One of the first questions that arises if you plan to stream games through Stadia or xCloud is whether your ISP can provide gameplay that is good enough to warrant paying for the service. Of course, “good enough” will depend on the type of game you play and what resolution and performance you are willing to accept. Two Internet metrics are important for game quality, download speed, and latency. Stadia helps players with a website that tests your ISP. Unfortunately, the test doesn’t report latency, it only gives you download speed.
Stadia plans to stream games at three levels of quality depending on the download speed of the player’s internet connection.
|Download speed||Resolution||HDR||Frames per second||Ring|
|10 Mbps||720p||No||60 fps||Stereo|
|20 Mbps||1080p||Yes||60 fps||5.1 surround|
|35 Mbps||4K||Yes||60 fps||5.1 surround|
|Stadia test||143 Mbps||142 Mbps|
|Speed test||149 Mbps||149 Mbps|
Stadia has consistently reported slower download speeds, but the difference to Speedtest is irrelevant for games streaming at these speeds. However, if your download speed is around 40 Mbps or less, the 6-7 Mbps gap between Stadia and Speedtest may be enough to bring you down or elevate you to a higher level of service.
Latency (aka ping) is the time it takes for data to travel from the controller to the server in Google’s data center and back. Slow latency produces a noticeable lag between when a command is issued and when the game responds. Fast latency is essential for games where timing is critical, such as multiplayer shooter or racing games.
The Stadia test reports download speed but not latency. Download speed was also discussed during Stadia’s web presentation in early June, but, again, latency was not mentioned. Stadia seems to avoid latency, which is odd considering its importance to the gaming experience.
Fortunately, Speedtest is pinging so you can tell if your latency is fast enough to support the type of games you want to play. How fast is fast enough? A ping of 20ms (milliseconds) or less is good for any game you might be playing. Pings between 20 and 100ms are good for most games, but the higher the ping, the more frustration you can get when playing games that are critical for timing. The offset is likely to be noticeable and may test your patience when pings are between 100 and 150ms. If the ping is over 150ms, streaming may not be a good option.
Stadia’s internet connection test is useful, but not as useful as it could be. Running a speed test is a better option because it reports both download speed and ping. (This will also give you a download speed, which the Stadia test doesn’t report.) If your download speed is well above 35 Mbps and your latency is acceptable, your internet connection is strong enough to stream games with Stadia. .
If your download speed is 40 Mbps or less, you might want to run a Stadia test and compare the two. Either way, if Stadia is offering a free trial, it would be a good idea to take the opportunity to see what level of service your ISP will support. You don’t want to expect to expect 4K streaming and get 1080p or even worse 720p because your download speed is slower than you might expect.
Regardless of your download speed, check your latency with a Speedtest. A nice 4K picture won’t look very good if you’re constantly getting frustrated because the game responds too slowly to your controller.