Depending on who you ask, Google’s Stadia game streaming platform has proven to be somewhere between a promising paid beta and a hot mess.
Already under fire for a fairly underwhelming launch lineup and a laundry list of features that didn’t show up for launch day, there’s a number of technical issues that have popped up since Stadia started shipping. From invite codes not being sent out to the fact that Google’s definition of “4K” isn’t actually 4K, many gamers don’t think Stadia is living up to the hype.
Others say they’re perfectly happy with the service but have been faced with another problem: the Chromecast Ultra units used to power Stadia have been crashing from overheating.
“I was in the middle of a fight in Destiny 2 when suddenly my Chromecast died and lost connectivity to the network,” complained Reddit user Armadeon7479. “I went to unplug it from the power and it was extremely hot.”
When the user, Jeff Cimmarrusti, was contacted by Motherboard, he said the service “was running flawlessly for hours until it wasn't.” He provided a screenshot showing how after the screen went dark he received an error saying there had been a generic “network problem.”
“When I went to power cycle the Chromecast, that's when I found how hot it was running,” the user said. “I work in IT, so I'm familiar with electronics overheating. I was just surprised that it was doing so since it was rather chilly in my apartment and wasn't in an enclosed space.”
Reddit user duhbyo also complained that his unit had shut down twice due to the issue.
“My unit when streaming in 4K with HDR can go for about an hour and a half, then the stream and audio cut out,” they told Motherboard. “The ring light goes off on the Chromecast Ultra and it’s insanely hot. It feels like the metal the magnet attaches to could easily burn me.”
Duhbyo said that when they downgrade Stadia resolution to 720p the Chromecast Ultra still gets hot but doesn’t shut down. But run it at full 4K and the unit eventually stops working and stays that way until he waits for it to cool down again.
It’s unclear just how many users are actually being impacted by the problem. Especially given that when contacted by Motherboard, Google denied there was any problem whatsoever.
“I can confirm there is no thermal overheating issue with Chromecast Ultra,” a Google spokesperson told Motherboard after digging into the issue upon request.
“We carry out extensive testing on hardware, services and games—including tests of long Stadia play and video sessions—and have not seen thermal shutdown problems,” Google said. “We will happily work with users to understand their particular experience better.”
Older Chromecast models have enjoyed a reputation for overheating, even for simpler tasks like streaming Netflix—a problem that has resulted in no limit of creative solutions for the issue.
“I had to literally cut a hole into my gen 2, change the thermal paste and attach a heatsink with some thermal putty to stop it from overheating after an hour,” claims one Reddit user. “Seems like the problem's not that uncommon either.”
“Mine got so hot that the HDMI part came detached from the circuit board!” another recent poster said. “That was a 1st gen one. Google was supposed to get back to me on sending me a replacement. They never did.”
While Google acknowledged that the Chromecast product line has historically gotten warm, here too the company downplayed any broader issues with build quality as it pertains to Stadia.
“Since launching more than three years ago, Chromecast Ultra has been enjoyed by millions of users worldwide,” the spokesperson said. “During normal usage, the surface of the device may get warm to the touch. This is working as designed.”
Google told Motherboard that since most of the game processing is done in the cloud, there’s nothing about Stadia specifically that would result in the units getting hotter than they’d become during routine video streaming.
“All the heavy lifting of the game is happening at our data centers, which deliver the content to the device,” Google said. “It’s why the Stadia controller connects directly to the data center via WiFi,” the company added.
Unfortunately that doesn’t really answer why some users are experiencing issues during prolonged gaming sessions at 4K. Nor does it really explain why for many users, Stadia currently feels more like a paid beta than a fully cooked product.