If you’re a PC gamer with even a passing interest in a living room setup, you should grab a Steam Link. This gadget is the ideal way to extend your sessions to the big screen.
The Steam Link is a tiny, inexpensive little streaming device, made with one goal in mind: getting your PC games onto your TV. It’s not the only way to achieve this, but at the time of writing it’s the easiest and the cheapest, beating out alternatives like the NVIDIA SHIELD and Miracast.
Oh, and the $50 Steam Link is frequently discounted to an almost ridiculous degree: at the time of writing it’s just $2.50 during Steam’s annual summer sale.
What Can It Do?
The tiny circuit board in the Steam Link does just a couple of things, relying almost entirely on the software on your gaming PC to do the heavy lifting. The gadget connects to Steam via local network, either over high-speed Wi-Fi or gigabit Ethernet, grabbing the audio and video from your PC games and sticking them on your TV via HDMI. At the same time it uses controller inputs from your living room and routes the commands back to your PC, allowing you to control the game without needing to connect to the computer directly. The result is an itty-bitty box that sits in your entertainment center and makes a gateway to all the games in your Steam library.
The Steam Link is several years old at this point, and it’s been gently improved along the way. It makes liberal use of Steam’s Big Picture Mode, an alternate user interface made for large screens and controllers instead of monitors and mice. Initial issues with game compatibility and latency have been ironed out (for the most part), including support for non-Steam games or titles with annoying custom launchers. That means games that aren’t on the Steam store, like offerings from Blizzard, Activision, and EA, can still be streamed.
Controller-based games do best on TVs, and the Steam Link supports controllers with both Bluetooth and wireless dongle input, including console controllers from the PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Switch. But it’s best paired with the official Steam Controller, which features generous touch pads for emulating mouse-style controls. All controllers connected to Steam can be customized for specific inputs, and if you just can’t live…
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