xCloud streaming reportedly bests Google Stadia in early latency test

What you need to know

  • "Project xCloud" is Microsoft's upcoming game streaming service.
  • At E3 2019, everyone could test it out by streaming a game 400 miles away.
  • An analysis says xCloud only exhibited 67 ms of input lag which is almost the same as playing on an Xbox One.
  • March's Stadia analysis saw 166 ms of input lag.

At E3 2019, Microsoft is giving gamers the chance to try out "Project xCloud," its game streaming service that competes with Google Stadia. The server is located 400 miles away, but you can access games like Gears of War 4 and Halo 5: Guardians – both of which run at 60 frames per second (FPS) – on an Android phone connected to a controller.

According to an analysis by Ars Technica, xCloud only exhibited 67 milliseconds (ms) of input lag compared to Stadia's 166 ms. If you directly play Halo 5 on a console, you experience 63 ms of input lag. You can read the outlet's findings below.

In our video tests, the time between tapping the A button and seeing a response on the smartphone screen took sixteen frames of a 240 FPS video or 67 ms across three subsequent tests. That's almost imperceptibly slower than the 63 ms input latency Digital Foundry measured on the Xbox One version of Halo 5 in 2017... Testing latency of a wired... Stadia demonstration at March's Game Developers Conference, Digital Foundry found total latency of 166 ms, compared to a low of 100 ms on a 60 FPS PC.

Keep in mind that this test was conducted in less-than-ideal testing conditions, but it still shows a dramatic reduction in input lag when compared to Stadia. However, as this is an early test, the input lag could improve on xCloud going forward.

The same applies to Stadia. Since its reveal in March, Google may have managed to bring down the input lag further. We should know for sure in November when the "Stadia Pro" subscription launches and xCloud is in public trials.

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Asher Madan handles gaming news for Windows Central. Before joining Windows Central in 2017, Asher worked for a number of different gaming outlets. He has a background in medical science and is passionate about all forms of entertainment, cooking, and antiquing.

  • That's pretty impressive considering it's similar latency as playing on an Xbox. Although, this was done with wired controllers. Bluetooth will definitely add to the latency.
  • But it won't go up to 166 ms like Stadia wired latency no matter what. This is consistent with what Kareem said many months ago that xCloud just adds 5 ms on top of that and uses AI to help with that.
  • @Darkness690. Bluetooth is a local connection so it has no affect on streaming latency lol. Streaming latency simply put is purely determined by your internet package, bandwidth allocation at isp level, what hardware your isp uses at exchange level, deep sea fibre connection, location and distance from closet streaming server. Connecting to a streaming server miles away by Bluetooth... hah, that's pretty funny as Bluetooth can only retain a connection over several metres and that's only in the same room. If only it retained connection over several miles away, you could literally turn your Xbox on from anywhere in the house and play it lol.
  • What do you think we're talking about with latency? Bluetooth has input latency between the radio and the device it's connected to. Microsoft has previously stated they get more latency from the Bluetooth stack than anything else. No one is talking about connecting the controller to the cloud. Google is doing that with their wifi controller.
  • Agree, BT will add some latency.
    1. keycode sent to phone. wired solution is no doubt faster than BT.
    2. phone then forward the keycode to the server.
    3. server do some calculations then send the visual back to phone.
    4. phone do the rendering.
  • @Darkness690. Ah, my mistake I put my hands up and can say categorically misread lol. I look like a right dimwit for doing so 🙈😂, so glad the office closed today so I can catch up on sleep 🤣.
  • the gaming experience is affected by the sum of all latency. you add the latency of your monitor display, the latency of your gaming controller, the latency of your frames per second (e.g., 30 fps has greater latency than 60 fps), the latency of the wireless interface, the latency of the Internet, etc. Part of the reason why Microsoft chose their custom 2.4 GHz system versus Bluetooth was lower latency. For the 360, the latency for Microsoft's wireless protocol was about 7 ms. The latency for PS3's Bluetooth was roughly 13-18 ms. Every little bit helps. It's why the hardest of hardcore gamers use wired keyboard, wired mouse, wired controllers, monitors with less than 5 ms latency, etc.
  • Duplicate Duplicate Duplicate
  • You didn't understand him. The Bluetooth here is the connection between gamepad and the phone. According to other article, that latency is pretty large compared to network latency.
  • Yes, I see that now - my bad. I had images and videos off so the windows central site renders faster and better on edge on WM10 lol.
  • Who is using Bluetooth?
  • Millions of people, troll.
  • It will, and most people who use these services will use Bluetooth. Because thats the easiest way to turn a phone, tablet, or smart TV into a gaming machine. Virtually no one's going to want to buy a whole setup, just for streaming, when they already have capable of streaming devices. Best case scenario is smart TV's and mobiles start including a lower latency protocol for controllers.
  • As I said in an comment in an earlier article, stadia is a meek offering that reeks of a money grab. It's no "Netflix of games" as some news outlets have chosen to class it. Game Pass Ultimate is THE Netflix of games, as I don't see why Microsoft couldn't add xcloud streaming functionality to the ultimate sub tier. As there is nothing beyond an ultimate tier linguistically or in marketing speak, unless of course they call it some mumbo jumbo like Ultimate premiership tier for gamers choice lol. Plus Stadia has no console that you can use as your own personal server for free; whereas you can with Xbox. It remains to be seen if they include the OG Xbox one in that class of consoles as well - don't see why they wouldn't - as the software is effectively the same bar the drivers and hardware specific optimisation across console iterations. I can't wait until hyperoptic goes live in my area, 1 Gbps on both upstream and downstream. The only thing that would be missing for me would be an andromeda sort of device on which I could stream my Xbox games on the go.
  • You talk an AWFUL lot yet say nothing.
  • Ah, there you are, it's been a while.
  • True that Stadia isn't the Netflix of gaming tho.
    1. Netflix support outline viewing (has a native solution)
    2. Netflix doesn't require you to buy vids separately
    3. Netflix has lower streaming requirements. Sony, MS, Valve can let you DL all your games and saves and let you run your game on PS, Xbox or PC when they want to quite gaming business. How do you run Stadia games locally?
  • @Hirox K. Thank you. I didn't think it was necessary to point these out because it's so obvious lol.
  • The console idea itself makes no sense. People don't buy a bluray player and 4k tv, merely to spend all their time watching HD netflix. Game streaming should be pitched primarily as a replacement for mobile gaming; Nintendo switch, mobile games etc. PC riggers, console gamers, will still want their high fidelity, low latency local rig. That's why the stadia will fail. Anyone who wants a console will get a console. Just as radio listeners don't buy a hidef stereo setup. In fact, even having these streaming setups dependant on a controller is a mistake. Sure, people will use them, but the biggest audience for these services is like the gaming equivalent of Spotify users. People who just want to fire something up, low expense, low thought, bang. In fact the best services would operate like netflix or spotify, live primarily on peoples phones and smart tvs and say 'if you like this, you might like these'. Worse for stadia, is the price. That 'subscription for low teir, purchase for high teir' has been death to the tv/movie streaming business. You want a one sub, get everything model.
  • Playing with a wired controller directly on a console should yield 0ms lag
  • Well, no. There is the hardware processing, the software processing, and the image processing of the display. Physics is a thing.
  • Lol!!! Wow, someone doesn't understand physics. Even at essentially light speed, there is lag in circuits. There is no such thing as usable instant information transfer.
  • In a perfect World, yes, it should. But it doesn't. You will always encounter lag.
  • World? More like Universe. Maybe if we discover that Quantum Entanglement is actually a real and useful thing to transfer information, then we can have no lag. Until that happens we are stuck with the known laws of physics.
  • There's always lag, no matter what.
  • This will be awesome if it's true, although it is different to what people say who actually have played games on xCloud, including writers on this very site.
  • The MS test was likely done under "very" ideal conditions. It was in the "Microsoft" Theater. I suspect they controlled all aspects of the connection. Google may have done a similar thing, but we are not sure.
  • There were like dozens of people using xCloud from the same place at the same time. And there was only one internet connection. Stadia did the same when it was showcased but the lag was 166 ms for a 60 FPS game.
  • Google always finds a cheaper way to market tho, this may be telling long term.
    Let's hope the MS product is top quality but also well priced.
  • I think we can expect it to be a part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
  • They'd be far better off, having a separate service and also as an add on. Lots of people will want to stream games that have no interest in local copies. People that just want to game on their smart TV, or phone for eg. That's the biggest audience, the people currently so casual they aren't even buying. That's why selling a streaming console is small biscuits. People who will be most attracted to this, likely don't want any local hardware. Maybe a few Bluetooth controllers, and that's it. Think about it, all those lower income/more casual folks with just a TV, and a phone; all they have to buy is a controller or two. That's where it's at. 10/month along with your netflix, and your TV is the ultimate baby sitter. Why even bother with the console part for those folks? For the hardcore gamers, they'll always want the machine, and will just use streaming for mobility.
  • Here's the way I see game streaming; it's not for consoles. It's for tablets and phones and other low power devices. It's easy enough to have a PC, or console capable of running it's own games. Streaming doesn't add visual power. This package isn't for people who would otherwise have consoles, or gaming pcs. It's the equivalent of radio, for gaming. It's for the casuals. People don't spend money on high end graphics cards, invest in gaming collections, buy consoles and gaming accessories, all so they can play games with visual artefacts online and dependant on network connection. That's why stadia is dead on arrival. Any package like this needs to be purchasable without a console. It also needs to be playable with no controller. MSFT should create an xbox controller touch overlay immediately. People will want to do this on their phones, and tablets, and Nintendo switches. They might flick it on with friends over, on their low power PC. They might run it, to continue their home game on the bus. It's not existing users, or usecases, it's additional users and user cases. It replaces the mobile game, not the console/pc game.
  • Uh, this comparison means nothing unless they're using the same network under a similar load. Most of the difference is going to be video compression latency. I'm curious how parsec would do on the these networks.