Google Stadia

What you need to know

  • Google Stadia is a game streaming service that launched today.
  • Google claims that all games run at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second on the system, but that's not the case.
  • Digital Foundry uncovered that Destiny 2 was 1080p and Red Dead Redemption 2 was 1440p.
  • The input lag is also higher compared to Xbox One X.

Google Stadia is a game streaming service that launched today. It features 22 games like Rage 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2, with a couple more promised by the end of the year. While this selection pales in comparison with Microsoft's Project xCloud, which offers 50 games already, the question a lot of gamers are asking is how does the visual quality compare to Xbox One X.

The Xbox One X is a few years old now, but it's still the "most powerful console in the world." It features 6 teraflops (tflops) of processing power, whereas Stadia has over 10 tflops. Given the power difference, you would expect games to look much better on Stadia than they do on Xbox One X, but shockingly enough, that's not the case. Before we discuss Digital Foundry's findings, let's preface this discussion by saying that Stadia offers a video stream. The fact that it's a video of a game running on hardware located hundreds of miles away means that the image quality will be compressed and have artifacts. It won't look as good as a native 4K experience being pushed directly to your TV. Games that are mostly static like Kine will look great, but motion-heavy experiences like Shadow of the Tomb Raider will appear blurry.

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Red Dead Redemption 2

Digital Foundry started off by comparing input lag on Xbox One X and Stadia. Since Xbox One X doesn't beam an image from the cloud, the input lag is a lot less. Even games like Destiny 2, which run at 60 frames per second (FPS) on Stadia and 30 FPS on Xbox One X, exhibited more input lag on Stadia. This is surprising because increasing the frame rate usually halves the input lag. Destiny 2's input lag on Xbox One X was 100 milliseconds (ms) and 144 ms on Stadia. This can make aiming, even in 60 FPS, a little difficult.

However, if you compare 60 FPS games like Mortal Kombat 11 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider between the two devices, the findings remain the same. Mortal Kombat 11 exhibited 78 ms of input lag on Xbox One X compared to 122 ms on Stadia. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, when the 60 FPS option was engaged, exhibited 83 ms input lag on Xbox One X, but 139 ms on Stadia. If you choose to go with Resolution Mode on Stadia for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, then the input lag goes over 200 ms, which is essentially unplayable for hardcore gamers.

Now comes the part about resolution. According to Google, all games on Stadia can run at 4K resolution and 60 FPS. Digital Foundry found out that that wasn't the case. Destiny 2 may run at 60 FPS on Stadia, but it's locked to 1080p. This means that it looks incredibly blurry on a 4K display since it's being upscaled and is just a video stream. The Xbox One X version of Destiny 2 runs at native 4K resolution, but it's locked to 30 FPS. The same applies to Red Dead Redemption 2.

Destiny 2

Red Dead Redemption 2 runs at native 4K resolution on Xbox One X and is locked to 30 FPS. The Stadia version, if you try to play it with a Chromecast Ultra, renders at 1440p and 30 FPS. So playing the game on a large display is a bad idea because the image quality is much worse than even the PlayStation 4 Pro port. Oddly enough, Digital Foundry said that if you used Google Chrome on PC, the game renders at 60 FPS at a lower resolution.

Given the power gap between Xbox One X and Stadia, we would expect all games to be 4K 60 FPS on Google's hardware, but that's not the case. It's unclear if this is due to difficult development tools or problems with the servers. Hopefully, Google offer more clarification soon because the company's 4K 60 FPS claims fall flat when it comes to Destiny 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2. If you were looking into purchasing Stadia hoping that it would offer better visuals, keep in mind that it offers better frame rates, but that advantage is offset by the increased input lag which makes aiming in Destiny 2 a little difficult, especially in player vs. player encounters.

Everything you need

Stadia Founder's Edition

A good way to start

This bundle includes everything you need to get started with Google Stadia. It includes the controller, Chromecast Ultra, Destiny 2, and three months of the Stadia Pro subscription for you and a friend. It's a great way to begin your game streaming journey

Pick up the parts

Chromecast Ultra

HD streaming

You can buy everything together or you can get just the basics for Google Stadia. The Chromecast Ultra is available to purchase now and lets you stream 4K TV as well as play games when Stadia launches in November.

All you need

Google Stadia controller

A firm grip on what's needed

The Stadia controller is all you need to use Google Stadia if you already have the Chromecast Ultra. You can also use it on your other devices too. Get the Wasabi colored one, it's gorgeous.

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