Apple's MacBook Air is known for being sleek and portable -- but not so much for being a hardware powerhouse. Even the latest Air still relies on weak integrated graphics, so it's not exactly the sort of machine you'd expect to run a modern title like The Witcher 3. And yet, that's exactly what I managed to do with NVIDIA's GeForce Now, its game streaming service (recently expanded from the Shield devices) that lets you rent a virtual gaming PC in the cloud.
Being able to play The Witcher 3 on such an underpowered system is intriguing enough, but I was also surprised by how well it ran. I tried as hard as I could to make the game stutter, but even when I moved the mouse around like a madman, there was surprisingly low latency between my movements and what was on screen. I also tried hard to find compression artifacts in the stream, but they simply weren't there. It looked as if I was playing the game in 1080p with "Ultra" quality settings locally, and not streamed from some super-powered server.
I also had the chance to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on an iMac, which uses slightly faster hardware than the MacBook Air, but it's still not fast enough to run high-end PC games. I was also surprised by the low latency in that game, and even on a large monitor there weren't any compression artifacts to be found.
Based on my short demo, GeForce Now seems like the game streaming service many of us have been waiting for. NVIDIA says it's learned quite a bit since its GRID cloud gaming service. Its servers are now powered by Pascal GPUs, and though the company isn't divulging the details of its virtual system hardware, reps say it's the equivalent of a $1,500 gaming PC.
Pricing might become a problem, though: When it launches in March, it will cost $25 for 10 hours of GTX 1080-class gaming (which would be ideal for complex games like The Witcher 3) or 20 hours of GTX 1060-class gaming. That will add up quickly, especially as you dive into large open world games. I could see GeForce Now being a nice secondary solution for gamers who don't get to travel with powerful rigs. And it might even introduce some newcomers into the world of PC gaming. But at its current price, it probably won't become anyone's primary gaming solution.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.