Should I get Shadow or Build a new gaming Rig? This question usually runs across current Shadow Users as well as those potential users that just found out about Shadow and are interested. I will be reviewing Pro's and Con's of each side of this question, as well as doing a cost comparison for which could be cheaper.
Let us start with Shadow. Shadow is a Cloud PC with some sweet hardware backing it. It is a fully functional Windows 10 PC that you can pretty much do anything you want on it (some limitations). Shadow has both it's Pros and Cons.
Pros for Shadow
- You can game from pretty much any device, from anywhere, as long as you have a decent internet connection.
- You don't have to deal with upgrading hardware, as this is all done by Shadow themselves.
- Shadow has super fast 1GB DL and 100MB UL internet.
- Shadow is a full Windows 10 PC that you can do more then just Gaming on!
Cons of Shadow
- If you don't have a decent internet connection, you may have a poor Shadow experience.
- You are at the mercy of Shadow keeping their Data Centers up and running so you can access it.
- Storage space is limited.
- Even though it is a Pro, the fact that you can not personally upgrade hardware may be a con for some people.
Building a PC
Now, when it comes to building a PC, there are different Pros and Cons. Building a PC is the OG of high powered gaming computers. Want a computer that is able to play your favorite game at 4K 60FPS? Until recently, building and/or purchasing a custom PC was the only way to get that ability, and it will cost you.
Pros for Building a PC
- Full control over what hardware goes into your computer.
- Internet blips or lags won't cut or freeze your games.
- RGB lighting if you are into that ;).
- Can install any Operating System and/or software on it without having limitations or following a Terms of Service.
Cons for Building a PC
- Large upfront cost.
- Not able to take it with you everywhere.
- Electricity costs can be a lot higher.
- Prone to Hardware Failures.
So, for a lot of people, cost is one of the major defining factors when it comes to PC gaming. A lot of people end up going with "budget builds" because building a high end gaming PC can cost $2000+. Shadow, on the other hand costs $35 a month, or $25 a month with a year subscription. But, does Shadow actually cost more or less then building a PC? I am going to do a cost comparison on the cost of Shadow vs building a gaming PC with close to the same specifications.
Shadow Hardware and PC consumer alternatives
Now I know some of the consumer alternatives are a bit stronger then the Shadow counterpart, however, I am basing these comparisons off of PassMark scoring. Obviously the 3.7GHz Ryzen will do better in a lot of Single Core games compared to the 2.5GHz, but the Ryzen is an affordable CPU with close to the same PassMark score as the Xeon. Memory just makes sense to get 2 8GB sticks instead of 3 4GB sticks. The Consumer alternative will also need some extra parts like a case, power supply, and motherboard. For this comparison, we will not be purchasing any extra fans for the case or a better fan for the CPU, instead we are going to go with a more budget friendly build to see if Shadow is cheaper or not.
- Case - NZXT H510 - $70
- Motherboard - MSI B450M Bazooka V2 - $80
- PowerSupply - Corsair CX550M 550W - $70
This brings our total build cost to $1335. I will lower that cost to $1250, as you can probably find cheaper parts. The next thing we are going to take into consideration is estimated life expectancy of your built computer. We are going to shoot for 4 years, as this will probably be around the time parts will fail, or you look into upgrading (if not sooner). So at 4 years, that comes out for a build cost of about $312.5 per year. Shadow will cost you $35 a month ($25 for a year commitment), totaling $420 or $300 with a year commitment. With these numbers, if you are on a year commitment, then it would be cheaper by $12.50 per year, and on a monthly commitment, it will cost you $117.50 more per year! So Shadow is better for a year commitment? Well, just hold your horses. We still have some more math to do! One of the biggest costs for a gaming PC is electricity costs.
We will be using the average cost of electricity in the USA, which is $0.13 per kWh. We will be assuming that you game for at least 1 hour a day, and the Gaming PC we built uses an average of 350 Wh when gaming. The average electricity cost for the Gaming PC per hour would be around $0.05. Assuming a month averages to 30 days, and you play 1 hour a day. The total electricity cost for our theoretical gaming PC comes to $1.50 a month, or $18 a year. Game more then 1 hour a day? These numbers will be higher. Now for Shadow, let us assume you are using a standard laptop that pulls around 60 Wh when under load. The cost to run your laptop while using shadow will be around $0.01 per hour. Assuming you are gaming 1 hour a day your electricity costs come to $0.30 per month, or $3.6 per year. Over a $14 per year difference! Let us add these numbers to the previous numbers we got...
- Shadow on a monthly commitment - $103.10 more per year
- Shadow on a yearly commitment - $26.90 less per year
Now let us see if you have a bit more time to game each day, let us say... 3 hours? So for 3 hours of gaming per day, the monthly cost for a gaming PC will be $4.50 a month, or $54 a year. Using the same 60 Wh laptop will cost you $0.90 per month, or $10.80 a year. The new numbers at 3 hours a day comes too...
- Shadow on a monthly commitment - $74.30 more per year
- Shadow on a yearly commitment - $55.70 less per year
The more you game, the more you save! What happens if we change our life expectancy of the computer to 3 years instead of 4? That would change the cost of building a PC to $416.67 a year. Just under how much shadow would cost with a monthly commitment, and significantly more then a year commitment. Adding in electricity costs, and the numbers you get for both 1 hour and 3 hours of gaming is as followed...
One Hour of Gaming each day
- Shadow on a monthly commitment - $11.07 less per year
- Shadow on a yearly commitment - $131.07 less per year
Three Hours of Gaming each day
- Shadow on a monthly commitment - $39.87 less per year
- Shadow on a yearly commitment - $159.87 less per year
So, in the end, it really depends on the variables behind the two when it comes to cost comparison. The shorter you game, the less you save. The longer you can make it on a built computer, the less that can be saved, or even cost more. However, you need to take into consideration other factors. What happens if a part on the custom PC breaks before the 4 year lifecycle number we assumed? What happens if you want to easily access your computer from a different location, without having to drag around your computer case or setup a complicated streaming setup? Each have their pros and cons, and they should be looked at. Only you can decide if the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to choosing between the two.
To a lot of people, numbers like this will make or break their decisions. I was very conservative with all numbers in our estimate, and actual costs to build a custom PC may be significantly more. Shadow, will always be the single monthly price. This will change in the near future once Shadow releases their new Tiering plans, and I will update these calculations when that happens. But, Shadow has stated that the lowest tier would be cheaper then what the current monthly price is, for the same performance, so Shadow may become an even better option if money is one of the reason's holding you back from building a custom computer.
What is my recommendation? I personally would recommend Shadow. Not because I write this blog, but because I started using Shadow since I did not have the upfront funds to build my own PC. I was blown away with how well it performs and runs the games I play. When I look at electricity costs in my location, and my terrible luck with hardware, it was just a better idea to stick with Shadow. And with the new tiers right around the corner, I am excited for what Shadow will offer in the near future! I hope you at least give Shadow a try with the $10 introductory period. You may fall in love with it like I did :).
Did I miss anything or you have questions about my calculations? Post in the comments below!