Google Stadia is another popular gaming streaming service, even if it's in its early stages on mobile.
Just like GeForce Now, Stadia runs your games on Google's servers and streams them on your device. Google says this service works on top of the existing tech for YouTube streaming, so it has the potential to be the most powerful one - it can do 4K and HDR even now, and 120fps support is not that far ahead.
Just like with GeForce Now, you buy the games you want to play. But here comes the differences - it doesn't support any third-party digital stores; you have to buy the games through the service. Once you purchase them, you can stream them for free in up to 1080p resolution.
If you jump up to the paid tier, you get 4K streaming of the purchased titles PLUS access to a growing library of games, which you don't have to buy.
So on paper, Stadia combines the benefits of Google Now and Xbox Game Pass Cloud Gaming all in one.
TV app: Stadia app for Android TV and LG Smart TVs is in development and will become available later this year.
Stadia works with Stadia games - it's that simple. Google Stadia has its own store where you buy the games you want to play. This means the games you buy will be available only on Stadia for streaming and nowhere else.
Google Stadia Store offers about 120 games right now. There are many AAA titles such as The Assassin's Creed series, Cyberpunk 2077, Destiny 2, Doom, Immortals, the Metro series, NBA 2K21, Red Dead Redemption 2, Sekiro, The Division 2, Watch Dogs Legion, among many others.
If you buy any of these games - you stream those (up to 1080p) for free on your device - whether it's a computer, tablet, or a smartphone.
You can also get access to a (relatively poor) selection of games with the paid tier, though you do get 4K and HDR support for every game.
Google Stadia works with lots of Bluetooth controllers, too - Xbox One and ROG Kunai 3 worked fine.
But Google wants you to buy its own Stadia controller, and it has a key-selling feature - it connects directly to Google's servers instead of your device, and you will enjoy much lower latency.
So, if latency is indeed an issue - then you have the Stadia controller. If it is not - you can use whatever you see fit.
Currently, Stadia is available in the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Belgium, Ireland, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary.
The free tier is, well, free, while the Pro tier costs $10/€10 per month.
Google Stadia works on Android phones, as well as on iPhones. It also works on PCs as well as on some TVs with Chromecast Ultra. Native smart TV apps are coming in 2021, too.
As we said, the free tier provides 1080p video quality. If you want 4K HDR, you need to pay for the Pro tier ($10). But to enjoy this, you would also need Chromecast Ultra ($50). And if you want the lowest possible latency, then there is the Stadia Controller ($70).
Further on, the quality depends on your Wi-Fi connection, of course. You'd be needing a fast connection, preferably on a 5GHz Wi-Fi network. The minimum requirement is 10Mbps, which nets you an HD connection with stereo sound. About 20Mbps ensure 1080p HDR streaming with surround sound, while 35+Mbps are required for 4K HDR streaming.
You can see Google Stadia is quite a demanding thing, but the quality has a price, and that's what you need if you want to squeeze the maximum visuals and sound from your games.
Google had the right idea, and Stadia was a highly anticipated service when it was first announced. And it still looks quite promising, but its biggest limitation remains the dedicated store. You buy all games at full price there, and they are available only for streaming via Stadia. You can't install them on your PC or play them on a console if you get one later on.
Then, if you want to play these games with the maximum quality, you need to pay more - a one-time purchase of Chromecast Ultra plus $10 per month for the paid tier. This means the games are yours at full price, but you have to pay to play them. The convenience of streaming quickly turns into a setback once you realize this limitation.
Finally, we could still get behind Stadia if we weren't afraid of it going to Google's graveyard in a few years like many of Google's past products and thus losing all those precious games we've bought.
We also couldn't help but notice the very limited selection of games that are free to play as part of the Pro subscription - not a single AAA title in sight.
We played some Destiny 2, and the first session was very choppy. We tried about an hour later, and the game ran with much better visual quality and stutter-free. It seems it depends on which server you are connected to. The app says it's still in beta testing, and we better play on a TV with Chromecast Ultra, but we played on our Samsung HDTV regardless.
After about 2 hours in Destiny 2, the second time, that is, we were happy with the graphics quality and the connection, as well with the controller latency even if we didn't have the Stadia Controller. We guess our 50+Mbps connection played a crucial role in that. Or we've connected to an empty server, who knows.
Still, Google has powerful servers, and we have no doubt performance will improve over time.
Google Stadia is shaping as the service with the highest visual quality. We are not keen on its independent store as it limits the user's choice. Plus, we just can't invest money in a store with an uncertain future and limited availability, not just yet anyway. We'd wait a bit and see where Stadia is heading for sure - there is a big chance it will be worth it with both titles and quality - Google has the power to make this happen, but they are also known to easily give up on products that fail to gain traction.