OnLive Speed Test: Quality versus Bandwidth

During last month’s OnLive experiments I was able to connect with a lot of members of the OnLive community. The most common questions I saw were regarding exactly what class of Internet connection you needed to use the service to its fullest. Usually I‘d just brush off most of these inquiries thinking “Well, its free. Try it yourself.”

There were two incidents that caused me to investigate this issue a little further. The first was when listening to the OnLiveFans Cast podcast where one of the hosts attempted to test if the service worked at 1.5Mbps by running BitTorrent in the background. The second was a great conversation with YouTuber keyotikdragon in the comments for the Metro demo. After doing some digging, I found… well, nothing. There was a lot of guesswork and some quotes pulled out of context from press releases, but nothing even resembling actual data to answer the most commonly asked question about OnLive: How much bandwidth do I need? Growing Up Otaku to the rescue!


So, OnLive needs a 2Mbps/384kbps connection to work. Controls are a floaty until a 1Mbps upstream, but 768kbps up will do you just fine. Graphics either smudge or lag until 7Mbps downstream. The pattern here? Control problems are because of your upload speed; Graphic problems are because of your download speed.

It bears repeating that even this test was very subjective. I didn’t go nuts counting frames (Fraps is unreliable while recording anyway), I didn’t kill every background task on my PC, I didn’t film my hand and the screen to measure the exact control latency, etc. This is just a quick batch of personal observations. Differences will still occur based on connection latency (like using WiFi) or your proximity to an OnLive data center. What I can guarantee though is that these are rock solid bandwidth numbers, throttled by the router firmware and confirmed via

I also only tested a single game. Split/Second was chosen for several reasons: It was a game I was familiar with; It was easy to get repeatable results; It is fast; It features many graphical effects; And its just plain fun to watch. I did run a full race during each speed test, but edited it down for this video. If there is enough interest, I’ll look into testing another game.

Here are screens captured from the raw video output by Fraps. Click on thumbnails for full size pictures.



















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