How Well Does Google Stadia Work? We Did a Speed Test

Google Stadia finally arrives this week, bringing its library of games – well, a growing library of games – to TVs, PCs, and phones with the magic of streaming. One problem with streaming, however, is that it can require a pretty decent connection. And that’s what we’re here to test: how well does the Stadia perform with the various wireless and wired settings you’re likely to have in your home?

Google claims that anyone with a 10Mbps connection can play Stadia at 720p, while 4K (60fps) playback only requires a 35Mbps connection. But does Stadia really work in such an environment?

Now that I’ve spent some time testing Stadia myself, I can say this: Google’s claims seem more or less accurate, but with a few caveats so far. To demonstrate the potential Stadia issues in something close to an organized test, I spent a little time measuring network speed as I have used Stadia on many compatible devices I have at home. I tested two of the most demanding games in the Stadia starter lineup, Destiny 2 and Mortal Kombat 11 , with and without additional downloads running.

But first, I’ll tell you a little about my setup. I am getting Fiber from Verizon. Specifically, I am using a 75/75 internet plan – download speed 75 Mbps, upload speed 75 Mbps. Instead of a crappy Verizon router, I have a Netgear Orbi RBR50 mesh that supports 3×3 wireless-ac. In short, this speed is more than enough for Stadia to do its job without hindrance.

Chromecast Ultra Wired

When you check your connection in Stadia, you are shown one of four statuses.

  • Excellent: powerful enough to support 4K
  • Good: you have a stable connection that can run the game at 1080p.
  • OK: your connection is weak and / or unstable. Resolutions can range from 720p to 1080p.
  • Game Might Stop: The connection is not strong enough to support the game. All bets are placed.

According to Google, the ideal way to play Stadia is to use the Chromecast Ultra that comes with the Stadia Founder’s Pack, and the Chromecast Ultra must be connected to your home network using an Ethernet cable. For most of my test week, playing on a wired Chromecast gave me an excellent rating, which allowed me to play in 4K without interruption. However, when I started streaming Netflix, Disney + and YouTube to my nearest Windows desktop, my gaming experience became uneven.

Test 1: Destiny 2

Speeds: 91.72 Mbps down / 120.66 Mbps up

Status: Excellent (4K)

Test 2: Destiny 2 while streaming Disney + to PC

Speeds: 77.75 Mbps down / 121.07 Mbps up

Status: “The game may stop”

Test 3: Destiny 2 while streaming Netflix to PC

Speeds: 84.34 Mbps down / 120.88 Mbps up

Status: “Good” (1080p)

As you can see, the connection quality dropped on both devices as soon as I turned on another semi-demanding action on my network. At the same time, only the resolution dropped in my game; I didn’t have any hitch or texture issues. I saw more problems in areas with other players, such as when I was running around the central world of Destiny 2 .

Chromecast Ultra Wireless

Test 1: Stadia menu (game not running) from Netflix on PC

Speeds: 100.80 down / 121.50 up

Status: Excellent (4K)

Test 2: Destiny 2

Speeds: 59.49 Mbps down / 119.05 Mbps up

Status: Good (1080p)

Using the Chromecast over Wi-Fi wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. With my Chromecast turned off, but very close to my router – maybe 5 feet away – my gaming connection was stable and gave the same accuracy as downloading files while gaming over Ethernet. Connectivity remained “good” overall, allowing for a stable 1080p gaming experience. Sometimes the system pushed me towards 4K, but it usually did more harm than good, creating blurry textures and out-of-sync audio.

My advice: If you don’t have a Chromecast connected, set your data usage to “balanced” so that Stadia doesn’t force you to upscale to 4K whenever possible. You probably won’t be playing in high definition, but your game will be smoother.

Stadia streaming to laptop, wired connection

For the PC streaming test, I used multiple PCs: a custom built Windows desktop and my 2013 Macbook Pro (pictured). The numbers below are from a Macbook Pro shot next to my router. However, my impressions below reflect my experience of using it in many different rooms throughout the house, including on a floor separate from any of my routers.

Test 1: Mortal Kombat 11

Speeds: 89.97 Mbps down / 119.67 Mbps up

Status: Good

Test 2: Mortal Kombat 11 + Netflix (same device)

Speeds: 96.60 Mbps down / 121.01 Mbps up

Status: Good

Laptop, wireless connection

Test 1: Destiny 2 + Netflix (same device)

Speeds: 79.69 Mbps down / 120.55 Mbps up

Status: Good

Test 2: Mortal Kombat 11 + Netflix (same device)

Speed: 77.72 Mbps down / 120.12 Mbps up

Status: Good

For the most part, playing on a PC was very similar to playing on a Chromecast. You can’t stream in 4K through the Stadia web app at launch, so a “good” 1080p connection is the best you can get. I’ve noticed a few more cosmetic issues on PC, especially with Wi-Fi – more pop-ups and blurry textures on really detailed objects like my weapon in Destiny 2. It’s a decent way to play, although I also understand why Google is pushing people to use Chromecast first and foremost.

More than anything, each issue reminded me that I was playing on a gaming PC that could easily outperform Stadia. It was the elephant in the room for most of this testing. PS4, Xbox One and most gaming PCs can run more stable at similar resolutions if you just install games locally and then they won’t be disabled by external factors like Netflix.

Stadia streaming to smartphone, Wi-Fi connection

Test 1: Destiny 2

Speeds: 100.0 Mbps down / 127.0 Mbps up

Status: Good

Test 2: Destiny 2 + YouTube on PC

Speeds: 100.00 Mbps down / 130.0 Mbps up

Status: Good

In fact, what impressed me most was how well the Stadia performed with the Pixel 3a XL. On the 6-inch display, both games looked incredibly sharp on the Pixel, so while it didn’t push the highest fidelity, it looked and felt like it did on a console. Also, it ran very smoothly without any technical requirements Obviously I was playing at home over my network, so the bandwidth was sufficient, but you might well argue that Stadia works best on a phone – at least from a technical point of view. …

Smartphone burning through my data plan

Google Stadia prevents you from playing games over cellular data on startup. Despite this, I tried. Instead of the usual play button, Stadia showed me a “connect” button with three bars on it, which was linked to a support page that was not available prior to launch.

That’s all. Overall, Google Stadia works pretty well if you have the bandwidth to support it, albeit less stable than a traditional game console or PC. Perhaps more importantly, the system can be finicky when you combine it with other online activities, which most people will do because everything is online all the time, or because you live with your family or roommates, and they all want to go about their business too. And that’s even with a high-speed connection.

This may change in the long term, but the fact is, the Stadia cannot compete with consoles or even a budget gaming PC at this time. While Stadia has good graphics to download, the service wants to achieve the same performance and accuracy that you would find on a PS4 or Xbox One. And these consoles can do it more consistently and without punching your data. Stadia clearly has potential, but until it’s more resilient, the cloud is not the same as having hardware at home.


Leave a Reply