Testing Google's New 'Stadia' Cloud Gaming Platform on a Mac

Google this week began rolling out its new cloud gaming service, known as Stadia, which is designed to let you play games wherever WiFi is available on smartphones, laptops, tablets, TVs, and more.

Google Stadia doesn't work on the iPhone at this time (though you can use the app to manage your account), but you can play games on the Mac so we thought we'd give it a try in our latest YouTube video.


Right now, Stadia is available to those who ordered the Founders Edition bundle, which was priced at $129, but it will soon be available to everyone.

There are a few cloud-based gaming services on the market such as PlayStation Now and GeForce NOW, so Google Stadia isn't a new concept, but Google promises a simple hassle-free experience that works cross platform.

Basically, to use Google Stadia, you sign up for an account ($9.99 per month for 4K streaming and a selection of free games) and then you can access games on a Mac, Windows PC, Chromebook, or a TV using a Chromecast Ultra, with Stadia also available on Pixel 2, 3, and 4 smartphones running Android 10.

The $9.99 per month fee is to access the Stadia platform. You still need to purchase games separately, and major titles are going to cost anywhere from $30 to $60. There aren't a ton of games available right now, but you can play Red Dead Redemption 2, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat 11, and a handful of other popular games.

We tested Stadia on a new 16-inch MacBook Pro, and found it to be simple and straightforward to use. All of our games were available right away after logging in to Google Stadia via a web browser, with no downloading or installing required to play.

Because these are cloud-based games, you can pick up where you left off on any compatible device, so a game started on the Mac can later be picked up on the TV.

Setup was simple, but the gameplay experience was, well, average. In testing, there was quite a bit of lag and several drops in resolution. Gameplay would be stable for a bit, but we also ran into some stretches where the gameplay was terrible.

Game quality also depended on the game. With Destiny, for example, we saw some hiccups but it was mostly stable, but with NBA 2K20, the game refused to recognize certain button presses and it just didn't work well, suggesting not all games are quite as optimized as they should be. Google definitely has some bugs to work out.

The Stadia service works with any Bluetooth controller, but Google has designed its own Google Stadia controller that shipped with its Founders Edition bundle. We used the Stadia controller, which is pretty similar to an Xbox controller.

Using Google Stadia requires a solid internet connection, so it's not for people who have slow connection speeds. You need at least 35Mb/s for 4K gaming, but even with a connection 10 times that, we had the aforementioned lag issues.

As mentioned before, Stadia is priced at $9.99 per month, but Google is also working on a free tier next year that won't have a monthly fee and will be limited to 1080p quality.

The Founder bundle that we tested Stadia with is no longer available, but Google does have a similar "Premiere" bundle that includes the white Stadia controller (instead of the blue founder model), a Chromecast Ultra, and 3 months of "free" Stadia Pro service. After that, it will cost $9.99 per month.

Cloud gaming has been picking up in popularity over the course of the last few years, and now that Google has launched a cloud gaming service (Microsoft has one in the works too), it doesn't seem out fo the realm of possibility that Apple could launch something similar in the future as an expansion of Apple Arcade.

What do you think of Google's Stadia cloud gaming service? Let us know in the comments.

Tag: Google

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Top Rated Comments

keysofanxiety Avatar
61 months ago

So you have to pay $10 per month AND you have to buy the games? That makes Apple Arcade sound like a real bargain. Outside of the cloud aspect, why would anyone choose this over competing formats?
Apple Arcade doesn’t have AAA games.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jayducharme Avatar
61 months ago
So you have to pay $10 per month AND you have to buy the games? That makes Apple Arcade sound like a real bargain. Outside of the cloud aspect, why would anyone choose this over competing formats?
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DevNull0 Avatar
61 months ago

So you have to pay $10 per month AND you have to buy the games? That makes Apple Arcade sound like a real bargain. Outside of the cloud aspect, why would anyone choose this over competing formats?
To be fair, you're actually running the game software on Google's high end gaming systems. The $10/month is an alternative to spending $1500 on a gaming rig. Then the game which is running on google hardware is streamed through the service to view and control on your device at home. You're paying $10/month for compute time which is a bargain if the system works. For Macs in particular, there is no possible configuration of mac hardware that can run these games well. Streaming is the only solution.

That said, trying to stream games at 4k in any semblance of real-time is an idiotic idea given the current level of internet tech. There is just too much latency and too many hiccups which is why movie streaming needs to buffer. How do you buffer something that's rendered in real-time? You can't.

It would be nice it if it worked. Personally, even though I spend most of my computer time on a mac, I have a Windows PC that I use for gaming, and I don't see that changing in the next few years. Keeping a $4-500 video card reasonably up to date alone costs more than $10/month though. And, of course, I have to buy the games on top of that.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bandaman Avatar
61 months ago
You seemed to have a lot less issues than other people are having.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
realtuner Avatar
61 months ago
From all the reviews I've seen of Stadia seems like a pretty lousy service. As predicted.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
0837990 Avatar
61 months ago
This review pretty much sums it up, and made me laugh out loud several times.


"Google's execution of this old idea proves that it's possible to fail in even more spectacular ways than previously thought."

Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)