Google Stadia is its own gaming platform that streams games to a variety of devices from the cloud. It works with a keyboard and mouse, touch controls, and Xbox and PlayStation controllers with a catalog of free-to-play and buyable games.
Shadow gives you a virtual desktop computer with its own specs to use for games or other PC programs at a flat fee each month. The play/workspace can be used on your computer, television, iOS, and Android devices.
Full PC in the cloud
Both Stadia and Shadow offer the same thing: streaming games directly to your various devices that may not be able to support them natively. Both also require an internet connection and offer a subscription plan. That is where the similarities between the two services end as they both differ in how they offer games, pricing, and even availability. So, which is right for you? It depends on what you're looking for in a game streaming service and how much you're willing to pay.
Stadia vs. Shadow: The difference
The biggest difference between the two services is that Google Stadia is a gaming platform in the same vein as Xbox or PlayStation, while Shadow offers a full desktop PC that can be accessed virtually. Stadia offers a digital store and game launcher that directly launches the game, and Shadow rents you a second PC with better specs to play around with. Let's break things down.
|Header Cell - Column 0
|Free w/ Stadia Base or $10/month w/ Stadia Pro
|up to 1080p (Base) or 4K (Pro) at 60 FPS
|up to 4K at 60 FPS or 144 FPS in Full HD
|Number of games
|Requires existing PC gaming library
|Minimum connection speed
|10 Mbps or 35 Mbps for 4K
|Chrome browsers on desktop, iPhone, iPad, Android smartphones, Android TV devices, Chromecast Ultra, Chromecast with Google TV
|Windows PC, macOS, Ubuntu, Android, Android TV, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV
|Bluetooth controllers, keyboard and mouse, Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, PlayStation DualShock 4, Stadia, touch controls, Xbox 360, Xbox One
|Keyboard and mouse, Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, PlayStation DualShock 3 and 4, Stadia, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Stadia is simply another place to build a gaming library that can be streamed to various devices with a consistent internet connection. The least you would need to start is a Google account, Chrome internet browser, and a mouse and keyboard if no PlayStation or Xbox controller is nearby. Games are launched right from the Stadia app or website, though they will need to be purchased from the Stadia store to access them.
Logging into the Shadow app presents you with a Windows 10 home screen, complete with a Start menu and recycle bin. It is like using another computer that possibly has better specs than your actual computer and a lot more than a smartphone. You can browse the internet, watch YouTube, or download and use PC programs like Adobe Photoshop as if it were a normal desktop.
Downloading PC applications are necessary because Shadow does not come with games installed. You have to download game launchers like Steam, the Epic Games Store, or the Xbox app, and any games already purchased on those platforms will work with Shadow. Keep in mind that the games have to be downloaded on the virtual PC's storage limit, similar to a regular computer, before they can be streamed.
Stadia vs. Shadow: Resolution and connection specs
Both services offer up to 4K resolution, but a Stadia Pro subscription is required for 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. Standard users can go up to 1080p at 60 FPS. So, if you'd like the best of the best, you're going to have to pay for it with Stadia.
Shadow offers up to 4K at 60 FPS or 144 FPS in Full HD. Shadow also has internal specs because it is a virtual PC and offers an undefined quad-core CPU, 12 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage (upgradeable up to two TB), and a GeForce GTX 1080 with 8 GB GDDR5X or graphics card equivalent (P5000 with 16 GB GDDR5X or RTX4000 with 8 GB GDDR6 depending on region).
Although, the backbone of either service to make the quality possible is the consistent internet connection. Stadia requires a minimum internet connection speed of 10 megabits per second (Mbps) or greater, with 35 Mbps or greater necessary for 4K resolution. Shadow, on the other hand, requires a minimum of 15 Mbps or greater connection.
Stadia vs. Shadow: Compatible devices
Shadow has apps for PC, macOS, Ubuntu, iOS devices, Android, and Android TV devices. It also works with most hardware and controllers that work on a regular PC through wired or Bluetooth.
Stadia requires a Chromecast Ultra or other Android TV hardware and a Stadia controller to play on a television. Otherwise, all you need is a computer with Google Chrome installed, keyboard and mouse, or one of the compatible mobile devices below alongside a PlayStation, Stadia, or Xbox controller.
Compatible Google Stadia mobile devices:
- Pixel 2, 2XL, 3, 3XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4XL, 4a, 4a (5G), 5
- Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, S8 Active, S9, S9+, S10, S10+, S20, S20+, S20 Ultra
- Samsung Note 8, 9, 10, 10+
- OnePlus 5, 6, 7, 7 Pro, 7 Pro 5G, 8, 8 Pro
- OnePlus 5T, 6T, 7T, 7T Pro, 7T Pro 5G, 8T
- OnePlus Nord, N10 5G, N100
- Apple iPhone and iPad
- Asus ROG Phones
- Razer Phone, Razer Phone II
- LG V50 ThinQ, V50S ThinQ, V60 ThinQ, G7 ThinQ, G8 ThinQ, Wing
So, everything comes down to what you're looking to get out of your game streaming service and availability.
Stadia vs. Shadow: Availability
This might be the final decision maker for most. Google Stadia is available right now in the United States (except Hawaii and Guam), Canada, and 20 countries in Europe. The service is free after signing into a Google account, and there are a few free-to-play games to test out before buying full games or converting to a Stadia Pro monthly subscription.
Meanwhile, Shadow may not even be supported in your state within the United States. You can check with the official Shadow website if the service is available or is in Exploration Mode where it can be used but "the experience may not be optimized."
Also, new subscribers won't have immediate access to the service since users are activated in waves, and the website says it will be "ready-to-use" by December 31, 2021, due to limited stock. International users in the United Kingdom, Germany, and other European countries will have to wait until March 2022 to be potentially activated. While the service existed with different tiers and prices in the past that are no longer available, some users who have pre-ordered months or years ago are claiming to have still not received access.
Stadia vs. Shadow: Which should you buy?
The better game streaming service to buy is Stadia because it is cheaper and available right now. Anyone can sign up for the service and access it today for free. It also runs very well if you have an internet connection better than the minimum recommendation. The service's store does not rival Steam in terms of quantity. Still, there is a sizable catalog of games to purchase with big titles like Cyberpunk 2077, Red Dead Redemption 2, FIFA 21, or claim over a dozen games through the cheap Stadia Pro monthly subscription.
Right now, the uncertainty surrounding Shadow and its availability makes it difficult to recommend. However, if you are in an area with Shadow access and you're looking for more than gaming out of the service, you might want to give it a try.
Google Stadia offers game streaming to your PC, television, and mobile devices with no additional hardware necessary. It is free with a Google account, though the Stadia Pro tier offers a few games to claim each month alongside discounts for its store.
A full PC from the cloud
Shadow offers a virtual Windows 10 PC complete with a graphics card, RAM, and storage space without owning the actual hardware. It can be accessed on a desktop, television, or mobile device and can be used to play games through Steam or other gaming accounts.
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Thomas Meyer fell in love with video games starting in the mid '90s with a NES, Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt, and Jack Nicklaus' Greatest 18 Holes of Major Championship Golf. He hasn't stopped and is not planning to anytime soon. Freelance for Android Central and Windows Central.