Google Stadia continues to amaze and perplex me, today in a way I wasn’t expecting. I had a notoriously bad experience testing Google Stadia at my home this past week, and while other outlets had similar issues (notably The Washington Post’s Gene Park), in general, most people were getting better performance than me.
Well, I am out of town and currently sitting in an Indianapolis hotel, Stadia controller on the desk. I brought it to see how it would work in a situation I would probably actually want to use Stadia in, while traveling.
I have been fascinated to see that somehow my performance on Stadia has improved at this hotel which demonstrably worse wireless internet than my home.
To be fair, this hotel’s internet is a lot better than most hotels’ internet. When I ran Google’s Stadia speed test, I got 92 Mbps, which is very solid (Google recommends above 35 Mbps for high quality streaming) but also way lower than the same test which put my home internet at 200-300+.
Playing Mortal Kombat and Destiny 2, the two games I played while testing the most at home, the difference is notable. While the stuttering is not gone completely, it still crops up on occasion, it appears less often and is less severe when it does arrive. Enough to be annoying and less than ideal, but not enough where it’s totally mangling play sessions like my home tests were.
It’s still far from perfect overall. Destiny 2 in particular feels more sluggish with less visual fidelity than it would on my gaming laptop (and I am playing Stadia by plugging the controller into said laptop and playing on Chrome). And yet it is far better than the performance was at my home.
So what’s going on? That’s a problem that Google and I are still trying to figure out.
I offered them up my session data to investigate, and their initial findings conclude that I was only getting 15-20 Mbps to the Chromecast for some reason, a Chromecast which is sitting eight feet away from my desktop PC which is getting 200 Mbps wireless speed from the same network, so that does not make sense to me. Additionally, I did try a session or two on PC, bypassing the Chromecast, but I was running into similar problems there.
Google says that they see that I have “client-side congestion” and asked what else I was doing while trying to play. The answer is nothing. I was not streaming music or video and only my PC and phone were connected to the Wifi out of all the devices in my house. And I am having zero trouble with my internet on every other device. In general, this is the best internet service I’ve probably ever had.
Google asked if I was on a mesh network, which I am. I use an ORBI mesh system to boost Wifi around my house, which has been a godsend for my wireless speed on all my devices, better than traditional boosters ever were. But Google bringing it up makes me think that perhaps that could be a factor, as it’s the common denominator between PC and Chromecast testing. Both are on that network. But I know other people were having trouble even with gigabit fiber, like Gene, so who knows, and Google has not confirmed the mesh is the key, they merely asked about it, and I’m waiting to hear more. But if that is the problem, I’m not going to dismantle my very functional network just so Stadia can work. And if that’s an issue, Google needs to tell people that ahead of time.
This continues to be a massively confusing endeavor, which is the opposite of what Stadia was supposed to be, as the concept was simply plug and play wherever. But if I can’t use it in my home and I need to go to hotels and Starbucks for it to work somehow, that’s an issue.
I am glad I finally managed to find better performance somewhere, but too many questions remain, in addition to the central problems with the model itself which I’ll dig into another time. I’ll update with any further fixes if I find them.