I cannot recall the last time I actually wrote a critic on gaming. That’s probably because I have never posted any such thing on this blog 🙂 Though, I am a big gamer, and for that reason, I’ve had a PC under Windows for many years now. I started using Steam about 10/11 years ago. At the time, there was very little indication that Steam would become the behemoth that it is today.
Fast forward to early in the year, I pre-ordered the Steam link and controller which finally arrived today. This is pre-release software as the general availability is pencilled for the 10th of November. Steam Link is a streaming box that you put in your living room onto your TV to stream and play games from your heftier PC. This is quite handy for me as I wanted to play video games from my couch and had quite a hefty list of PC games that I bought during sales that I never completed (and in some case, ever started).
I have created a small gallery of pictures showing you some screens from the Link so you can have some idea of what it looks like. If you want to take a look, head over there.
The unboxing was quite nice, the Steam Link has 3 USB ports, 1 HDMI, 1 ethernet port and a 2.5A power supply. You can also connect it via wireless (which I have not tried). Once I connected it all, it went straight to upgrade the software on the link. It then offered to pair my Link with my PC. I was afraid to have to use my full username/password but was nicely surprised by a one time password instead. Since I bought the controller too, it offered to upgrade its firmware, though for this you will need to connect it to your PC.
After this, you are ready to go. I tried the Steam controller for a while but I got too impatient. It has a lot of potential BUT I could not grasp it quickly enough to enjoy it straight away. One thing it has for itself is that the community has uploaded configurations for given games so you can remap your controller and enjoy it with your favorite games. As I said, I will need to get back to that later. One last point on the controller is that it feels a bit cheap compared to latest console controllers. I then decided to connect my Xbox controller to the Link which worked perfectly straight away.
I tested a fair few games amongst which: Left 4 Dead 2, Saints Row 4, Payday 2, Alan Wake, Bioshock Infinite, Wolf among us and Batman Arkham:Origins. I was pleased to see how reactive the whole setup is. Last time I tried the Steam streaming client was from the PC under Windows as the processing machine to a Macbook Pro 2014 as a client. I will pass on the headache of controller support but I also had another teething issue which was lack of sound. Turns out this seemed to be software bugs. All the games I tested with the Link work perfectly and fast.
You do see some streaming/compression on the picture but this is quite minimal. Bioshock Infinite simply look short of amazing on my big screen TV. Controls are really fast and it almost feels like you are playing from a console or natively. I was curious about the streaming speed/quality so after looking at my network, Link used between 7 and 15Mb/s which is not much in fairness. This is with the settings by default for network streaming set to balanced, there is also a fast and a beautiful option. I did not test fast but i did test beautiful. It makes me wish this was enabled by default as “beautiful” quality does not seem to add lag and provides a much nicer experience on a big screen. Bioshock just became super nice looking (see last picture from my gallery.) It did not seem to take much more bandwidth though you can set it all up to 30Mb/s.
This is my closing thought on this very quick preview of my Steam Link. Loving the box so far and I can see myself using this quite regularly. For a box that retails at about 60 euros, you cannot really go wrong if your aim is to play games from your couch 🙂