On Steam Link – Initial Impressions

So over the holidays the annual Steam winter sale took place, while I did buy a couple of games my largest purchase came in the form of ordering a Steam Link device for $20. If you don’t know what that is, it is basically a device that hooks up to your tv and allows you to stream games from your PC over your network. You might ask, “Why not just run an HDMI to your TV from your PC?”. True, this would be optimal but in my case my PC is in the room designated as my office and my TV is in my living room. I don’t want to snake an HDMI cable all the way across my apartment, not to mention using a controller. So for me this was a small investment, and if anything I felt that if allowed me to operate my desktop through my living room then that would be worth the $20.

So, when you get the device I was already impressed because in the box it came with everything you need. Plug for power, with adapters to allow for use in countries other than the US since different countries have different power adapters. It also included an HDMI cable and a network cable. While neither cable is very long it was enough for my setup. My router is right next to my TV set and the way my stuff is set up 3 feet is enough cable for me. It does have built in wifi but I chose to use a wired connection for less lag. Initial set up is rather easy. Just plug it in and turn it on. It will detect any computer on your network that has steam running, so it is possible to stream from multiple computers in your house. My PC is also connected through a wired connection, because I live in an amazing apartment and the ATT installer was able to install a network jack in my office.

The quality of the content stream has so far been impressive, though I have to leave it at a balanced setting. There are three settings, Fast, Balanced, and Beautiful. There are some advanced settings but I haven’t messed with them. Setting it to beautiful caused some graphics lag while testing out GTA 5, so I am planning to just leave it at Balanced.

The device comes with 3 usb ports on it so you can have a wired keyboard/mouse/controller. Though it also has built in bluetooth. I was able to plug in my logitech wireless keyboard/mouse dongle and it works no problems. However, I tried using my Wireless XBox 360 controller dongle and it did not work. It states that it has PS4 controller support, and after some fiddling I was able to get to the right settings and get it to connect, but most games don’t support PS4 control schemes so while I could use the controller the right stick didn’t work. I also tried the PS4 PC dongle and let me just say don’t waste your money on that. If you plug it in to your Steam Link you will not get sound on your TV. I spent a while trying to figure out why I had no sound, and then I unplugged the dongle and I instantly had sound. So for PS4/XBox One controllers just connect through bluetooth. So for now I have a wired Xbox 360 controller hooked up.

My other issues is that if you have Steam in big picture mode when you turn on the Steam Link it won’t recognize that your computer is available. Also, if you are installing games it seems to lose connection. It also seems to lose connection anytime you have to approve security for installing something, so this can get frustrating.

Once you get everything working though it works really well. I have heard there is lag issues if you do a wifi connection though. So far I have mostly used it to control my desktop and watch Youtube videos through. I have tried out GTA 5 and Sniper Elite 3 on it and there doesn’t seem to be any input lag, though this may just be my connection is really good with everything wired in and not wifi. I do plan to go out and buy a XBox One controller for the bluetooth connection because I don’t want a wire running across my living room.

Now I don’t know if I’d pay full price for it, but for $20 that I paid I feel like I got my money’s worth. It will certainly allow me to play my PC games comfortably from my living room. And I can stream any downloaded media I have to my living room now. Overall it is a good investment. I had hoped that the PS4 controller would work better, but it does connect. It is up to the individual games to have PS4 controller support though. Maybe there is some other way to get this to work better but I haven’t found it yet. I much prefer the PS4 controller to the Xbox controller but I can manage.

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