What is the Better VR Cloud Gaming Service? Shadow vs PlutoSphere

There are currently two cloud streaming services that work with VR and are available to consumers: Shadow and PlutoSphere† These services allow Quest users to play PC VR games without needing a gaming PC, which is a big investment if you only want to play a few SteamVR titles like Half-Life: Alyx.

Cas & Chary Present

Cas and Chary VR is a Youtube Channel hosted by the Netherlands-based duo Casandra Vuong and Chary Keijzer, who have been documenting their VR journeys since 2016. They share a curated selection of their content with additional insights for the Road to VR audience.

I got curious, so I checked out both services to compare the two and see which one is worth subscribing to now. This article is a summary of my video where I share the main differences, pros and cons per service. This article also includes more recent developments in PlutoSphere billing.

Key Differences

Shadow focuses more on flat screen PC gaming over the cloud, VR is a side project and their Quest app is still in beta. PlutoSphere focuses on XR and flat screen gaming is secondary; this is why PlutoSphere virtual PCs come preinstalled with SteamVR, while on Shadow you have to configure the VR software itself. Pluto’s full service is currently in early access.

Pricing and Billing

Shadow

  • Shadow has a monthly subscription rate of US$30 per month. In return, you can make unlimited use of the service (as long as you pay). You can cancel 48 hours before your subscription is renewed.
  • Included is permanent storage (256GB) and you can add more storage for an additional fee.

PlutoSphere

  • PlutoSphere has time-based billing, so you pay by the hour and only when you use it.
  • you have to buy ‘PlutoTokens’ to gain access. Currently, 600 PlutoTokens costs $2 and equates to one hour of use. The more tokens you buy at once, the cheaper it gets.
  • PlutoSphere does not come with persistent storage. To get permanent storage, you have to pay a monthly fee. You get two options:
    • $9.99/month for 128GB storage
    • $39.99/month for 128 GB storage and 12,000 tokens/month

Device support and availability

Shadow

  • Currently supports Windows, macOS, Ubuntu, Android, AndroidTV and iOS/tvOS. As far as I can see, Shadow cannot be run from a web browser, you need to install an app on your device to run it.
  • Only available in eight different countries. This includes the US, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and my own small country, the Netherlands.
  • In the US, Shadow is not available in every state. You can check availability here by choosing your state from the drop-down menu.

PlutoSphere

  • Currently supports Android, iOS, Hololens 2 and any device with a web browser. Native Windows support should be available soon.
  • Pluto uses Amazon Web Services, which has servers worldwide, so Pluto is available as long as there is a server near you. if you go to this online tool, you can estimate network latency from your browser to AWS data centers. As long as there is a server that has less than 100ms ping to you, you can use Pluto. Please note that CloudFront does not count.
  • For VR, both services support Meta Quest 1 and 2. Additional headsets may be added in the future.

Internet Connection Requirements

Both services have internet connection requirements.

Shadow

  • Download speed of at least 50 Mbps
  • 5 GHz WiFi network
  • Ping below 20ms

PlutoSphere

  • Download speed of at least 50 Mbps
  • 5 Ghz WiFi network (WIFI6 recommended)
  • Ping less than 100ms required, but less than 50ms is recommended

Cloud PC Specifications

These are the specs you get on your virtual PC.

Shadow

  • Processor
    • Intel Xeon E5-2678 v3 @2.5GHz with 3.1GHz Turbo Boost (8-cores)
    • Alternative: Intel Xeon E5-2667 v3 @3.2GHz with 3.6GHz Turbo Boost
  • GPU
    • P5000 with 16GB GDDR5X
    • Alternatively, in some regions: GTX1080 with 8GB GDDR5X
    • Alternatively, in some regions: RTX4000 with 8GB GDDR6
  • RAM
  • Persistent Storage
    • 256GB SSD storage (Optional additional storage 2TB HDD)
  • Video quality options
    • Option to choose maximum video bitrate
    • Option to adjust the maximum bit rate according to network conditions (recommended)
  • Refresh rate for VR
  • Download speed
    • ~950Mbps download, ~100Mbps upload

PlutoSphere

  • Processor
    • Intel Xeon Platinum 8259CL CPU @ 2.50 GHz (8 cores)
  • GPU
  • RAM
  • Persistent Storage
    • 128 GB SSD add-on (one-time, $97.50 for one year)
  • Video quality options
  • Refresh rate for VR
  • Download speed
    • ~ 3,100 Mbps download, ~ 4,000 Mbps upload

Setup

Shadow doesn’t have that many first steps. All you need is to install the Shadow app via SideQuestthen you can launch Shadow from VR and do everything from there.

On Pluto there are more first steps, which are described in my instructional video† After these steps, you first need to access their dashboard (on any device with an internet connection). There you can start the service, which can take between 10 and 15 minutes. Finally, you must also launch SteamVR on your virtual PC before you can set up your Quest.

Performance

During my testing I kept both services at their defaults and both were tested at 72hz on Quest 2. I tried playing Beat Saber, Blade & Sorcery, Fracked and Half-Life Alyx. If you want to see a side-by-side comparison of the gameplay, you can visit my . see video

Streaming quality is good enough on both services to be fully playable. There is a difference in visual quality, Pluto is noticeably much sharper, while Shadow has more streaming artifacts.

Unfortunately, Pluto’s software has more bugs and causes compatibility issues with certain games, as you can see here list† For example, I couldn’t play Half-Life: Alyx on Pluto, but it did work on Shadow.

Input lag is similar on both services. I wouldn’t recommend using streaming services for highly competitive games where every move counts, but slower games seem to work well.

Ultimately, I think Shadow has the best overall performance with software that’s easy to use without a lot of hiccups, and the games I’ve tried work right out of the box. However, PlutoSphere generally has better stream quality, especially when a game is supported.

Which service is best for you depends on how many hours you want to use your virtual PC and whether a game is supported. Overall, though, I think Shadow is the best choice for now. Keep in mind that PlutoSphere is in early access so hopefully they’ll fix the bugs when it’s released.

As you can see now, VR streaming can be tricky, but I find it unbelievable that it’s already possible, and it’s never a bad thing to have more options for people to get into more expensive VR games, right?


Disclosure: Both platforms gave me free access to their service

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.