Google Stadia vs. Microsoft Project xCloud

Learn which is the best game streaming service for you

Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud are both game streaming services that are designed to allow you to play the latest games without needing to buy an expensive game console or computer. That's where the similarities stop though, as Google and Microsoft have taken significantly different roads with their respective streaming services. The basic idea is the same, but the compatible hardware, subscription models, and even graphics quality are all very different. Here's what you need to know to decide between Stadia vs. xCloud.

Overall Findings

Google Stadia and Project xCloud logos on solid background
Google Stadia
  • Works in the Chrome browser, limited Android phones, and Chromecast Ultra.

  • Free games each month with a subscription.

  • You need to purchase additional games.

  • Uses more data due to higher resolution.

Microsoft xCloud
  • Limited to Android phones.

  • Select from a library of games to play, with no need to purchase games.

  • Likely to be included with the Gamepass Ultimate subscription.

  • Uses less data due to lower resolution.

The biggest difference between these streaming services is that Stadia lets you play on your computer, phone, or television, while xCloud only allows you to play on your phone. With support for such a wide variety of hardware, Stadia is positioned as a direct replacement for gaming consoles and computers, while xCloud is more of a supplement for gamers who already have an Xbox One or a gaming PC.

Other important differences include the way that Stadia requires you to buy games like you would for a console or gaming PC, the fact that Stadia provides higher 4K resolutions and uses more data, and the way that the Stadia controller can help reduce latency compared to the way controllers are handled with xCloud.

Hardware Requirements

Google Stadia
  • Windows 7 or higher (Chrome browser).

  • macOS 10.9 or higher (Chrome browser).

  • Chromecast Ultra.

  • Pixel 2, 3, or 4 phone.

Microsoft xCloud
  • Phone running Android 6.0 or greater.

  • Bluetooth version 4.0+.

Stadia is designed to work with any computer that's running at least Windows 7 or macOS 10.9, because it runs through the Chrome web browser. Those are both very old operating systems, which means that Stadia has a fairly low bar of entry.

The other two types of hardware supported by Stadia are more restrictive: the Chromecast Ultra, and most Pixel phones. The Chromecast Ultra allows you to play Stadia games on a television, and Pixel phone owners can play using the Stadia Android app. Other devices will be supported later on.

Device support for xCloud is completely different. There's no way to play xCloud on a computer or streaming device, so you can only play on a phone. Phone support is wider than Stadia, but you still need to have a phone that's running Android 6.0 or later and that also supports Bluetooth version 4.0.

These differences mean that Stadia is the better choice if you want to play on a computer, television, or phone, while xCloud has much better device support if you're fine only playing on an Android phone.

Input Methods

Google Stadia
  • Designed for Stadia controller.

  • Stadia controller clip available.

  • Works with most Bluetooth and USB controllers.

  • Chromecast Ultra only compatible with Stadia controller.

Microsoft xCloud
  • Designed for revised Xbox One controller (Xbox One S and later).

  • Xbox One controller clip available.

  • Works with most Bluetooth controllers.

Stadia is designed to work with the Stadia controller, and xCloud is designed to work with the Xbox One controller, but both services offer pretty wide support. The big difference here is the Stadia controller can connect to Wi-Fi. When streaming games to a Chomecast Ultra, the controller actually transmits your inputs directly to the nearest Google service, which cuts down on overall latency.

When used with a phone or computer, the Stadia controller only supports a wired connection. Stadia also supports both wired and wireless controllers, including the Xbox One controller, for play through the Chrome web browser and the Stadia phone app.

While xCloud is designed for use with the Bluetooth-enabled version of the Xbox One controller, you can use most Bluetooth controllers with the service. If you can pair a controller to your phone, it should work.

Since xCloud requires a controller to send inputs to a phone via Bluetooth, which are processed by the app and then sent to an xCloud server, latency is increased a little compared to the Wi-Fi implementation of the Stadia controller.

Internet Requirements

Google Stadia
  • High speed home or wireless data connection.

  • 10 Mbps down minimum requirement.

  • 35+ Mbps recommended for 4K streaming.

  • Google reports between 4.5 and 20 GB of data usage per hour.

Microsoft xCloud
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi or mobile data connection.

  • 10 Mbps required.

  • Users report 2+ GB data usage per hour.

Stadia supports a wide variety of resolutions and frames per second settings, and the type of internet connection that's required will depend on the settings you want to use. Google recommends a minimum connection of 10 Mbps down, but a 35+ Mbps connection is required for 4K 30FPS streaming.

Microsoft recommends a 10 Mbps wired or wireless data connection for xCloud. Since xCloud doesn't support video quality higher than 720p during the preview period, there's no need for a faster connection.

Since Stadia supports much higher resolutions, it also uses a lot more data than xCloud.

Game Library

Google Stadia
  • Free games each month with Stadia Pro.

  • You need to purchase additional games.

  • 30+ launch window titles.

Microsoft xCloud
  • Free access to entire library with subscription.

  • 50+ titles available during service preview.

Stadia launched with a smaller library than xCloud, and it's likely that its library will always be smaller. Since xCloud is backed by Microsoft, and is likely to be tied to Gamepass, the final xCloud library could end up being quite large.

The main difference between the Stadia and xCloud libraries, aside from size, is how you acquire games. Stadia requires you to buy games just like you would buy a game for a video game console, while xCloud provides you with access to all of the games in its current library.

Stadia does provide you with free games each month if you subscribe to Stadia Pro, so the number of games you can access for free gets larger the longer you stay subscribed.

Graphics and Performance

Google Stadia
  • Capable of 4k video at 60 FPS.

  • 7,500 edge nodes.

  • Wi-Fi controller transmits inputs directly to servers.

Microsoft xCloud
  • Limited to 720p during service preview.

  • Data centers in 54 Azure regions.

  • Bluetooth controllers transmit inputs first to your device then to the server.

Stadia and xCloud both run on state of the art servers, so they're both capable of running games at high graphic settings. The main difference is that xCloud is limited to just 720p resolutions during the service preview, and it isn't clear whether Microsoft will ever lift that restriction.

Stadia allows you to select between different resolutions based on your internet speed, but the service itself is capable of streaming 4K video at 60 FPS, which is a significant improvement over the 720p offered by xCloud.

Other differences in performance are largely based on individual circumstances, since you will experience more lag the further away you are from a Stadia or xCloud server.

Microsoft has data centers in 54 Azure regions around the world, but Google has 7,500 edge nodes that help reduce latency. Your own experience will vary based on your physical location, but you're more likely to be close to a Google edge node than an Azure data center.

When streaming Stadia to a Chromecast Ultra, the Stadia controller's Wi-Fi connection can also help improve performance. Since the controller sends inputs directly to Google's servers, instead of first going through your device, Stadia is able to cut down a bit on latency. This benefit is lost when streaming Stadia to Chrome or a phone though, as those gamplay methods aren't able to use the controller's Wi-Fi connection.

Final Verdict: Stadia Wins for Performance, but xCloud Is Likely to Be the Better Deal

Stadia is positioned to provide better performance to more people, although there are some who will have a better experience with xCloud due to proximity to Azure servers. Stadia is also a better console replacement than xCloud, at least right now, because you can use it to play on your computer or TV instead of just on your phone. There's a reason that Microsoft sees Google and Amazon as bigger competitors than Sony, and it's because Google has the potential to turn Stadia into a true console replacement.

Since xCloud is backed by Microsoft, it's likely to be rolled into the existing Gamepass Ultimate subscription, and its library may expand to include every Gamepass Ultimate title. That makes xCloud the better deal if you're already entrenched in the Microsoft ecosystem, especially if you already have an Xbox One or a gaming PC with a Gamepass subscription.