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OnLive's ambitious games-on-demand service clearly has a lot to live up to. The company has been keeping its cards close to the chest since announcing the technology last year, which promises to make high-end games playable on low-end computers via streaming, and has since moved into a "public" beta stage but is only giving out access to a handful of testers based on their geographic location and other variables.
Ryan Shrout of PC Perspective may have broken a few rules when he borrowed someone's beta account to access the service last week. Nevertheless, the site has a detailed write-up on the performance he experienced playing Burnout Paradise, Unreal Tournament 3 and Tom Clancy's HAWX over the web on a Core i7 860 system. The games were running at a fairly decent 1280 x 720 resolution and used around 1Mb/s of bandwidth.
As a whole the experience wasn't awful but definitely not up to par with playing the same games on a local, appropriately beefy home PC. OnLive's client was easy to start up and had a very small footprint as promised, using under 60MB of memory and anywhere from 4-7 percent of the CPU power. As you might suspect, however, lag was an issue, and so were the downgraded graphics.
OnLive responded to the criticism via its official blog claiming that PC Perspective's report is not representative of the actual product. The company has always boasted that they were going to try and match each user with a data center within 100 miles of the player to minimize lag, but it turns out that Shrout was about 2,100 miles away from the company's server in California. The final version of OnLive also promises to adapt to your Internet connection and location every time you connect in order to deliver the best possible experience.
Unfortunately for them, some other anonymous beta testers have come forward claiming that the experience isn't much better in the ideal scenario. There is still room for improvement as no official launch date for the service has been announced, but for now I remain a bit skeptical -- there are just too many limitations. One thing is for sure, you won't want to throw out your console or abandon your PC upgrade plans anytime soon.