HP TECH TAKES /...
Exploring today's technology for tomorrow's possibilities
Google Stadia: A Complete Review
February 5, 2020
While it is certainly not the first service of its kind, Google Stadia is the most comprehensive video game cloud service that has ever been released. Although there have been other attempts at creating a cloud-based game streaming platform, Google Stadia takes it a step further.
It’s the first one capable of streaming games at 4K resolution and at 60 frames per second with 5.1 surround sound. In order to do this, Google has gone all-in on telemetry technology by jumping directly into the internet of things (IoT).
In this article, we will provide a full Google Stadia review so you can determine if this new way to play games is right for you.
How does Google Stadia work?
The IoT is defined as any device with an on and off switch, including medical wearables and devices such as heart monitors and Fitbits, and household items such as coffee makers and washing machines that connect to the internet.
In utilizing an internet connection, these devices transfer data to their manufacturer in order to optimize its use for your personal needs and preferences.
For example, if you like your coffee prepared a certain way, an IoT-enabled coffee maker can recognize this preference and make it the way you like it. The term for the way these devices collect data is telemetry, and it is the power behind the IoT.
Telemetry predates the IoT by many years, and was initially used by NASA in the space program through radio waves. Simply put, it is the process in which radio waves wirelessly transmit data at the speed of light.
Billions of devices are currently connected to the IoT, which includes everything from cloud-based technology, WiFi and 5G cellular-enabled devices such as smart phones and laptops, and home-based virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
All of these devices communicate wirelessly using telemetry to create personalized experiences for everyone who uses IoT-enabled devices.
With Google Stadia, Google extended the concepts of telemetry and IoT into consumer devices that can run their Google Chrome web browser, such as smart phones, smart TVs, and tablets.
The service allows these devices to connect directly to nearby Google-owned data centers that are located throughout the world, which lets you stream games directly to your device via the internet.
What kind of internet connection do I need for Google Stadia?
While your internet connection isn't the only factor that affects how well Google Stadia streams games, it is one of the key components to consider when it comes to getting the most out of playing on Stadia without interruption. At the bare minimum, Google Stadia requires a 10 Mbps internet connection to run without any latency issues.
Fortunately, the average internet speed in the United States is 93.98 Mbps , and the global average internet speed is 46.25 Mbps, so this shouldn't be an issue. However, 10 Mbps won't allow you to stream games in 4K HDR.
To do that, you'll need an internet speed of 35 Mbps, which is still less than half the average internet speed in the United States. This may be particularly challenging if you live in a rural area, because internet speeds average only 39.01 Mbps in states such as Montana, Missouri, Kansas, and Tennessee.
Aside from pure speed, there are two other internet connection factors that you need to pay attention to so you can enjoy a lag-free experience.
To determine connection consistency, you'll want to do several speed tests in a row to make sure that you can consistently get above 35 Mbps. If there is something interfering with your internet connection, such as your router not being in close proximity to your device, then you need to change up your home network setup.
Otherwise, you may experience lag when streaming games on Google Stadia. This will become an even bigger issue when Google rolls out its eventual 8K resolution and 120 frames-per-second update in the future .
You also need to check if your internet service provider (ISP) has any data caps. It is estimated that Google Stadia streams 4K games at 15.75GB per hour with 5.1 surround sound, and at 4.5GB per hour at 1080p with stereo sound.
While you can certainly play Google Stadia over a mobile data plan, it will quickly eat through your data cap if you don't have an unlimited data plan. Additionally, if your home-based ISP has a data cap, then you may want to limit your usage of Google Stadia or switch to another ISP to avoid overage fees.
Is the Google Stadia controller necessary?
In creating Google Stadia, Google partnered with AMD to create new technology for its controller peripheral to make sure that current-generation console games can run solely on a Google Chrome browser.
However, the selling point of Google Stadia is that it doesn’t necessarily need a physical device to stream. In an interview with Eurogamer , Phil Harrison, vice president and general manager for Google, emphasized that Stadia is "just a place," and that it "will run wherever YouTube is."
This means that if you are running Google Stadia on your PC, you can simply use your mouse and keyboard setup to play because all you need is Google Chrome. You can also use Microsoft Xbox One controllers, Sony DualShock 4 controllers, Xbox 360 controllers, or Nintendo Switch Pro Controllers. They’re all designed to work with Stadia.
However, if you use a device that cannot connect to Google Chrome, such as a smart TV, then you do need the controller. This is because Google Stadia needs to run through a Chromecast Ultra, which screens Google Chrome to your TV and runs via the technology in the Stadia controller.
It’s important to keep in mind that this is actually the ideal way to use Google Stadia, because the cloud gaming service currently cannot stream games via PC or the Stadia mobile app at 4K resolution.
Google Stadia pricing
While Google Stadia was touted as "the Netflix of games," the comparison isn’t entirely accurate. Rather than renting cloud-based titles, players should expect to buy games for the same prices they find on other game platforms such as Steam, Sony PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One.
Triple-A (AAA) games will typically retail for $60, and indie games or older titles are priced from $20 to $40, unless otherwise priced by the publisher. The benefit here, though is that once you purchase these games on the Google Stadia platform, you can run them on any device that runs Stadia.
The big difference in pricing comes in the pricing of the service itself. Google Stadia currently only has a Pro subscription, which can be purchased for $10 per month. This gives you access to purchase the entire Stadia game library to stream in 4K resolution with 5.1 surround sound.
Additionally, Google will give away two free games a month to Pro subscribers. The first two were Destiny 2 and Samurai Shodown. Other announced giveaway titles include Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition and Farming Simulator 19.
Google Stadia will also eventually introduce a base model in 2020, which gives you free access to the Google Stadia platform. However, this will not allow for 4k streaming.
If you plan to use Google Stadia on your TV, then you'll need to purchase both a Chromecast Ultra and a Stadia Controller. The Stadia Controller retails for $69, and allows you to seamlessly switch between TVs, laptops, desktops, and Pixel 3 smartphones. The Chromecast Ultra itself retails for $69. You can also buy both items together in a bundle for $130.
In order to use the Google Stadia app on your TV at 4K settings, you need to make a one-time purchase of $130 on top of the $10 a month subscription for Stadia Pro.
You also need to purchase the games, which again are priced from anywhere between $20 to $60 per title. Even with all of those costs in mind, this is still about half the price of a current generation console, such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
Google Stadia game library
Google Stadia launched in November 2019 with 22 titles, an increase from the 12 titles originally planned for launch. Google plans to grow the Stadia game library to more than 40 titles over the months of December 2019 and January 2020, with some even being exclusive to the platform.
Here are the titles that are currently available, as well as the upcoming games Google announced for Stadia.
Google Stadia’s game library (as of Dec. 24, 2019)
- Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
- Attack on Titan: Final Battle 2
- Destiny 2: The Collection (only with Stadia Pro)
- Farming Simulator 2019
- Final Fantasy XV
- Football Manager 2020
- Grid 2019
- Just Dance 2020
- Metro Exodus
- Mortal Kombat 11
- NBA 2K20
- Rage 2
- Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Red Dead Redemption 2
- Samurai Shodown (only with Stadia Pro)
- Shadow of the Tomb Raider
- Tomb Raider 2013
- Trials Rising
- Wolfenstein: Youngblood
- Borderlands 3
- Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2
- Darksiders Genesis
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint
Google Stadia announced games
- Doom Eternal
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Gods and Monsters
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Doom (2016)
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Get Packed
- Windjammers 2
- Baldur’s Gate 3
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid
- Orcs Must Die 3!
- Marvel’s Avengers
- Superhot Mind Control Delete
- Destroy All Humans
- Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
- The Crew 2
How well do games run on Google Stadia?
One of the biggest draws of Google Stadia is the fact you can play it on so many different devices. You could, for example, start a raid in Destiny 2 on your smartphone during your commute home on the train, and then you could boot up your TV and controller to continue playing that raid with your friends at home.
You could then switch over to the mouse and keyboard setup on your PC when you need greater accuracy than a controller can provide - all without any interruptions.
While this cross-device playability is excellent, games do not render quite at 4K, even on TVs and PCs. Because of the nature of streaming, Google needs to first render games in native 1080p, and then upscales it to give a 4K-like visual effect. As a result, it doesn't quite look as detailed as it would on a high-end gaming PC.
The results are still quite impressive, though, since all cloud-based gaming services in the past have had huge problems with lag, stuttering, and visual quality. Google has an impressive amount of infrastructure at its disposal, which significantly helps with running Stadia.
These include 12 data centers in the United States alone that are located in various points across the country to maximize the breadth of the network.
Summing it all up
Google Stadia is still in its early stages, and isn't a necessary purchase at this point except for those who want to be early adopters. However, as Google releases more games and implements more features, the cloud-based gaming service will begin to feel more essential.
In the future, Google has announced everything from 8K streaming to Google Assistant support and direct streaming to YouTube. While these features don't have a hard release date, their implementation will make Google Stadia stand out more among competitors and make it feel like a more vital part of the gaming ecosystem.
Although the tech that Google is using to stream games is quite impressive, it isn't quite there yet to change how we play games.
 IndieWire; Google’s Gaming Platform Is Aiming for a 120FPS Future, But Movies Still Need to Catch Up
About the Author: Daniel Horowitz is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Daniel is a New York-based author and has written for publications such as USA Today, Digital Trends, Unwinnable Magazine, and many other media outlets.