidth the Shadow uses. The bandwidth moves up in 5 intervals so 15Mb/s>20Mb/s>25Mb/s, you get the idea. But this is great if you have other members in the house. You know how it goes, “Dad the broadband is running slow, I can’t play Fortnite!”. All you need to do is turn it down and allow space for others to use the broadband. As simple as that. If you have the house to yourself and you don’t need any broadband spare, turn it up to the max and stream with its full potential. You also have the option of changing to Auto bandwidth. It is still currently in beta but this option allows for optimal bandwidth. So if the game is more demanding than expected, it will change to allow that space. I did use it, and couldn’t see much of a difference when playing a game. I did have my bandwidth set at 40Mb/s so it was more than likely more than enough anyway.
Moving on over, there are video settings. These aren’t your standard video settings for a Windows 10 PC which you can access these as normal. But the options here are Alternative color rendering, this is used if your screen doesn’t look normal compared to a standard PC. Now, I had to turn this on. The problem here is, every TV we have here out of all 5 of them, they’re all OLED so I cannot confirm if it is a TV issue or a Shadow issue. I did try it on a 1080p monitor and that seemed fine so I’m assuming it is the TV but on all 4? Seems a little questionable. However, turning this on did help to keep it as accurate as possible. There is also something called ‘Shadow Mode’. This, I believe, is just a bit of fun. It dulls everything to black and white but with hints of red everywhere, which is Blades main design and colour scheme.
Lastly, you have your mouse sensitivity. I had to use this and set it to 13. I believe if you’re going to be using a TV for the Shadow, you’re going to need to change this. There seems to be a slight delay on the mouse. This could be a streaming issue or a TV issue but it is going to be needed. A handy option for sure.
As you already know, the games download extremely quick. Playing them, on the other hand, is something else. I played DMC3 first. It took a while to load up the game. The game is downloaded from Steam, you know the message that appears that says loading game? It was on that screen for a good 3-4 minutes before I could launch the game. After discussion with Shadow about this, the more you play the more it gets faster. The reason being is the game cache is activating and after more use of it, doing its thing, it will begin to load as normal. When it ran, however, the game wasn’t heavily demanding so expected it to run smoothly. It did just that. I got a fair way into the game without any major issues. Some little hiccups like a screen jutter for all of a split second and didn’t really spoil the game. The graphics were good, sound quality was just as good. It was like playing a genuine PC there and then.
I downloaded PUBG, we know what this game is like. It definitely has come a long way since launch, a few issues here and there but nothing bad so I decided lets put it to the test and see how we get on. Again, loading the game takes a while 3-4 before you can launch it, but once it has launched, away you go. I found no issues with PUBG what-so-ever. Same as DMC3 was, a bit of jutter, a bit more frequently but nothing that you wouldn’t expect from a game of such demand even on a PC. Even then, I was beginning to think this is the game and not the actual subscription but I’m sure it was a bit of both. But for a streaming box? The game ran extremely well. The subscription also allows for 4K gaming, which I did test out but there was lag. Turn down the graphics settings, keeping it on 4K did make it run better, so it was just 4K being at its max with modern tech.
After 10-15 hours of testing the Shadow box and subscription out, I definitely think Blade is onto something here. Very minor issues pursued when trying out the games. Testing out both offline and online games, putting it through its paces, there was very little I could complain about. I definitely spent the hours playing heavily and it felt like a PC. No doubt about it. I could do everything I could do on a Windows 10 PC with minor hiccups. If Blade can market this really well, I don’t think it can replace the home PC but if you’re out and about, let’s say you’re in a hotel for a week or 2 on business and feel like you’re going to miss out on precious game time, this is it. It’s gaming on the go. You will have to take into account a good broadband connection is needed but if you have a 4G phone that you can tether or hotel broadband or whichever to get a good connection you can definitely play it without any major issues and still get in that precious game time. You could even take the Shadow box with you it’s that small and light it won’t take up much room at all. I will be using it when I’m staying places or even if I have friends around and we want to have an online game or something and we can now have 2 PC’s here. There are a few gripes with it though. Like the style of the box, I’m not too keen on, I guess it’s trying to be the future by looking like the future, but I think it doesn’t need all those sides. The red LED is beautiful, however. The screen also when streaming isn’t 100% accurate, quite washed out with the colours and quite dark as well. However, I think Blade is definitely onto something here and if they can perfect it all, it’s definitely something that can be the future. Well done Blade, you definitely surprised me with the potential of streaming again.
If you’re interesting in the Shadow Box and/or the Shadow Subscription you can check it out here. Full insight into what the Shadow Box & Subscription is all about. Definitely worth a look.