Stadia Review in 2021: Is it the Future of Gaming or a Laggy Mess?

Google's next-generation gaming system, the Stadia, has been out for more than a year now. Is it worth the investment, or just another failed Google product?
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When Google announced their ambitious “Stadia” project, I was the first naysayer. The Google graveyard is chock-full of services the massive tech company rolled out only to kill a few short months or years later… anyone else remember Google Glasses?!

The idea of buying games at full price from Google for a streaming service they could shut down any time seemed too far-fetched to me to make any sense.

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Well, fast-forward to the release of Cyberpunk 2077. As I wrote in my review of the controversial CD Projekt Red title, I received a free Stadia controller and Chromecast Ultra for pre-ordering Cyberpunk from Stadia. I figured, since I had no next-gen console or state-of-the-art PC, the cheapest way to see the game in 4K would be Stadia.

And, let me just say, I’m sold.

Play it Anywhere

The convenience of being able to play full 4K, 60FPS games on my phone will never get old for me. It’s the same magic that’s made the Switch such a huge hit: taking these modern gaming experiences on the go is just natural. It feels like the evolution in gaming that everyone was waiting for.

Being untethered from the console upgrade cycle is another great feeling. I’m playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in 4K without having to drop $500 (or more on eBay) for a new system.

Sometimes I feel like playing from the couch, old-school style. I just turn on my Stadia controller and my Chromecast moves over to the Stadia interface and shows my game library. I pick one and just like that I’m in the game.

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If I’m in my office at my desktop, I can run the games through my Chrome browser. If I’m lying in bed and want to get in a few quests on Immortals Fenyx Rising, all I have to do is pop my phone in the claw grip, attach it to my controller and I’m ready to play without any downloads or fuss.

Internet Requirements

Full disclosure: my home internet is very fast. I get about 1 GB of speed through a fiber optic internet provider. However, Google promises that you only need 35 MB of internet speed to get your games in 4K, and only 10 MB to hit the recommended speeds for 1080p.

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This being said, you might want to avoid Stadia if you have data caps in your region: the service chews through data at a very fast rate.

For the amount of data you’d normally download a full game, you can eat through that playing Red Dead Redemption in 4K in just four hours. But if you don’t have a data cap, Stadia is one of the lowest buy-ins for modern gaming you can find.

Affordability and Performance Intersect

If you have good internet and want to play new games without dropping a ton of money on a new gaming computer or a gaming console, Stadia is a great option. The games lineup is a bit shallow compared to Xbox, PlayStation and Steam currently, but that is very likely to change as the platform finds its footing. For now, there are a ton of fun experiences on the service.

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The service shows promise. With a bit more polish and the introduction of some promised features like live streaming to YouTube, the service could represent the future of game streaming.

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