One of the best things about Cloud Gaming is flexibility. You can play on almost any device that you want. In today’s world, many of those devices will be powered by Android. So is Cloud Gaming on Android any good?
Diversity is an Achilles Heel
When you think about Android, quite a few devices may come to mind. You might picture your Smartphone or your Tablet. These devices are very personal, and they are accessible. Almost everyone has some kind of Smartphone on them at all times. It’s natural to wonder whether your Android device could also become your Gaming device.
One of Android’s strengths is that it works on a wide range of hardware. The same Android that it’s on your phone could also power your TV. This diversity is one of the best things about Android. But it can also be one of the worst when it comes to Cloud Gaming. Cloud Gaming is completely based on your ability to dependably stream content over the internet.
Some Android devices handle this quite well. Others may lack the hardware that is necessary to do it smoothly. In our experience, you’ll need at least 2 GB of RAM, a Quad Core Processor, and Dual-Band Wifi to have a chance. When you look at the budget world of Android, it’s not unusual to find at least one of these things missing. Budget companies are known for withholding Dual-Band Wifi hardware. In the end, many of us will be restricted from Cloud Gaming because our device is just too cheap.
On top of hardware challenges, Android suffers from the same problem that plagues Windows users. Because there are so many devices out there, it’s impossible to optimize for all of them. The result is that Android has general compatibility with a wide range of hardware. Cloud Gaming often demands more. It shines best when the device is properly optimized for it.
Accessories are an issue
Gamers have quite a few choices when it comes to accessories that work with their devices. In the mobile Gaming world, you’ll probably need to use a controller. There are a lot of choices to choose from, but few measure up to the standards that are set by other platforms. It’s not unusual to encounter a controller that has the right buttons, but lacks in some way. Maybe the buttons are too squishy and unresponsive. There may be some latency or wireless instability. Sometimes basics like fully analog triggers are missing.
Many think that the Xbox One controller is one of the best. We would agree except that a limited number of Android devices support it. Samsung phones work well with it, and so do Nexus devices. Outside of those examples, very few Android devices support the Xbox One Controller over Bluetooth.
You may think that you can just do without a controller and play on the touchscreen. Some Cloud Gaming providers like Vortex even give you a touch-based controller in their App. The reality is that the touchscreen just doesn’t emulate a controller very well. It’s going to feel very inadequate for most Games. Cloud Gaming is about having a great Gaming experience. To do that, you’ll want a physical controller.
It’s not all bad
Thus far, it may sound like we aren’t fans of Cloud Gaming on Android. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The point is that because there is so much variety in the Android world, it’s hard to guarantee consistency. There are quite a few Android devices that perform quite well when it comes to Cloud Gaming.
Nvidia is very dedicated to both Android and Cloud Gaming. They’ve gone as far as creating dedicated hardware that is completely focused on streaming Games. These devices are part of the Shield family. Right now the Shield family is made up of the Portable, Tablet, and TV. Each member of the family represents the best Cloud Gaming option in their respective category.
I started with the Shield Portable back in 2013. It was love at first sight, and I haven’t found anything that matches it (even today in 2018). Unfortunately the Shield Portable is reaching the end of it’s lifespan. It can still work, but Nvidia is slowly cutting it off from services like GeForce Now. Without future updates, the Shield Portable will soon lack basic compatibility with modern Cloud Gaming services.
For today, the Shield Tablet and Shield TV represent the best options for Android Cloud Gaming. Both perform as flawlessly as possible with today’s technology. They are easy to use, and offer bug-free experiences. While Nvidia’s devices are among the best, there are other good choices as well.
We’ve also had success with the Nexus 7 from Asus. It checks all the boxes when it comes to Cloud Gaming requirements. The fact that it sells used for around $100 and is compatible with the Xbox One S controller is icing on the cake.
Android has Potential
If you were to sum up everything in this article, it would be to say that Android has potential. It is capable of a great Cloud Gaming experience. However, not every Android device can deliver. Many budget devices just won’t work well.
The point of this article is to bring attention to the fact that your hardware matters. You should consider Cloud Gaming on Android if you’re prepared to track down the right hardware to use. And try not to be upset if it doesn’t work well on your budget smartphone. We’re telling you now that it likely won’t. But if you have the right expectations, then Android can provide a great Cloud Gaming experience.
Also published on Medium.