Google Stadia Review 2021: Finally Worth Using


Google Stadia had a little trouble. The service was touted as a way to easily get console-quality games without having to invest in a console. But the complicated setups and buggy performance made it a tough sell. Since then, Google has worked hard to improve the overall Stadia experience, making deals like the one with AT&T to get Stadia into more hands, and more.

So that begs the question. At this point, a year and a half after its launch, is Google Stadia an ecosystem that is really worth buying? What about the Google Stadia controller? I’ve been testing the service for a while to find out.

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Configuring Google Stadia

Perhaps the worst part of using it is configuring the service. You’ll start by downloading and installing the Stadia app on your phone. I am using a Google Pixel 4a 5G. Then you’ll turn on the controller, pair the controller with the app, press a button combination to approve the pairing, and you should be off for the races.

Google Stadia Controller Back
Back of the Google Stadia controller Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

It sounds easy, but at first it didn’t really work out well for me. Often times the controller just didn’t connect which prompted me to restart the pairing process. Eventually the process seemed to work a bit better, but you have to re-enter a code each time you want to connect the controller to a device. And, you will have to keep in mind that you will have to wait a few seconds after entering the code for the controller to connect. It would have been nice if the controller would connect automatically. However, it might have been trickier for those who use multiple displays.

Speaking of screens, I’ve used the service on a Pixel 4a 5G, Google Chromecast Ultra, and in Chrome on a Mac Mini. The service is compatible with other displays as well, and you can use it on an iPhone or iPad, although you’ll have to do this through Safari rather than a native app.

Of course, it’s also important to note that you’ll need a solid connection to use Stadia. Your connection should be better than you think. I used the service over a 50Mbps Wi-Fi connection and it worked fine. I have also used it on AT & T’s 5G network, where I got around 30Mbps in my area. Again, it worked well. Even with a good network, you should expect some stuttering every now and then.

Google Stadia interface

The Google Stadia app is relatively easy to navigate. It is divided into three tabs, with a “Store” tab, a “Home” tab and an “Explore” tab. In the Store tab, you will be able to see the games that you can claim as part of Stadia Pro, if you have a subscription, as well as any games that you can purchase to play on the service. Then, when you’re ready to play, you can go to the Home tab to start a game. The Explore tab is where you’ll find resources for things like tutorials, news, and more. You probably won’t find yourself in the Explore tab much.

A feature is missing in the Stadia app. A research tool. Yeah, seriously. It is completely absurd that there is no search tool in the Stadia app this long after the service has been released. It is also difficult to find the games you want to play. If you have a specific game in mind, you will need to find the list of all games in the app and scroll through them. You should really be able to search by title, genre, price etc. Fortunately, you can search Chrome.

Google Stadia and Stadia Pro game library

Stadia Library, at this point, is not bad – and it is also growing. There are a lot of big hitters, like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, and Hitman 3, as well as many small games to discover. The service also offers an add-on for Ubisoft +, which costs $ 15 per month and gives you access to Ubisoft’s relatively large game library.

Google Chromecast Ultra
Google Stadia on Chromecast Ultra Image Source: Christian de Looper for BGR

It’s important to temper expectations about Stadia Pro. If you expect to have access to all or most of the games on Stadia, you will be disappointed. But the games available on Stadia Pro, like the Hitman: Complete the first season collection, it’s worth taking a look. Stadia Pro also unlocks 4K streaming for those with a fast enough connection. And that gives users some pretty big discounts on some of Stadia’s games. As of this writing, for example, Far cry 5 was available for $ 9 for Stadia Pro subscribers, which isn’t bad at all.

You won’t necessarily have to pay to access Stadia Pro, if you just want to try it out. Stadia Pro itself is available for a one-month subscription, while AT&T offers six months of Stadia Pro to subscribers of its unlimited plans. If you are considering signing up for a new plan anyway, it may be worth it. Otherwise, the one-month trial should still be enough to see if paying for the service is worth it for you.

Google Stadia controller

The Google Stadia controller is pretty cool. It has an ergonomic feel, and while it looks a bit of a last-gen in a world with Sony’s new DualSense controller, it definitely gets the job done.

The controller looks more like a PlayStation controller than an Xbox controller, but ultimately there are elements of all the major controllers here. The joysticks are placed in-line like a DualShock 4 controller, while the controller offers XYAB buttons like on the Xbox.

Google Stadia main controller
Google Stadia Controller Image Source: Christian de Looper for BGR

In the middle, there’s a Stadia button to turn the controller on and off, and as you would expect from a Google product, there’s an Assistant button on the left, paired with an Options button. On the right, there is a Menu button and a Share button. At the bottom, there’s a headphone jack, with a USB-C port on the back for charging.

The controller works a little differently from the others. The controller actually connects directly to Stadia via Wi-Fi, rather than connecting to your device via Bluetooth, which would introduce more latency. You can also operate the controller via a USB-C connection to your phone.

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Having said that, the controller is a bit pricey. If you plan to use your phone or computer, you don’t need it. However, if you want to use Stadia with a Chromecast Ultra, the Stadia Controller is required.

Google Stadia performance

I only picked Stadia recently, so I can’t really compare the service now to what it was when it launched. But I can say that in 2021, Stadia is behaving more or less well.

Google Stadia on TV
Google Stadia on TV Image Source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Now there are a few caveats to this. You will need a strong internet connection and you cannot do without it. As mentioned, I have used the service over Wi-Fi with a 50 Mbps connection and over AT & T’s 5G network with a 30 Mbps connection in my area. Both performed well, offering little latency and only stuttering or skipping from time to time. I was primarily using Stadia at 1080p, and you might get by with a slower connection if you stream at 720p. Google recommends a connection of at least 10 Mbps, but I think that’s a little optimistic – more is definitely better.


In 2021, Google Stadia overcame many of its growing pains. These days, it’s not bad at all. Stadia Pro is definitely worth checking out, even if you don’t care much about the games available as part of this one. But whether you use Stadia Pro or not, if you have a stable and fast internet connection, in 2021 Stadia is performing pretty well.

The competition

The main competition comes from Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which offers a slightly larger library, and proprietary games like the Halo series. If you are an Xbox fan, you might be better off going with Game Pass Ultimate. Of course, it looks like we will eventually have multiple game subscription services like we have for video streaming.

The other competition comes from Nvidia’s GeForce Now. Ultimately, the decision will depend on which game library you prefer.

Should I use Google Stadia?

Yes, but only if you have a stable internet connection most of the time and like the Stadia game library.

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