Google Responds to Stadia 4K Complaints

Posted on November 25, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Google Stadia with 25 Comments

Google has finally responded to complaints that Stadia isn’t hitting its promised 4K/60 fps quality levels.

“Stadia streams at 4K and 60 FPS,” the Google statement claims. “And that includes all aspects of our graphics pipeline from game to screen: GPU, encoder and Chromecast Ultra all outputting at 4k to 4k TVs, with the appropriate internet connection … We give developers the freedom of how to achieve the best image quality and framerate on Stadia and we are impressed with what they have been able to achieve for day one.”

That last bit seems designed to give Google a bit of wiggle room, since the experts at Digital Foundry and others have consistently found that Stadia games typically do not display at 4K, nor do they achieve 60 fps. Instead, many games seem to be upscaled from 1440p or even 1080p.

Red Dead Redemption 2 on Stadia doesn’t seem to be delivering on key marketing promises,” the Digital Foundry explains. “We were told that Stadia’s GPU has the power of Xbox One X and PS4 Pro graphics combined, yet RDR2 on Stadia only has 44 percent of the X’s rendering resolution, while even the [less capable] PS4 Pro GPU is generating a higher pixel-count (even before factoring in its checkerboarding upscale). Stadia’s GPU seems to be an offshoot of AMD’s RX Vega 56 based on its specs, yet in 1080p mode, performance is more in line with the PC version running on a much less capable RX 570 or RX 580.”

The issue, of course, is that Google did promise that all Stadia games would run at 4K/60 fps.

“Yes, all games at launch support 4K,” Google VP Phil Harrison tweeted back in October. “We designed Stadia to enable 4K/60 (with appropriate TV and bandwidth). We want all games to play 4K/60 but sometimes for artistic reasons a game is 4K/30 so Stadia always streams at 4K/60 via 2x encode.”

1440p and 1080p are not 4K, of course. So it appears that while the Chromecast Ultra does output in 4K, it’s not always at 60 fps, and it’s often upscaled from a lower resolution. Put simply, Google is not meeting the letter or the spirit of its quality promises for the game streaming service.


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Comments (26)

26 responses to “Google Responds to Stadia 4K Complaints”

  1. madthinus

    I don't understand how a Stadia can deliver 4K gaming at 60FPS when even the beefiest graphics card is struggling doing it right now. Technically I can output 4K at 60 by turning down the detail in the game. Is this how Google is doing it?

    • jeff.bane

      In reply to madthinus:
      I had this exact thought, it's not possible on that hardware unless the detail is turned down like crazy. Tomb Raider and Metro Exodus, you'd need a 2080 ti to pump out 4k / 60 with high detail levels. And stadia uses Radeon Pro cards, a competent card, but not a $1000 high end video card.
    • garumphul

      In reply to madthinus:

      Imagine the kind of horsepower required to render at 4K resolution with a decent amount of graphical quality and then encode it to a 4K VP9 stream with decent quality and super-low latency.

      And presumably they need to have one dedicated instance of such a machine for each player.

      It's going to be pretty toasty in that server room.

      As I understand it, that's basically what MS are doing for XCloud - they have an XBox One S machine per user. But they've made no claims about 4K or 60fps... they're saying you'll get what an XBox One S can provide. I presume they went with the lower hardware to minimize power and heat. Maybe if Scarlett can handle higher resolution with better thermals they'll switch to that one (for a few dollars more).

      Suddenly I'm wondering how the render / stream pipeline works. Graphics engine renders a scene, this creates a single frame which is essentially a bitmap, and that bitmap is encoded as a VP9 stream? Or do they render directly to VP9 in a single step... that would be mental.

  2. Daekar

    Is it bad that I'm gleefully watching Stadia melt down? Gaming is very important to me, and I don't trust Google to handle it with respect and care.

    The Stadia screenshot looks terrible...

    • sharpsone

      In reply to Daekar:

      I'm with ya there, Google ads are bad enough and certainly don't need that kind of a mindset in gaming.

    • Passinttd

      In reply to Daekar:

      I agree that it would be nice to see Google fail in an epic fashion. We also have to think of the future of Xcloud though. Yes, Sony will have a game streaming service as well but it looked like some of their back end was on Microsoft technology. Therefore to keep up the pressure on Microsoft to we need some competition from an outside camp. If Stadia stays alive then it will probably be the pressure Microsoft needs to keep pushing boundaries. It has already pushed Microsoft to open up a lot more games to Xcloud that they probably wouldn't have if Google didn't say they were releasing more! This is the kind of competition that benefits us consumers! While I will not buy Stadia nor play anything besides Xcloud, I still hope competition stays around.

  3. illuminated

    Google + Sony would have been a better combination (for google). I expect Google to kill Stadia in a year or two.

  4. sharpsone

    Lmao not surprised, this product is doa the only people in its corner are those that forked over too much money. Costco has the OneX for $349.99 and xcloud is sweet enough to make mobile x boxing a worthwhile investment for much less.

  5. codymesh

    Well that isn't really an answer, is it. People were under the impression that the visuals would be at least on par with current-gen consoles (or better). Instead, not only is it worse, Digital Foundry also highlighted that the performance is also not as consistent as the Xbox One X.

    I feel like Google isn't telling people something.

    • Stooks

      In reply to codymesh:

      " People were under the impression that the visuals would be"

      What people? I had NO illusion it would be. So far ALL stream game services have had this same issue. The Streaming company simply CANT control the pipeline from their data center to your house.

      I honestly think the Xbox version will have this issue as well. Maybe not as bad since they know a few things about gaming but if my internet pipe is fully of junk, or my provider is having issues...etc....etc.....etc...the service WILL suffer.

      Streaming a video like Netflix can be made good by buffering, because it is a simple playback. A game is dynamic and cant be predicted and buffering only does so much.

      • codymesh

        In reply to Stooks:

        i'm not talking about the stream quality, i'm talking about the assets loaded into the game. The graphics settings (texture quality, foliage detail, etc) on Stadia are lower than when the game is running on the Xbox One X

  6. ZeroPageX

    It's like Netflix. They can claim 4k, but it's the bitrate that really matters. Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Google ever said what bitrate they were aiming for. Pretty slimy of them.

  7. saturn

    In Australia, this would probably be grounds for a class action lawsuit under Australian Consumer Law for false advertising. It’s not the end of the world but it’s the principle.

  8. rm

    Wow, Google really thought no one would figure out they are up-converting resolutions! Maybe Stadia is trying to make up for a poor bandwidth or latency issue. But I would think the testers would be monitoring their connections and would know.

    Given how big a mess Stadia has proven to be so far by Google, it would not surprise me if the issue was by design. Google will likely never get Stadia out of beta (I mean other products go for years as beta). Must be they are trying to protect their reputation. That can't help them from my perspective however, that just makes them look worse.

  9. StevenLayton

    I'm clearly getting old as I don't really see much difference in the first of the three images on the hero picture, though the right hand Stadia one is the worst, even to my poor eyes.

    • beckoningeagle

      In reply to StevenLayton:

      A trick you can use is to cross your eyes in a way that the first picture overlaps with the second picture. Since one eye will be focusing on the left and one eye on the right, you will immediately notice the differences as they will appear to flash. Then repeat with the middle one and the third picture. I just gave you my trick to find the difference puzzles.

    • chrisasnyder

      In reply to StevenLayton:

      What think the first 2 panels are showing is the tree LOD (Load object distance) value. In the middle on the side of the mountain, the tree density is higher for the Ultra setting. I'm also guessing this is the PC version with atmospheric effects off to make the tree rendering easier to see. Then compare the XBox One X to the Stadia shows that both of these are using the low tree LOD value, with the atmospheric effects on.

    • darrellprichard

      In reply to StevenLayton:

      Agreed - although the Xbox One X does display the sky and clouds with more detail.

  10. jules_wombat

    So why is this a surprise. No one really believed the Google hype did they ?

  11. darkgrayknight

    Not overly surprising considering how "not yet done" it was being released as. They really should have just waited or at least announced it as a preview/alpha release. Microsoft went the correct direction with a release preview, rather than a complete release.

  12. Patrick3D

    Stadia is a compressed video stream, a fair comparison would be to take a PC/4K image and run it through an AV1 compressor then compare. The original video on Google's side may be pure 4K raw goodness, but what ends up at the player's end is going to depend on what bitrate Google pushes for the given connection. It isn't even your own connection that can cause a loss in quality but if Stadia servers get hammered Google can drop the bitrate on their end to provide a smoother experience for everyone.

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