Google's keynote at GDC today left us with more questions than answers in regards to Stadia, its upcoming game streaming service that is launching sometime this year. However, Google fed us just enough details about the hardware to whet our appetite, and perhaps provide a hint of how the service will perform in comparison to today's PCs and dedicated game consoles.
The goalpost has been set at 4K resolution gaming at 60 frames per second. Google also says Stadia will support HDR visuals. In the future, Stadia will scale to 120fps, and even 8K gaming, according to Google's bold claims.
Of course, playing games at 4K requires a system with meaty hardware. Therein lies one of the potential advantages of Stadia, if it can deliver what Google promises. The experience will be powered by the following specs:
- Custom x86 processor clocked at 2.7GHz w/ AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB of L2+L3 cache
- Custom AMD GPU w/ HBM2 memory, 56 compute units, and 10.7TFLOPs
- 16GB of RAM (shared between CPU and GPU), up to 484GB/s of bandwidth
- SSD cloud storage
Digital Foundry has done a good job of breaking all of this down in a video posted to YouTube. Have a look:
One thing that's interesting is that Google is tapping AMD for the GPU, rather than Nvidia. AMD is no stranger to gaming, particularly on consoles, but Google has traditionally leaned on Nvidia's Tesla hardware in the datacenter. That's not the case here.
While we don't know the specific model or even the underlying architecture, the specs generally align with a Radeon RX Vega 56. The claimed performance is also 78 percent higher than a Xbox One X, and 5.8x faster than a base model PlayStation 4.
What's also interesting is that the hardware can be stacked. This means that developers are not bound by the core specs alone, but can tap into multiple instances of the same hardware to drive more demanding games, if needed. Google also mentioned that the CPU and GPU compute is "elastic," which really just means it can upgrade its datacenters over time, as we would expect.
Digital Foundry had a chance to spend some hands-on time with the latest version of Stadia (also included in the video above). It's not the final version that will be made available to consumers, but with a launch coming in the next several months, the experience may not change a whole heck of a lot.
Playing on a Pixelbook on a Google internet connection, the site saw smooth framerates. It also took some latency measurements. Here's how it compared to gaming on other platforms:
- Google Stadia: 166ms
- Google Project Stream: 179ms
- PC @ 30fps: 112ms
- PC @ 60fps: 79ms
- Xbox One X: 145ms
This was not a controlled test by Digital Foundry, and it can be assumed that Google had set things up to showcase Stadia in the best light. Still, it's an interesting early look.
We'll have our own deep dive of Stadia's specs soon, and of course we'll offer up test results when the service arrives later this year.