The video game streaming revolution is coming, and Google Stadia is helping to lead the charge—but do you have enough bandwidth to play along when it launches on Tuesday? Here are the minimum requirements for running Stadia, and how you can get your internet connection in shape ahead of time.
Serving up all the goodness of Google Stadia is more complicated than simply streaming a video to whatever device you’re playing on. The platform needs to recognize your controller inputs, apply them to the game running on its servers, and then pipe back the results quickly enough for you to feel like there’s zero lag.
That’s quite a challenge, but Stadia engineers reckon they’re up to it. How speedy your internet connection is going to be depends on the sort of resolutions you want to play your games at. For example, entry-level 720p Stadia streaming at 60 frames-per-second in stereo sound requires a download speed of at least 10 Mbps.
If you can hit double that—20 Mbps—then Stadia can serve up a 1080p stream at 60fps, and throw 5.1 surround sound and HDR processing into the mix. For the very top level, 4K resolutions with 5.1 surround sound and HDR, you need at least 35 Mbps download speeds and preferably more.
Google even offers up an in-browser speed test you can make use of here. Results can vary between tests, so we’d recommend running it a few times to get an average. Alternatively, you can use the Netflix-made online speed test here or the tried-and-true Ookla speed test here to get an idea of how fast your home internet connection is.
If any of those speed tests leave you with a sense of inadequacy, take solace in the fact that you’re by no means alone: Only a fifth of U.S. households can boast connection speeds of 25 Mbps or above, which means that only a fraction of us are going to be running Stadia at 4K resolution on day one.
It’s worth remembering that internet speeds will continue to rise—eventually. Google also told us that its adaptive algorithms mean 1080p may often be possible with a 10 Mbps connection speed—and again, these algorithms are presumably going to get smarter and more efficient over time. This is just the beginning. (Oh, and 5G is on the way.)
Your internet provider puts a hard limit on your connection speed, so your only option may be to upgrade to a higher-bandwidth plan. (Unfortunately, if your internet provider doesn’t offer at least 10 Mbps, you’re stuck with sub-par Stadia.) But those of you on the edge of the internet-speed thresholds do have options when it comes to making sure that Mbps rate stays as high as possible around your home. Little tweaks can make more of a difference than you might think.
First and foremost, consider wiring up an Ethernet connection especially for Stadia. It might require a bit of DIY work, but it’ll be worth it: You can connect up an Ethernet cable directly from your router to your laptop or desktop computer, or to the Chromecast Ultra that comes with the Google Stadia Founder’s Edition pack.
The convenience and simplicity of wifi has understandably made it the default choice around our homes, but wired connections are faster and more stable—sometimes significantly so. The connection doesn’t get affected by other devices, or walls, or microwaves, and it could be the difference between 720p and 1080p on Stadia.
Speaking of wired options, Powerline adapters are worth considering too, even if they’re not as fast as Ethernet. They thread internet around your home through the power sockets and work in most modern homes. However, whether they’ll outpace your wifi is hard to say—it depends on your electrical wiring, the load on it, and the layout of your place. You’ll really need to run a test, so start off with just one adapter you know you can return.
If you want to stick with the wireless option, get the computer or TV you plan to use Stadia on as close to your router as you can possibly manage it—some living space reconfiguration might be required. Ideally, you want your router and gaming machine in the same room, with no barriers between them.
Those of you with a dual-band router bought or supplied in the last few years will have the choice of a 2.4GHz or 5GHz connection for each of your devices. The 5GHz is the one to go for as far as Stadia is concerned—its range isn’t as good as 2.4GHz, but it’s faster and less prone to interference. So as long as your router and gaming device are well-positioned, you should be able to get the benefits of 5GHz. Some routers and devices will put you on 2.4GHz or 5GHz automatically, depending on which has the strongest signal.
If you’re using an older router, consider upgrading to one that supports the latest and fastest 802.11ac wifi standard, which most modern-day gadgets (including the aforementioned Chromecast Ultra) can use. Your internet speed is still limited by what’s coming into your home, but 802.11ac tech will make sure your devices are connecting up at the highest possible speeds.
Something like the Netgear Nighthawk R700P ($150) or the D-Link EXO AC2600 ($140) can make a big difference to connection speeds. And if you’re running an older modem alongside your router, then it might be worth upgrading that too. We’ve gone into more detail about these and other models in our wifi troubleshooting guide here.
Mesh router networks, meanwhile, are great at sorting out wifi dead zones but don’t necessarily give you anything extra in terms of raw speed. Don’t expect to suddenly get better Google Stadia performance with a mesh network—getting your gaming device closer to the router is likely to make much more of a difference.
There are also, of course, all the usual ways of saving bandwidth, like not having the kids streaming Netflix in their bedrooms while you’re trying to do some serious Google Stadia gaming. The more devices you can power down and put offline, the better.
In the end, it’s going to be about experimentation, whether you’re trying the simple tactic of simply moving your router to a different corner or investing in some more expensive hardware. If you know that your internet can at least meet the minimum for Google Stadia, once you get a hold of the Founder’s Edition package, you can start working through some of these tips to see which are the most effective.