Google’s Stadia streaming service has hit another major roadblock on launch. Reports are coming in from reviews of the service that show inconsistent framerates, and variable resolutions, depending on platform of choice. Chromecast Ultra is reporting entirely different experiences for some games compared to when played in a normal Chrome browser.
The whole thing gets even weirder when you consider the power behind the service. Stadia host devices are packing a 2.7GHz CPU and a 10.7 teraflop GPU, similar to that of an RX Vega 56. This configuration should be able to support the full 4K visuals, as Eurogamer puts it, it’s “hardware that outscores Xbox One X on all levels.” The reviewers tested various titles that deliver a locked 1080p image upscaled on the Chromecast Ultra. That same review reported barely noticeable input delays of around 40-50ms depending on the game. This is expected, and shouldn’t have too much of an impact in most games.
Multiple games reported these issues as well. The Verge found that the Chromecast Ultra plays Destiny 2 as an upscaled 1080p image at 60fps. Speaking to Bungie, a representative confirmed that Destiny 2 on Stadia runs at “a native 1080p and then upsample and apply a variety of techniques to increase the overall quality of effect.”
So when combined with spotty marketing and a barebones launch lineup that was hastily expanded, the whole service feels rushed to some. The lack of a consistent delivery of content isn’t too surprising, but the vast differences from advertised are. The service was being billed as having seamless compatibility and experiences between devices, and the performance differences with upscaling say otherwise.
Google did get some things right with input delay and compression quality management, showing some great accomplishments. And not having to wait for patches and other content to install is a bonus to many. But there are so many other issues and technical limitations standing in the way of this service being great. The huge data usage and speed requirements make it impossible to access for many. One reviewer even noted that playing Stadia nearly consumed 1TB of data in the short time they had it, which is just crazy.
Whether Stadia is ready for primetime is beyond question though, it is most definitely not. The huge glut of missing features and lack of game choices is what will define this launch. And a disastrous launch can easily kill any service, Google+ and myriad other failures taught Google that lesson. So if Stadia wants to stick around, it honestly should have waited several months, but now Google will have to rush to adapt new titles and fix performance issues.