Google Stadia streaming platform offers a high-quality gaming experience on your phone or PC, but gameplay lags on TV and its launch library and pricing structure are disappointing.
The Google Stadia Premiere Edition is available for $129 and, like the Founder’s Edition we tested, includes a Stadia controller, a Google Chromecast Ultra, and three months of Stadia Pro.
The Stadia controller takes design ideas from all three major game consoles. It looks like a slightly more plump Xbox One controller, shaped like rounded trapezoid with thick grips extending from the bottom left and right. The layout is classic PlayStation, with dual analog sticks parallel to each other, a direction pad to the upper left of the left analog stick, and Xbox-style A/B/X/Y buttons to the upper right of the right stick. Taking a cue from the Nintendo Switch, four small function buttons sit between the direction pad and face buttons: Menu, Options, Capture, and Google Assistant.
The controller itself feels very good. It’s solid, the buttons and sticks are responsive, the triggers are springy, and the direction pad is nice and clicky. I was worried at first when Google revealed the controller, because its rounded design reminded me of the awful Ouya gamepad. My fears were unfounded, and this controller feels just as sturdy as any console’s first-party model.
If you want to use the controller with your phone, tablet, Chromebook, or PC, you need to use a cable; Stadia currently has no method of pairing the controller wirelessly with anything besides a Chromecast Ultra.
The headphone jack on the bottom of the Stadia controller adds audio to the mix, and the pinhole microphone beneath it will add access to Google Assistant in a future update.
Stadia in a Chrome window is very good. On both a gaming laptop and a much more modest office-issued laptop, Destiny 2 and Mortal Kombat 11 play very well. I had no issues with sluggish controls when shooting or performing combos.
Only a dozen games will be available on Stadia at launch, with the horror adventure game Gylt the only Stadia exclusive.