Tried and tested: game streaming in 2020

Testing Google Stadia: Is Game Streaming the Future?

Gaming
Google Stadia in test: A review of the game streaming service

Google Stadia: Is this the future of gaming? (Image credit: Google)

You want to enjoy current games such as DOOM Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077 or Marvel's Avengers on your smartphone or office laptop without having to accept any compromises? This is what the game streaming service Google Stadia promises. We took a closer look.

Testing Google Stadia: How well does Google's streaming service for games really work? What about latencies, graphics quality and games? We will tell you.

Video credit: Youtube - Stadia

What is Google Stadia?

Let's assume you only own an ancient laptop that is completely unsuitable for gaming but you still want to enjoy current and future gaming highlights like Cyberpunk 2077 or Marvel's Avengers. The solution is called Google Stadia - at least in theory. Stadia is Google's own cloud gaming service, which wants to take on the collected competition like Shadow, GeForce Now, PlayStation Now or xCloud. Is game streaming really feasible? Or is it all just dreams of the future, which might become interesting in a couple more years?

Instead of calculating games locally on a console or PC, Google does it for you at Stadia on its own servers. From there, they are streamed to your home via the Internet as video - whether to a PC, (Android) smartphone or TV. The high acquisition costs for hardware are eliminated.

Google Stadia was launched on November 19, 2019, and has since developed noticeably. Since April 2020, Google Stadia is also available for free if you can do without 4K and surround sound. The Stadia Pro subscription is available for €9.99 per month and includes 4K and 5.1 sound, as well as free games that change monthly (similar to PlayStation PLUS or Xbox LIVE Gold). There are also discounts on the purchase price of other Stadia games. The games must all be purchased separately.

Google Stadia Pro subscription advantages

Google Stadia is now free. Subscribers enjoy additional benefits. (Image credit: Google)

Testing the Google Stadia

At the beginning of Google Stadia, the range of compatible smartphones and controllers was extremely limited. Today you are no longer dependent on Google devices (pixel smartphones and Stadia controllers) and that's definitely a plus.

Some devices from Samsung, OnePlus, ASUS or Razer are supported. You can find a list of all compatible devices directly on Google.

Once we have set up our account, we can enter the game directly from the browser. Directly is to be taken literally, because the annoying update downloads are fortunately completely omitted in Google Stadia. When we start a game, we always get the latest available version. Ha, 100 GB Call of Duty patch, take that!

Start a brand new game by pressing a button in your browser. That sounds utopian but in practice, it works surprisingly well. In our Google Stadia Test, we were able to try out a total of three titles: Assassin's Creed Odyssey allows a direct comparison to the PC and Xbox One version. In addition, we were able to test the two exclusive stadium titles GYLT and Orcs Must Die 3 extensively.

Video credit: YouTube - Stadia

Google Stadia: Image Quality is Surprisingly Good

The image quality of Google Stadia is surprisingly good, especially in terms of performance. In any case, there are no frame rate drops, even if the graphics quality does not quite reach that of the PC version of a game. Assassin's Creed Odyssey looks slightly better on PC or console, but that's grumbling on a high level. After all, we tried the game on a three-year-old laptop, among other things.

Also important for the visuals is the quality of the stream. After all, any content from Google Stadia is streamed over the Internet. This can lead to some unattractive imagery if your own internet connection is somewhat lame.

Video credit: YouTube - Cloud Gaming Xtreme

Of course, there are internet-related fluctuations in image quality but if everything runs stable, Google Stadia can definitely convince in terms of visual appearance. However, a fast Internet connection is mandatory. According to Google, you should have at least 10 Mbit/s but we recommend 16 Mbit/s or more.

Whether we are connected via WLAN or cable has a significant effect on the image quality. For the best picture, Google Stadia should always be started with a connected LAN cable. In theory, Stadia can also be used on the road. In practice, however, this makes little sense in view of the enormous amounts of data, otherwise, the data volume will be used up faster than you would like.

Another downside, as always with streaming - If you don't have internet access, you can't play. This should be clear to anyone who is interested, but it should not go unmentioned.

Google Stadia Games Status August 2020

The range of games available for Stadia is constantly growing. The selection is convincing. (Image credit: Google)

What About the Latency?

Another important factor is the latency of the games. Is there a noticeable input delay or are our commands immediately implemented on the screen? This varies from game to game.

Some titles, such as GYLT or Orcs Must Die 3 have almost no noticeable latency. If you believe the reviews on the internet, the situation is different with titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Even if only slightly, because in terms of latency Google Stadia easily takes on other game streaming providers. We probably wouldn't want to play fast competitive shooters with it (yet).

Video credit: Youtube - Gamers Nexus

Conclusion on Google Stadia

We were already able to test Google Stadia for the release and remained quite impressed at the time. In the beginning, the service lacked many of the functions promised in advance, and the games on offer were also limited at the time.

Now, almost a year later, things are looking much better. Google Stadia works. Very well if we might add. Of course, nobody should expect the graphic quality of a high-end PC. Due to the high demands on your own Internet connection, Google Stadia is and remains a niche choice. If the conditions are right though, you can and will enjoy the streaming service.

Many years will pass before Stadia or a competitor replaces PCs or consoles but the experience of playing current blockbusters on a smartphone or an ancient PC is enjoyable. Google is no longer alone in this. Microsoft's xCloud and GeForce Now offer a similar experience, at a similar price and sometimes even with more games on offer.

Video credit: YouTube - Alex Gillon

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