Our 24-hour first impressions of Stadia went out a few days ago, and though I was 100% behind the platform and a big fan of what it is and will likely become, I wasn’t shy about sharing a few of my disappointments with Stadia early on. Sure, I expected some artifacting when playing in a web browser via Chrome, but I fully expected the Chromecast Ultra & Stadia controller to be the best possible experience, and it simply wasn’t for me.
It all came down to input lag. The visuals looked superb on the Chromecast, but there was a good quarter second delay on any input across the board. Pull the trigger to fire in Destiny and there was a solid beat before anything happened. Push up to jump in Samurai Shodown, and that same beat was there before the character on screen lept into action.
I’d honestly relegated the issue to needing some sort of update or fix by Google, but then comments began coming in stating that users weren’t having any issues at all with input lag on the Chromecast and that maybe our issue was with our network. I did my due diligence and reset our Google Wifi setup, pared it down to a single router, and then prioritized the Stadia devices. No dice. Same issue.
Then a commenter on YouTube pointed out that the latency in the actual TV might be the problem. Most TVs come with a gaming mode, but it had never occurred to me to even look at that setting. In my head, the TV was showing things basically real-time based on the input. Thankfully, I was wrong about that. Especially on older or cheaper TVs, there’s no real need to force the input and what’s on screen to line up perfectly. In fact, if you aren’t gaming, there’s no reason at all. If my YouTube TV stream takes an extra quarter second to pass from the Chromecast to the screen, as long as the audio is synced up, I’d never notice it.
But now that we’re leveraging the Chromecast in a way that necessitates split second rendering on the screen, it is all painfully obvious: gaming mode on your TV is absolutely necessary with Stadia. Some TVs might not need this mode or require this setting, but my bet is a ton of them do. I can’t speak to where yours will be, but somewhere in the picture settings you should be able to switch on a gaming mode or at least increase the responsiveness of your TV.
After doing this both on the office TV and my TV at home, I can now play Destiny 2 with a smile on my face as latency is now low enough that it isn’t even discernible to me. It feels like I’m playing on a console right in my home. I’m not saying there is ‘zero latency’ in this setup, but the fact is there is latency everywhere. When it gets down to being low enough that our brains don’t notice it any longer, that’s when we can just pick up the controller and play. That’s what I’m doing now with Stadia, and that is what has me crazy-excited about it moving forward.