Nvidia announces ShadowPlay PC game recording system, new GTX 780 graphics card

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Source: Nvidia

Both the Xbox One and the Playstation 4 have features that allow easy sharing of video clips showing our gaming accomplishments. This is a big change for consoles but something PC gamers have been doing for ages via 3rd party programs like Fraps or Bandicam.

The downside for PC gamers is that your recording software cuts into the power you have available for actually running the game you want to record. In theory, at least, this is less an issue on the PS4 and XB1 thanks to their multi-core processors, hardware encoders and the fact that video capture is baked into the OS.

So are consoles about to take over as the best way for recording your uber gaming moments?

Not if Nvidia can help it. They've just announced a new feature called "ShadowPlay," a system that does pretty much the same thing that the PS4 and XB1 are doing: it'll constantly be recording your gameplay so that when something awesome happens, you've got it captured. ShadowPlay can keep as much as the last 20 minutes of gameplay in its system, and Nvidia says its Kepler architecture's hardware-based H.264 encoder (ShadowPlay will be limited to Nvidia's Kepler-based cards) will handle the recording with much less of an impact on gameplay than running a third party recording program would have.

ShadowPlay will be part of the GeForce Experience, a suite of free software utilities intended to help you get the most out of your graphics card. The GeForce Experience is available now and can handle driver updates and, for newer cards, game optimization. ShadowPlay will be added sometime this summer.

Traditionally game consoles have been popular because they were easier to deal with than gaming PCs, so it's good to see companies like Nvidia and Valve take a lot of the hassle out of PC gaming.

Nvidia used the launch of its newest video card, the GTX 780, as a vehicle to talk about ShadowPlay and GeForce Experience. The GTX 780 is available now for $649.

In an interesting contrast, VentureBeat ran an article about the GTX 780 with the headline Who needs an Xbox One? Nvidia shows off new speedy graphics card. VB's Dean Takahashi goes on to talk about how PCs will always beat consoles at gaming because of the lag-time involved with bringing a console to market. PCs always have access to the very latest technology.

Conversely, Rajat Taneja, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Electronic Arts, wrote a post on Linkedin titled The Technology Behind Xbox One in which he argues that the XB1 and PS4 both have architectures that are "a generation ahead of the highest end PC on the market." Now to be fair, he never says the new consoles are faster than the highest end PC, just that they are a generation ahead (which is a bit vague). He does say according to EA's benchmarking the new consoles are 8-10 times faster than the old ones, but given the age of the PS3 and Xbox 360 I think that's to be expected, no?

Of course, price is a big factor too. As mentioned, the GTX 780 is $649 and that's just for the graphics card. If either the PS4 or Xbox One launch at $649 I think they'll be immediately headed for oblivion. The last console to launch at a price like that was the 3DO. Never heard of it? Exactly. (I think I was one of about 5 people that purchased a 3DO. It's still in a closet somewhere.)

Anyway, I guess my point is that I'm glad to see consoles makers and PC companies competing back and forth. I love that by the end of the year both PC gamers and console gamers will have a dead-easy way to share their wins and losses with friends. (I have one commentor who completely scoffs at the idea of sharing game videos but I think a glance at Twitch.tv or YouTube shows that there's a very real interest in this kind of material.)

If you want to read more about the GTX 780 from people who eat, sleep and breath this stuff, both AnandTech and Tom's Hardware have their usual exhaustive reviews up.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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