Minecraft Realms is still the best value for money for Bedrock

Evercraft recently returned to hosting on Minecraft Realms for our 5th Season. We launched alongside the 1.19 Wild Update, and have been building away happily for almost 5 weeks now! Since we haven’t used Realms as a host since December 2020, I wanted to follow up and share our experience.

Minecraft Realms Plus promotional art
Image via minecraft.net

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Minecraft Realms on Bedrock vs Java

Before we get into it, I want to acknowledge an important caveat to this article. I will exclusively be speaking from the perspective of a Bedrock Edition user. I know Java is very popular, and it’s the version I grew up on myself. However for small multiplayer gameplay (<32 player cap) I prefer Bedrock, and so that’s where most of my experience is these days.

In modern versions of Java servers, like Paper, many resources are tied to RAM availability. Processing power is no doubt important, but most hosts will generally focus on their RAM allocation in marketing since that’s what people look for. Bedrock Edition, on the other hand, is very very CPU-bound. This means hosting is almost always either more expensive than a similarly sized Java server, or worse yet, very poorly optimized by the host who is used to speccing their VMs for Java servers.

When it comes to Java servers, it is not uncommon to find many hosts with well optimized servers that will perform better than Minecraft Realms, for a cheaper price. In my experience though, this simply isn’t the case with Bedrock Edition.

Let’s talk numbers

Okay with that little preamble out of the way, let’s get down to brass tacks. Minecraft Realms Plus, which is effectively a 10-slot BDS server hosted on Azure VMs, comes in at just $7.99 (US). This bundle also comes with a slew of Marketplace content, but for the purposes of this comparison we’ll ignore that since it may not be a compelling feature for many people.

Even at 3 times Shockbyte’s recommended spec, we had unplayable lag…

When Evercraft migrated to our own BDS server, we initially went with a “shared” solution through Shockbyte. We chose their 6GB option, which they claim is sufficient for 60 player slots. We wanted to overspec for optimal performance though, and reduced the slot cap down to 20. This cost us around $15 per month, nearly twice Realms’ price already. However, do you remember what I said earlier about Bedrock being very CPU-bound? Well even at 3 times Shockbyte’s recommended spec, we had unplayable lag, worse than we ever saw on Realms.

After our mistake with Shockbyte, we quickly migrated to a new host. I was recommended to BisectHosting by another server operator. Bisect offers Bedrock hosting directly, but it made no mention of “dedicated” specs anywhere, which almost always means it’s a shared hosting solution. I opted to rent a plain VPS from them instead, and do the BDS setup myself. We started out renting a 4-vCore/4GB VPS from them at $16 a month, and the performance was at least comparable to Minecraft Realms, if not slightly better. However, to get the seamless experience we wanted, we had to spring for the 5-vCore/8GB $32/mo option.

More hurdles, more money

To get the seamless experience we were searching for, we were paying four times the cost of Realms!

So for those counting, to get performance similar to Realms, we were paying twice as much. We also had to do all the setup ourselves since we opted for a VPS to guarantee performance. Now that’s just for performance similar to Realms… To get the seamless experience we were searching for, we were paying four times the cost of Realms!

Now that we’ve covered the server hosting fees, let’s talk about how players will actually connect to your server, eh? If you’re just looking to run a server for mobile and PC users, you’re home free. However, Realms allows players to connect from any Bedrock-supported device. If you plan on letting console players connect, you’re gonna need a workaround.

There are a few good options out there, and we found the best option for us was to host our own private BedrockConnect node. BedrockConnect has to run it’s own modified instance of BDS, and due to a bug in BDS or technical limitations, you cannot run several instance of BDS on one machine. This meant renting another separate VPS for $4/mo.

In Conclusion

So all in all, with tax we were spending about $40 a month to host our 20-slot Bedrock server and accompanying BedrockConnect node. While performance was nearly perfect, and we could set our server render distance to 24+ without issue, we certainly paid for it. At the time, it was a no brainer decision since Realms performance had been lacking for a while. However, with the optimizations the Realms team made in preparation for the 1.18 & 1.19 terrain changes, that is no longer the case.

Performance gauge
Image via WardyIT

Since returning to Realms we’ve had a full player-cap online on several occasions, and to our delight, performance held strong. Elytra flight was still smooth, we had no random crashes, and terrain loaded promptly. We did have one incident when the Realm got very laggy with only a couple people online, but closing and reopening the Realm easily fixed it.

Overall, with Minecraft Realms performance looking stronger than ever, and their price point staying at just $8, I can confidently say it is the best value for money on the market right now for Bedrock users. Do you agree, disagree, think there is something I missed in my comparison? Let me know in the comments below!