With the announcement of Stadia, a new starting point has been marked. The first next-gen platform was revealed, and while Google hasn’t revealed much about the specs yet, we know enough to offer a compelling picture of this new system’s capabilities. In terms of potential performance there are some points of comparison with the consoles from Sony and Microsoft, but at the same time, the whole nature of the project represents a huge step forward compared to what is possible not only for current consoles, but also for those that will arrive in the future.

And this is the point: when it comes to analyzing the specifications of a new hardware, expectations must be offset by reality. In essence, a console must be designed with a cost per unit that is reasonable, which means that you will never get the best of it. The motto “maximum yield with minimum expense” dominates. It must also offer excellent performance within a small form factor, which means it can’t be too powerful, after all PlayStation and Xbox have a reduced thermal resistance capacity.

The cloud nature of Stadia eliminates some of the key limitations. The cost of creation is not so much of an issue, because Google isn’t designing a console for every user, while the classic “blade” form factor of servers significantly expands the window of thermal resistance. For example, Stadia uses a decent server CPU and separate AMD GPU, unlike the all-in-one chips we’ll likely see in next-gen PlayStation and Xbox One consoles. It’s more expensive and complicated to keep up to date, but it’s standard for GPU-equipped cloud servers.

From a hardware standpoint, Stadia surpasses the specs of every console currently on the market, but there are two key trade-offs. First, the images and audio are compressed, which means an inevitable loss of quality. Second, getting your inputs to the cloud, processing them, and returning feedback to the user takes time. To answer these problems, we have tried Stadia’s technology first hand and can provide you with some data, but first, let’s analyze everything we know about the system.

Google Stadia specifications

Google has released the following Stadia specifications. It’s a curious mix of information, combining minutiae that are rarely shared with noteworthy omissions, such as the amount of cores and threads developers will have available on the CPU. Regardless, this list paints the picture of a highly capable system, clearly more powerful than both base and enhanced consoles currently on the market.

  • Custom 2.7GHz x86 CPU with hyper-threaded, AVX2 SIMD and 9.5MB L2 + L3 cache
  • Custom AMD GPU with HBM2 memory and 56 computational units, capable of 10.7 teraflops
  • 16GB of RAM with performance up to 484GB / s
  • Storage on cloud SSD

Google claims that Stadia’s hardware can be “stacked” and that the computing capabilities of the CPU and GPU are “resilient,” so multiple instances of this hardware can be used to create more ambitious games. The company also refers to this configuration as its “first generation” system, with the idea that the datacenter hardware will evolve over time without requiring user updates. Right now, it’s unclear whether the 16GB of memory is available to the entire system or just the GPU. However, the confirmed bandwidth corresponds to 100% of the HBM2 memory used by AMD’s RX Vega 56 graphics card.

CPU processing power: a generational leap over current-gen

No precise confirmation has been provided regarding the manufacturer of the custom CPU that Google uses for this project, but it is confirmed that it operates at 2.7 GHz frequency with a cache configuration similar to the CPU specifications of Google’s cloud server. The configuration is unlike anything AMD offers, leaving a very obvious vendor alternative, and Google has confirmed to us that the CPU is not in the same chip as the GPU. At the moment we know that Stadia’s architecture is very, very different from what we should expect from the next-gen systems in development by Sony and Microsoft.

Google Vice President Majd Bakar stressed the custom nature of the processor. The company hasn’t stated at this time how many cores or threads are available to developers, apart from Phil Harrison who went as far as saying “there are many”. The following is our speculation, but Google’s cloud server spec page only has a CPU configuration running at 2.7GHz. This processor can offer up to 96 virtual cores and can handle up to 624GB of memory. . Scalability is part of Stadia’s design itself, and so we wonder if more ambitious projects can simply unlock more virtual cores, depending on the developer’s needs.

Suffice it to say that any multi-core CPU produced by Intel will offer a true generational leap in processing power over today’s consoles, while the Linux-based system should not suffer from the typical software “bloat” associated with running Windows on a system. Home PC.

Graphics: Custom AMD processor rated at 10.7 teraflops

Google has partnered with AMD to give Stadia a custom graphics processor. Again, the architectural details of the GPU were not disclosed, but 10.7 teraflops of power were confirmed, thanks to 56 compute units. Based on these numbers, the core clock of Stadia’s GPU should be around 1495 MHz. GPUs in a cloud system could be virtualized, and their resources shared among multiple users, but Google has confirmed that this will not happen. with Stadia: all 10.7 TFs will be available to the player.

When asked whether Stadia employs the Vega architecture or the upcoming (and extremely mysterious) Navi, Google did not comment. What we can say is that the Project Stream tech demo from late last year, which ran into 2019, ran on Stadia hardware within Google’s datacenters. This would indicate that the final hardware will be sufficient for some time. Also, maybe it’s completely random, but last week Crytek released a real-time ray tracing demo, with no RT acceleration, on an RX Vega 56, which (as mentioned) is the most GPU-like consumer graphics card in. Stadia: Same number of CUs, similar clocks, and also uses HBM2 memory.

Regardless of whether the Stadia GPU is Vega-based or something more advanced, the processor will inevitably have many advantages over the current console generation. In net terms of calculation, there is a 78% improvement over the Scorpio Engine in Xbox One X and 5.8 times over the base PlayStation 4. However, computing capabilities are only one aspect of the true power of a GPU. The Stadia processor also benefits from AMD’s years of architectural enhancements and any custom features Google may have added.

Google also demonstrated graphical scalability, with a demonstration of three AMD GPUs running in unison. Its stated goal is to remove as many limiting factors as possible that impact developers, and with this in mind, teams will have several cloud-based possibilities for scaling game graphics:

“We call our project ‘next generation’ because it is designed specifically for the 21st century,” says Phil Harrison of Google. “It has none of the hallmarks of an outdated system of the past: it is not a static device in the cloud, but an elastic compute cloud system, which allows developers to use an unprecedented amount of computing power to support their games. both on the CPU and GPU side, but above all in terms of multiplayer. “

Memory: 16GB of HBM2 memory with a bandwidth of 448GB / s

Google has confirmed that the Stadia client uses HBM2 memory: 16 GB in total, shared between CPU and GPU. This suggests tight integration between the CPU and GPU, but the company also said these components are not integrated into a single chip, as is the case with current-gen consoles (and we suspect next-gen ones too). HBM2 memory has 448GB / s of bandwidth available, which is identical to the throughput of an AMD Radeon RX Vega 56, which uses a large 2048-bit memory interface with 800MHz HBM2 memory. on Stadia’s memory could be interesting, but this is the first time we see the sharing of HBM2 between CPU and GPU.

Stadio’s hardware configuration uses HBM2 memory shared between CPU and GPU. AMD has used HBM2 memory extensively, such as on the newer Vega.

Storage and infrastructure: the benefits of the cloud

Being designed around servers, Stadia potentially has huge advantages over home consoles to PCs. Google’s goal is to get games to start in 5 seconds and that will inevitably extend to in-game loading times. As for developers, there will no longer be any need to create limited games from the 50/100 GB available on Blu-ray discs. Furthermore, remote hosting of hardware has fundamental advantages for developers, which could be revolutionary for gaming, especially multiplayer and for persistent worlds.

In a traditional multiplayer game, which hooks up to a dedicated server, the client software runs on local machines, with a close window of contact with the server. This limits the level of communication and, by extension, the level of complexity of multiplayer games. With Stadia, the “client” that manages the gaming experience is in fact a server node, which runs on the same network communicating through a very high speed band. This could lead to dramatic increases in the number of players and a major improvement in the quality of world simulation and physics. Cheaters would also have a much harder time cheating in game, as they would not have access to the client-side code.

In a world where the power of a console is often tied to the capabilities of the CPU and GPU, we believe it is essential to emphasize how important these advantages are. In practice, while next-generation consoles will undoubtedly offer truly special experiences, clearing storage limits and bringing clients and servers closer together could drastically change the type of titles we’ll play. It is really a generational leap that no new next-gen console, based on a local system, will ever be able to offer, but it will be up to the developers to be able to exploit these capabilities, which is not entirely certain in a world dominated by cross-platform development. However, the proposal put on the plate by Google seems full of potential, and it is the same company that shows us how much multiplayer games in particular are currently limited by the very nature of the code, which runs natively on local machines, at great distances from dedicated servers. When these are there.

Loading the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey opening scene shows the overwhelming advantage of a server-class SSD solution over a local console. You have to wait around 17 seconds longer on Xbox One X.

“In our platform, the client and the server are within the same architecture and therefore, while historically we would have spoken of ping milliseconds between client and server, in our architecture we speak in some cases of microseconds. In this way we have the possibility to dramatically increase the number of players present in a single instance and obviously the ideal example from this point of view concerns the Battle Royale that could get to involve from hundreds to thousands of players or even tens of thousands. That this can make it really fun. a multiplayer game is a different matter, but technologically it is a front page title number: something that tickles the imagination, “explained Phil Harrison of Google.

Being a cloud server, there are other benefits that a traditional console could not match. Such fast loading times would only be possible with a state-of-the-art solid-state storage solution – too expensive for a home console that has to meet certain costs. Added to this is the virtual elimination of storage limits and from this point of view Google has declared that developers will have access to petabytes of storage space (to be clear, a petabyte corresponds to 1024 TB). For gamers, one of the most significant benefits of Google’s cloud infrastructure is the absence of barriers to the gaming experience: system software updates,

Google Stadia: the first next-gen gaming system?

As always, it is games that count and according to what we have seen, in addition to the demos of the GDC presentation, we have the feeling that Google still has some tricks up its sleeve. What we are sure of is that developers have a new way to publish their games, with more strengths than weaknesses. As a cloud-based system, latency cannot be completely eliminated and compressed images due to a bandwidth limit will have a disadvantage compared to a local video connection. High-speed, action-packed content could have macroscopic artifacts – we covered Google’s streaming technology and evaluated its controller in another article.

These are the weaknesses that should compensate for the advantages, which are actually very interesting. First of all with regards to “quality of life”, just as console gaming should be: instant games, plug-and-play (or rather “click-to-play”) and very short loading times. The CPU chosen by Google gives us a huge increase in processing power, which allows for richer and deeper worlds and a more advanced simulation. The GPU has twice the memory of the PS4, without taking into account the system RAM, while the graphics power, at least in computational terms, is a giant step forward compared to the current standard represented by the Sony base console. Furthermore, Google is trying to compress the

Meanwhile, the possibilities for multiplayer games are incredible, with never before seen integration between traditional server and client concepts. In terms of storage and multiplayer potential, the benefits of a cloud system effortlessly outweigh what any limited local system would never be able to do. The biggest question that remains open is simple: in a cross-platform industry, will developers be able to take advantage of the infrastructure benefits offered by Stadia? In our interview, Google’s Phil Harrison seems very optimistic about the relationship with third parties and it will be interesting to see how (or if) the developers will leverage the strengths of the cloud-based platform.

But if gaming gravitates around a model that Google has called “cloud native”, there is enough reason to be enthusiastic, because we might have the answer to the question: what will the next-gen be in front of our eyes? Aside from faster hardware, what will next-generation gaming platforms offer us that current ones can’t? Increasing the number of pixels will not be enough: we will need a new vision, and with the announcement of Stadia we have been able to give a first clear look at the future potential of gaming.

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