When you think of Google, you probably don’t think of a gaming company. You often think of the search company or the creator of Android. But a gaming company? That is (mostly) new territory.
Enter Google Stadia, the technology giant’s ambitious cloud gaming project, which faces Microsoft’s Project x Cloud and Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Stadia is a new way to play with Google’s powerful server centers: you don’t need a computer or console to play with, just a fixed Internet connection and a controller.
Google Stadia works by transmitting the controller’s applications over the Internet and then transmitting it to the device of your choice through the power of cloud computing. You can stream it to a Chrome browser (I used my Pixelbook for this), a TV with Chromecast Ultra, or any number of selected Android phones.
At launch, Stadia supports Pixel 2 series, Pixel 3 series, Pixel 3A series and Pixel 4 series devices, but Google says it plans to expand the list of compatible phones in the future. It should be noted that you still cannot use the existing Chromecast Ultra with Stadia. Google says an update will be released soon to update all models, but you should use what’s currently included with the Startup or Premier Edition controller.
Depending on the quality and membership level of your internet connection, Stadia can transmit up to 4K resolution at 60K speed. Google recommends at least 10 Mbps for a fixed 720p transmission, but the service dynamically changes the resolution depending on the speed and stability of your internet connection.
Google sells a special Stadia controller that uses Wi-Fi to transmit its applications to the Google server. The controller technically has Bluetooth, but is currently only used to connect to your Chromecast and Wi-Fi. At launch, the Steadia controller must be connected to a physical cable to play on your phone or computer. The Steadia controller only comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable, so if you want to play on your phone you have to find a USB-C to USB-C cable. However, Google says it will no longer need a cable in the future.
If you prefer to use your own controller or mouse and keyboard, you can use them from a laptop or desktop computer. Currently, the Stadia Controller does not function as a separate Bluetooth controller for its other gaming needs, but Google has not ruled out the possibility of adding that functionality via a firmware update.
Is the Google Stadia controller good?
The Steadia controller is fairly basic but it feels good in the hand. There are two joysticks, a D-Pad and an ABXY button. You will also find L1 and R1 bumpers and L2 and R2 actuators. In the center, select a stadia button, a Google Assistant button, a screen capture button, a startup and buttons used to activate the device.
Google Assistant button users will be able to help you navigate through areas of the game they can’t find, such as taking a YouTube video to their place in the game. Unfortunately, Google Assistant is still not working on Stadia, so I haven’t been able to try this feature. Once we get this feature we will have to try it more.