13
Jan
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Ever since we saw the initial demo of NVIDIA's game streaming technology on the SHIELD, we wondered when we could try it out with other Android devices. NVIDIA is jealously guarding its exclusive for now, but XDA Developers poster Cameron Gutman (cgutman) has created an app that duplicates SHIELD's functionality, allowing gamers to try their hand at streaming from a compatible GeForce-equipped gaming PC with any Android 4.1 or better device. Since I'm a dedicated PC gamer, I fired up Limelight and tried it out.

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There are plenty of prerequisites to try Limelight - they're basically the same as SHIELD's game streaming feature, without the SHIELD. You'll need a desktop PC with a powerful and recent NVIDIA graphics card (mine's a GTX 660TI), a fast router that uses 802.11N for preference, and an Android 4.1 device with at least a 720p screen. You'll also need some kind of Bluetooth input device if you actually want to play anything. I tried a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and a Nyko Bluetooth controller. It's possible to use the on-screen cursor for navigation, but it's basically a one-button mouse. There's one thing you don't need, strangely enough: root.

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Before you start setting up your device, you have to set up your PC. You'll need NVIDIA's GeForce Experience software, a sort of tune-up app for games that contains the streaming suite. Make sure it's running and happy with the latest drivers for your graphics card. If you don't have Steam, you'll need that as well, and not all games are compatible with SHIELD streaming (though if you're a regular PC gamer, you probably own at least one). Now install the Limelight APK from XDA on your device - my testing standard is a Nexus 5. Make sure it's connected to the same LAN as your PC via WiFi, enter your PC's local IP address, and cross your fingers. If everything's gone right, your PC will pop up a connection alert:

connect

Once you connect, you dive into Steam's Big Picture Mode, a TV-style interface that also works pretty well on touchscreens. If you've got some kind of controller connected you can use that to get around, otherwise you'll be using a touch cursor made somewhat awkward because it's more like a remote control. But it's easy enough to find a game and open it.

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I started without a Bluetooth device, so I opened XCOM, a primarily mouse-driven game that I thought would work well with touch. And it did - at 720p and 30 frames per second, I was getting pretty good video and nearly flawless sound. With the smaller size of the Nexus 5's screen, it was hard to see any difference between what was on my PC monitor and on the phone. Just for kicks I exited the application and tried 1080P at 60FPS. As promised, it was noticeably slower with a lot of streaming artifacts, so I switched back.

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Actually playing the game on my touchscreen was a problem. The touches from the screen aren't relayed in a 1-to-1 fashion, so it's more or less like using a Wii remote. A remote with one button, because there's no way to enter a right-click or scroll, which is pretty vital for this particular title. Still, the streaming video and audio was impressive, so I tried again with something else.

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For my second game I tried to emulate the full PC experience of one of my favorite games: Skyrim. After digging around in my gadget drawer I found a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard, connected them to my N5, and repeated the process. I needed to restart both Limelight and GeForce Experience, but using the mouse and keyboard on the Steam Big Picture mode was easy. Until I got into Skyrim, that is - I play the game in windowed mode on my PC, and GFE wasn't smart enough to go full screen even after setting the resolution to 720p. There was no way to get to the video settings in the game itself, so I had to exit everything, start the game on my PC, set it to fullscreen, and start again. I could get to the title screen with streaming video and audio, but the mouse input wouldn't work (GFE seemed to think it was a controller) and tapping anything on the keyboard closed the connection. So Skyrim was a bust.

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For my last test I tried a recent acquisition: Remember Me. (Thank you, Steam Holiday Sale!) This time I connected a Nyko Bluetooth controller to my N5, hoping to take advantage of the game's beat-em-up nature. I managed to connect and start the game without issue, but something about having the controller connected really killed the streaming video quality. Comparing the picture on my N5 and desktop, the phone was behind and stuttering. See the screenshot above - the streaming was much poorer than with XCOM. Even worse, the input from the controller lagged behind the live gameplay by a solid quarter-second, which is the difference between victory and defeat in any action title. Basically the game looked pretty and worked well, right up to the point when I tried to play it.

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So, three tries and three failures. That's a bummer to be sure, but I want to stress that I'm amazed that Limelight is working as well as it is, and others are having better success than I am. The developer is constantly tweaking the Limelight app, and I'm confident that it will improve steadily. It's an impressive achievement even at this alpha stage (Some kind of on-screen button mapping would do wonders for the app, by the way.) If you've got all the requisite parts and want to try SHIELD-style streaming, go for it - the app is a free download, and Mr. Gutman and his fellow XDA members would love to have your feedback.

Oh, and NVIDIA? This app - not to mention this post - should demonstrate that there is a demand for GeForce streaming outside of the SHIELD. Sooner would be better than later.

Source: XDA Developers

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • Sir_Brizz

    Interesting. I need to get a new video card so I can try this stuff out.

    On an unrelated note: Remember Me is awesome. I picked it up during the sale as well, and it is probably in my top 5 favorite games of 2013.

  • http://www.maverickcreative.ca/ Joshua Richards

    What version of the app were you using for this? Update 11 is supposed to have some serious improvements.

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      I got the latest one from the XDA link.

      • http://aaronneyer.com/ Aaron Neyer

        Your post says it is in the pre-alpha stage. Update 11 is the alpha release and was just released a couple days ago.

        • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

          I see that it's version 11, but I don't actually see either an "alpha" or "pre-alpha" tag. In either case, it's pretty clear that the dev has a long way to go.

  • Cheeseball

    Limelight is a saving grace for those of us with the Tegra Note 7. Since it lacks dual-band WiFi (no 5 GHz band), the tablet isn't eligible for GameStream functionality.

  • HARLAN P

    I should have bought NVIDIA :/

    • Jon

      Try Kainy instead :)
      Just found about it yesterday. Menus look pretty much the same. I barely tested it yet, but you don't need a latest generation of Nvidia...or an nvidia at all. In my case I have an old generation nvidia, so Limelight is a no-go for me. But Kainy does work.

      • didibus

        Kainy is awesome! The only problem is the interface of the app is a bit lacking for now, but the streaming is amazing!

      • HARLAN P

        I tried t out last night. The streaming is great, but I'll have to try it some more to get used to it.
        Thanks by the way; I already knew about limelight, but I had no idea Kainy was a thing. :]

  • miri

    Though my AMD GPU strips me of all opinions regarding this app, Remember Me was awesome.

  • andy_o

    A couple of things. Did you try a 5GHz Wi-Fi connection, and what about a usb controller?

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      Yup, I've got a 5Ghz N router. Unfortunately I've got no USB controllers to try.

      • http://aaronneyer.com/ Aaron Neyer

        Was the PC you were streaming from hooked up via ethernet? With the server hooked up via ethernet, and the client hooked up via 5Ghz, and any phone with hardware decoding there's no reason you should have any significant lag or video problems.

  • arbzy

    Isn't there a common issue when using Bluetooth and WiFi at the same time on most android devices? I have always had frequent disconnects/spottiness when combining the two on my n4/tf300/n7(2013).

    • http://thegumshoe.com/ Michael Crider

      I never have an issue with streaming music or video over WiFi and then sending audio to Bluetooth, but then I doubt that this application was considered when Qualcomm made these radios. Who knows.

  • rising

    Tried playing Metal Gear Rising on my N7 2013... It was completely impossible due to the delay.

  • Grant

    the nyko controller is connected via blutooth to your android phone... use a XBox 360 controller/ps3/ps4 controller connected wirelessly to the PC that you are streaming from. Should solve your problem

  • justin tate

    Does this still work if I have my controller plugged into my main PC? I have a USB hub running over ethernet from my comp in the office into the living room. I was using a HDMI over Ethernet extender, but it sucks. I plan to use this program with my tablet, but I don't expect it to support the Logitech F710 controllers I have.

  • Rob

    Guys just FYI plugging a controller into the phone while streaming causes issues, it seems to be due to the need to use bluetooth and wifi at the same time. Utilising a bluetooth controller plugged into the PC and limelight works almost perfectly.

  • Wilson Lim

    if only Limelight works with Radeon cards :/