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The Shadow Ghost turns cloud gaming into a seamless experience – TechCrunch



French startup Blade, the company behind Shadow, is launching a new set-top box to access its cloud gaming service — the Shadow Ghost. I’ve been playing with the device for a couple of weeks and here’s my review.

The Shadow Ghost is a tiny little box that doesn’t do much. The true magic happens in a data center near your home. When you sign up to Shadow, you don’t even have to get a box. You can simply subscribe to the service without any hardware device and use the company’s apps instead.

Shadow is a cloud computing service for gamers. For $35 per month, you can access a gaming PC in a data center and interact with this computer. Right now, Shadow gives you eight threads on an Intel Xeon 2620 processor, an Nvidia Quadro P5000 GPU that performs more or less as well as an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. You can optionally get more storage with an extra subscription. It’s a full Windows 10 instance and you can do whatever you want with it.

Most subscribers now access Shadow using one of the company’s apps on Windows, macOS or Linux. You also can connect to your virtual machine from your iOS or Android phone or tablet. And now, you can buy the Shadow Ghost if you want to use the service on a TV or without a computer.

I first used Shadow during the early days of the service back in early 2017. My first experience of the service felt like magic. Thanks to my high-speed fiber connection, I could play demanding games on a laptop. The best part was that the laptop fan would remain silent.

But it wasn’t perfect. Nvidia driver updates failed sometimes. Or your virtual machine would become completely unaccessible without some help from the customer support team.

In other words, the concept was great, but the service wasn’t there yet.

Things have changed quite drastically after years of iteration on the apps, the streaming engine, the infrastructure and even the GPUs in the data centers. Blade co-founder and CEO Emmanuel Freund told me that the service has been working fine for just a few months.

It’s no surprise that those technical improvements have led to less churn, more referrals and more subscriptions. In July 2018, the startup had 20,000 subscribers. Now there are 65,000 subscribers. There’s even more demand, but the company has had a hard time keeping up with new machines in data centers.

Shadow is currently available in France, the U.K., Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland and parts of the U.S. The company simply can’t accept customers from anywhere in the world because they need to live near a data center with Shadow servers.

Playing with the Shadow Ghost

The original Shadow box was a bit clunky. You could hear the fan, you had to rely on dongles if you wanted to pair a Bluetooth device or connect to a Wi-Fi network and there was no HDMI port — only DisplayPort. Internally, Blade has been debating whether the company needs another box.

In 2017, it was too hard to explain the product without some sort of physical device — you can replace a PC tower with a tiny box. But now that gamers understand the benefits of cloud gaming, there’s no reason to force you to buy a box.

And yet, the Shadow Ghost can be a useful little device in some cases. For instance, while the company has released an Android TV app and is testing a new app for the Apple TV, your current TV setup might not be compatible with Shadow. Or maybe you primarily use a laptop and you want to create a desktop PC setup with a display, a keyboard, a mouse and a Shadow Ghost.

Everything has been improved. It is now a fanless device that consumes less than 5W when it’s on. It has an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an audio jack and a single HDMI port. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi have finally been integrated in the device.

When you boot up the device, you get a menu to connect to a Wi-Fi network or control your Bluetooth devices. You also can change some streaming settings, like in the app launcher.

Once you press the start button, the video stream starts and it feels like you’re using a Windows computer. With Steam’s Big Picture mode, you get a convenient setup for couch gaming. I had no issue playing demanding games, such as Hitman 2. It works perfectly fine with a Wi-Fi connection and a Bluetooth controller.

Using the Shadow Ghost feels just like using the Shadow app on a computer. So it’s hard to say whether you need the Shadow Ghost or not. It depends on your setup at home and how you plan to use the service.

Last summer, Blade planned to manufacture 5,000 units. But now that the user base has grown significantly, that first batch could disappear in no time. It is available starting today for $140.

A gold rush

Cloud gaming is a hot space right now. While some companies have been experimenting with this concept for a while (Nvidia, Sony), it feels like everyone is working on a new service of some sort. Maybe the next Xbox is going to be about streaming a game from a data center. Maybe Amazon will offer a game library in the cloud as part of your Amazon Prime subscription.

Emmanuel Freund believes that it could be an opportunity for Shadow. Everybody is going to talk about cloud gaming if Apple and Google announce new services. But the startup has years of experiences in the space and has tried hard to compensate when it comes to latency and internet speeds.

It’s going to be harder to compete on content though. Game publishers and console manufacturers could start releasing exclusive titles on their cloud gaming services. That’s why Blade is thinking about new gaming experiences and exclusive content that would make Shadow more than a technical service.

(Controller for scale)

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The MacBook Air gets bigger with new 15-inch model



CUPERTINO, Calif.—It’s common for Apple to refresh its various MacBook models more or less annually, but it’s not so common that an entirely new screen size is introduced. But that’s what happened today during the company’s WWDC keynote: Apple announced a 15-inch variant of the traditionally 13-inch MacBook Air.

It’s a move that has been rumored for years.

The 15-inch MacBook Air is in most respects identical to its 13-inch counterpart and has Apple’s M2 chip. The star is the 15.3-inch screen, which has 5-mm borders and a brightness of 500 nits. Apple hasn’t provided the resolution for the screen yet, but it was rumored that the 15-inch MacBook Air would have the same resolution as the 14-inch MacBook Pro, 3024×1964. The 15-inch MacBook Air will be available with up to 24GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, Apple said today.

Design-wise, it looks like a larger version of the existing Air—or a bit like a slimmer 16-inch MacBook Pro, depending on your perspective. It’s 0.45 inches (11.5 mm) thick and weighs 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg). As on the 13-inch MacBook Air, there are two Thunderbolt ports and a headphone jack, plus MagSafe. There are also four color options.

Apple MacBook Air 15-inch with M2

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Apple is claiming an 18-hour battery life with the larger-screened Air. It has also equipped the machine with a 1080p camera, three microphones, and a six-speaker array that includes two tweeters and two sets of “force-cancelling” speakers.

The fanless 15-inch MacBook Air starts at $1,299 ($1,199 for education) and will ship next week. Orders on the Apple Store begin today.

Apple will also still sell the 13-inch MacBook Air, but the M2 version will now be $1,099, $100 less than before. The M1 version, meanwhile, will start at $999.

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As rumored, the Mac Studio gets an M2 refresh, including fused-together M2 Ultra



M2 Studio shot with monitor overhead
Enlarge / Apple’s new Mac Studio offers the M2 Ultra chip, which, like its M1 counterpart, provides vastly greater computing power.


CUPERTINO, Calif.—The Mac Studio will be refreshed this summer with chips based on the M2, including the M2 Max and new M2 Ultra, the “most powerful chip” ever released “for a personal computer.”

The M2 Pro and M2 Max have previously been seen in MacBook Pro models released late last year, but the M2 Ultra will be a first. In the M1 line, the Ultra was the top-of-the-line chip with substantially better performance than the Pro or Max—particularly in graphically intensive tasks. M2 Ultra will support 192 GB of unified memory, 800 GB/s memory bandwith, and a 24-core CPU and up to 76 cores of GPU. Apple claims the M2 Ultra will work 30% faster than the M1 Ultra, and that a single system with the Ultra can work machine learning datasets that would choke systems with discrete GPUs.

The M2 Max is “up to 50 percent faster” than the prior Max-based Studio, according to Apple, and features a 12-core CPU, 38-core GPU, and up to 96 GB unified memory, with 400 GB/s memory bandwidth.

The M2 Studio's notable specs, as squared up by Apple
Enlarge / The M2 Studio’s notable specs, as squared up by Apple


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Beyond the new chips, the Mac Studio’s refresh is mostly business as usual. There aren’t any substantial differences in design or features compared to the previous model. There is higher bandwidth HDMI, and it can support up to six high-resolution displays. Notably, the Mac Studio is somewhat upstaged this year by the debut of the new M2-powered Mac Pro.

The new Mac Studio will launch “next week” and pre-orders start today. It starts at $1,999.

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This is the new Apple Silicon Mac Pro



CUPERTINO, Calif.—It has been three years since Apple began transitioning its Mac lineup away from Intel chips to its own silicon, and that project completes today with the last product to make the transition: the Mac Pro desktop tower.

The Mac Pro might not look different from its predecessor on the outside, but on the inside, Intel’s Xeon CPU and AMD’s Radeon Pro graphics are gone, and in their place we have a new chip called the M2 Ultra. This is the same chip in the new Mac Studio; it has a 24-core CPU and an up to 76-core GPU, and it starts with twice the memory and SSD storage of the old Mac Pro. Apple promises it will be “3x faster” than the Intel Mac Pro. Memory tops out at 192GB. These stats all match the new Mac Studio—the only thing you get from the bigger chassis is expansion capabilities and more ports.


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The whole point of a Mac tower is support for traditional expansion cards, and that normally means discrete GPUs. Apple demoed some expansion cards, but none of them were graphics cards. It sounds like you’ll be using the M2 Ultra’s on-board GPU. Making real graphics cards work with an ARM chip would have been a massive undertaking—for starters, no ARM drivers exist. Even for the non-GPU options, compatibility will be an interesting problem. Apple calls out digital signal processing (DSP) cards, serial digital interface (SDI) I/O cards, and additional networking and storage as PCI express card possibilities.

The new Mac Pro comes with eight Thunderbolt 4 ports—six on the back and two on the top—and seven total (six open) PCI Express Gen 4 slots. There are three USB-A ports (one top, two back), two HDMI ports that support 8K resolution and up to 240 Hz frame rates, two 10Gb Ethernet ports, and a headphone jack (!). The new Mac Pro has no hard-wired back panel, and every one of those back ports (six Thunderbolt, three HDMI, two USB, and one headphone) lives on the one included PCI Express card. The tower also supports Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.3. It’s available in both tower and rack-mount form factors.

The Mac Pro starts at $6,999. It’s up for preorder today on the Apple Store and will ship on June 13.

Listing image by Apple

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