Streaming and Gamevice

Although iOS and Android have an excellent (and growing!) library of top-quality games, many games still haven’t made the jump to mobile. A lot of great games are exclusive to one console or another, or are only available on PC. Many others are presented in a stripped-down form on mobile, providing a different experience than hardcore gamers are used to.

Luckily, it is possible to have the best of both worlds. Thanks to streaming, you can play the latest and greatest PC and console games on your mobile device. And thanks to Gamevice, you can play them with the console-class controls you’d expect.

Streaming used to be a second-class way to play, with obvious compromises in graphics quality and gameplay responsiveness. This is no longer the case. Modern streaming apps – properly configured – can be nearly indistinguishable from playing on native console or PC hardware. But now you get the added benefit of being able to play these games in the palm of your hand.

In this guide, we’ll cover multiple solutions for playing pretty much any Xbox, PlayStation, or PC game on any modern iOS device, and some Android devices. All of these solutions are compatible with Gamevice.

PlayStation Streaming with PS4 Remote Play

PlayStation is the undisputed champion of this console generation, with the biggest user base, some of the best games of all time as console exclusives, and incredibly powerful and versatile console hardware. They’ve been at the forefront of game streaming industry, parlaying their purchase of Gaikai into what is likely the biggest game streaming service in the world: PlayStation Now.

Sony is at the forefront of streaming once again, launching an official app for streaming your PS4 games directly to your iOS or Android devices. Their app, called PS4 Remote Play, is a great way to play PS4 games on mobile. And the best part is, it is completely free and completely first-party – this is a Sony app, and they fully support it.

Using Sony’s completely free app, it is possible to stream your PS4 apps directly to your iOS or Android device. Thanks to Sony’s longstanding expertise in this technology, they’ve managed to create a solution that looks excellent and runs at relatively low latency. Unless a game demands absolutely precise, split-second reflexes, it should be perfectly playable with Remote Play, with ultra-low-latency controls provided by Gamevice.

There are a couple of caveats. Although the app is free, it requires you to bring your own PS4 – no online streaming here. It also doesn’t provide any functionality for cellular streaming – this is really only for playing your PS4 in a different room, not for taking it with you on the road.

The biggest downside of Sony’s PS4 Remote Play app: it does not have any support for L3 and R3. This is a curious omission, because the MFi standard was only recently updated to support these buttons, and almost no MFi controllers have this functionality yet. Although iOS 13 will allow iPhone and iPad gamers to connect directly to console controllers, that doesn’t help Gamevice owners today. Luckily, there’s an even better app for streaming PS4 games, and it’s available right now: R-Play.

PlayStation Streaming with R-Play

If you are serious about streaming PlayStation 4 games to your iOS device, there’s only one choice you should consider: R-Play. PlayStation Now is a great way to test streaming for free, but it has too many caveats in functionality and customizability. R-Play provides a better streaming experience for the PS4, in a way that is perfectly optimized for iOS.

Everything you’d expect to see in a top-quality app is present here. Full optimization and support for the latest iPhone and iPad devices, complete MFi controller support for the Gamevice, an in-depth tutorial, 60fps and 1080p support, and advanced configuration settings make for an app that’s easy for new users, and advanced for pros.

R-Play does have a number of caveats. It is a paid-up-front app, currently priced at a not-inexpensive $11.99 up-front cost. Configuration takes a bit of work, especially if you want to enable play over cellular connections, but everything is covered in the app’s tutorial.

Get R-Play if you want the absolute best way to stream PS4 games today. Sony’s official app is a great way to test, but the lack of support for on-screen L3 and R3 buttons means it simply isn’t usable for certain games. R-Play corrects this problem, and also does a huge number of things much better than Sony’s own app. This one gets my highest recommendation for PlayStation gamers.

Xbox Streaming with OneCast

Game streaming with the Xbox One is a relatively new concept, with Microsoft’s console only recently gaining support for this technology. Microsoft designed this feature to facilitate streaming your Xbox games to your PC, but the crafty developers at OneCast were able to reverse-engineer the protocol and build their own client: OneCast.

OneCast provides a lightweight, high-quality way to stream Xbox games to your iPhone or iPad. Simply install OneCast and follow the straightforward on-screen tutorial, and you’ll be playing Xbox games on your iPhone or iPad in no time. Streaming quality is perfectly solid, with relatively low latency, making for a perfectly playable experience on all but the most intense games.

Just like R-Play, OneCast provides a full allotment of power-user features. Full MFi controller support, 1080p streaming, an in-depth configuration tutorial, and advanced settings make for a powerful, complete package.

OneCast has the same basic caveats as R-Play, at the same $11.99 price point. This is an unofficial implementation of the platform owner’s – in this case Microsoft’s – streaming protocol. Microsoft could eventually decide to prevent apps like OneCast from piggy-backing off of the Xbox’s native streaming protocol. That would leave us without many options.

Xbox fans might have even bigger news to look forward to on the horizon: Microsoft has announced their intent to launch an official Xbox game streaming service in the near future, and will be specifically targeting mobile as a platform of choice. Details on this service will come later, but we do know that Gamevice will be fully supported.

PC Streaming with Moonlight

After extensive testing, it is my opinion that Moonlight provides the highest-quality streaming solution available today, of any kind, on any platform. It has the highest graphics quality, lowest latency, and best control options. It also works excellently on iOS and Android.

Moonlight’s graphics quality is unparalleled. The in-app settings provide advanced configuration options. You can control the max bandwidth Moonlight is capable of using, allowing you to prioritize graphics quality or stability. Frame rate can be set to 30, 60, and even 120 frames per second on recent iPads, making for a fluidity and responsiveness that might actually be better than your existing TV or display. Resolution can be set to 720p, 1080p and even 4K, which provides perfect visual quality without aliasing on any iOS device or Android phone.

Moonlight has the lowest latency of any streaming apps I’ve tried, bar-none. Every single game I tested ran maybe a frame or two behind my native PC output, no more. If you don’t already have a gaming-focused TV or PC display, Moonlight might actually have lower latency than your current display provides. I tested everything from Crash Bandicoot to Cuphead, and never once felt I was mistiming my actions due to lag.

Moonlight’s big downside: the hardware requirements. Although Moonlight itself is free, it requires you bring your own gaming PC. This gaming PC must have a (relatively-recent) Nvidia GPU. And because PC games tend to be less optimized than their console counterparts, you’ll need to have a relatively powerful, relatively expensive gaming PC in order to get results that rival what you’d get streaming console games.

Configuration can also be a mess, although I can’t entirely blame Moonlight’s open-source development team for this one. The difficulty lies in the fact that Moonlight is based on Nvidia’s game stream protocol, and requires you to configure an Nvidia account, manage settings through Nvidia’s PC app, and sometimes manually add games to Nvidia’s game library.

Still, if you do have the right PC, and don’t mind putting in the work configuring things, you can’t argue with results. Moonlight is simply unequalled. It is the only streaming solution in this list that I could recommend unreservedly, for any type of gamer and any genre of game. And it is the app that I use, personally, for my own streaming needs.

PC Streaming with Steam Link

Steam Link integrates directly with the Steam app on your PC or Mac, automatically launches Steam’s controller-friendly Big Picture Mode, and provides automatic button mapping for MFi and Made for Google controllers, even in games which don’t normally support controllers.

Steam Link only has one major downside: it simply isn’t as good as Moonlight. If your PC has the hardware required to run Moonlight, you simply have no reason to run Steam Link: Moonlight looks better, runs faster, has less latency, and still gives you access to all the features of Steam Big Picture Mode.

PC Streaming with AMD Link

AMD users don’t have access to my favorite streaming app, Moonlight, but AMD provides their very own first-party streaming app. Called AMD link, this is an officially-AMD-sanctioned way to access all your PC games on your mobile device.

In my testing, AMD Link was far behind Nvidia’s streaming implementation, but did function adequately. Graphics quality was fine, but latency was a bit higher than you’d want to see on demanding games. In my testing, Steam Link generally provided better quality, so unless you absolutely cannot use Steam Link, there’s no real reason to bother with AMD Link.

With that said, I do want to give AMD credit for spending the time and resources to develop this app. As great as Nvidia’s streaming technology is, it only runs on iOS thanks to the hard work of the third party Moonlight developers – Nvidia provides no first-party solution. AMD deserves a lot of credit for developing their own solution, and I’m really hoping it continues to get better as they update it!

PC Streaming with Shadow

Our final method of streaming PC games, Shadow, has one huge advantage over the other entries in this list: it doesn’t require a PC or console. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device, you can use Shadow. This is important – while Google has been promising a similar service called Stadia, Shadow exists right now, today. It also provides many advantages over Stadia, not least of which is the fact you don’t have to rebuy your PC games.

Shadow provides you with a high-end gaming PC that lives in their data center in the cloud. For a monthly fee, you rent access to this gaming PC, and can stream your games from Shadow’s servers directly to your device. Install Steam, run emulators, download indie games – it’s your very own PC instance in their cloud, and you can do whatever you want with it.

This provides a number of advantages over the rest of the entries on this list. For starters, there’s the obvious portability advantage: with only a Shadow account, you can play PC games anywhere you have internet access, without needing to own or maintain a PC or console. Cost is another potential advantage: Shadow’s $19.99 monthly fee, while not cheap, is potentially easier to stomach than the hundreds-to-thousands upfront cost of buying a gaming PC.

Shadow’s cloud-streamed nature does have a number of disadvantages from the rest of the entries on this list, however. First, latency is higher than you can get from the rest of these apps. This is understandable: the other apps function on your local WiFi, whereas Shadow travels all the way from an internet server to your WiFi, and only then to your device. Second, Shadow is the only one of these apps and services with a recurring monthly fee – and not a small fee, at that. Personally, $34.99 is a bit out of impulse-buy territory for me. Third, Shadow is only available in a limited number of regions right now. This is due to latency issues – the team behind Shadow needs to make sure they have enough PC servers close enough to where you’re likely to play, so they’ve only launched in a limited number of markets.

Although Shadow is fully available on some platforms, the iOS client is still in beta. This means that in order to access it, you must first subscribe to the Shadow service, then wait to be added to a TestFlight group, where you’ll be able to download the app. It is unclear if this is a temporary solution, or a way of avoiding the fate that befell Steam Link. Personally, I’m not optimistic about this one ever making it to the App Store. But on the plus side, you can always cancel your Shadow account – there’s no upfront cost.