Stadia: An In-Depth Look at Bandwidth Usage

I have been using Stadia for a number of months and am thoroughly enjoying it. Yes I have had one or two days where it gets a bit laggy but overall it has been a positive experience and the ease of access to games makes up for any bits of lag.

Due to me using even more streaming service I thought it was worth upgrading my home network. I ended up choosing the Ubiquity Edgerouter X and access point. This is more of a prosumer setup but I have always wanted to delve into the networking side of things. This set up also give me observability of my network and also quality of service features so I can ensure my streaming and video conferencing is super smooth.

This leads on to the meat of this post, the graphs of how Stadia performs for different games and at different quality settings. I have also included a few images below of other downloads for comparisons.

Stadia Games

I have been running Stadia on 4k mode as a default when I have an active pro subscription. I was shocked to see the massive spikes in bandwidth with this mode enabled. I am unsure if this is a bug with Stadia or an issue with my ISP/bandwidth. It happens on all games for 4k and does not happen for lower resolutions. This does cap out my bandwidth as shown by the speed test at the bottom of this page and this may be the cause of any spikes I have. I would be interested if anyone else is experiencing this too.

Another thing I noticed is that different games use different amounts of bandwidth. After thinking about it, it makes sense as some games may compress better than others. Games like Celest with lots of block colours will most likely compress better than a game like Farcry with lots of colours and shapes from things like grass. It also looks like changing the quality does not always reduce the bandwidth as much as expected either, again probably due to compression.

One thing to consider when comparing other streaming services such as Netflix is the fact that Stadia is having to do compression on the fly. Netflix can do multiple passes to improve compression whereas this would cause delays for Stadia. Online video can also be buffered so it is not subject to network spikes. When not limited Netflix loads the next bit of video all at once then it does not need to load anything for a while. This cannot be done for live streaming.

When creating the below graphs I noticed that the bandwidth did not change when changing the resolution setting in the pop out menu. It was only when I exited the game and restarted that I noticed the bandwidth drop. This should be considered if you are having bandwidth issues and are wanting to lower the quality. Make sure you exit the game and restart.

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4K, HD, 720p
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4K, HD, 720p
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4K, HD, 720p

Other Comparisons

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No bandwidth limit, 5mb bandwidth limit
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Google Speed Test, Speedtest.net
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1080p60, 720p60

Senior Software Engineer and Observability Guild Lead at Booking.com — Transport, writing mainly about observability and micro front ends.

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