Play PC games on a TV

The Steam Link bridges the gulf be­tween gaming on your com­puter and gaming on your couch. SA­MUEL AXON re­ports

Tech Advisor - - Contents -

Win­dows may have the most ro­bust li­brary of games in the world, but many peo­ple en­joy play­ing games in the liv­ing room – yes, even PC gamers. Valve, the com­pany be­hind Steam, helps its users cross the bridge be­tween com­put­ers and couches with the Steam Link (£29.92 from fave.co/2zYl­nth),

a diminu­tive set-top box that streams games from your gaming PC straight to your TV.

We’ll go over how to set it up, but first, let’s take note of a few key con­sid­er­a­tions.

In­put de­vices and con­troller sup­port

The Steam Link sup­ports a num­ber of in­put de­vices. They in­clude USB-based or wire­less-with-a-USB-don­gle key­boards or mice, Xbox 360 or Xbox One con­trollers con­nected via USB (wire­less don­gles are tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble but re­quire a lot of workarounds and has­sle), a PlayS­ta­tion 4 con­troller con­nected via USB, or Valve’s own wire­less Steam Con­troller.

All the USB de­vices are very easy – just plug them in, and they should work right away. If you’re us­ing a Steam Con­troller, you’ll have to sync it. To do this:

• First turn on your Steam Link

• While hold­ing down the X but­ton on the Steam Con­troller, press the Steam but­ton to put it into dis­cov­ery and pair­ing mode

• It should work straight from there

Wired ver­sus wire­less

Valve rec­om­mends con­nect­ing both your Steam Link and your host ma­chine with a wired eth­er­net con­nec­tion. Why? Well, stream­ing high-res­o­lu­tion games at 60 frames per sec­ond is one of the most tax­ing things you can do on a net­work con­nec­tion. And since the games are in­ter­ac­tive, you could very eas­ily en­counter game death-en­su­ing stut­ters or other is­sues with the slight­est hic­cup.

Wire­less con­nec­tions are bet­ter than they’ve ever been, but they’re still sub­ject to in­ter­fer­ence from other wire­less sig­nals, as well as sig­nal degra­da­tion over long dis­tances or go­ing through walls and fur­ni­ture. If you have an ideal sce­nario, Wi-Fi will be fine for the Steam Link – but most of us don’t.

Use a wired con­nec­tion if you can. But if it’s not pos­si­ble, trou­bleshoot your net­work and you might be able to im­prove your cir­cum­stances well enough to play. It helps to use a 5GHz net­work, too. Just note that your In­ter­net con­nec­tion speed is ir­rel­e­vant since Steam Link only streams games from PCs on your lo­cal net­work.

Set up your PC

Chances are, your PC is good to go right off the bat. Just make sure it’s on, con­nected with a stable lo­cal

net­work con­nec­tion, and run­ning Steam. But if you have any is­sues, go to Steam pref­er­ences and ver­ify that En­able stream­ing is checked in the In-Home Stream­ing sec­tion. You’ll see some other set­tings here too, but we’ll tweak most of those on the Steam Link it­self.

Set up the Steam Link on your TV

This part’s re­ally easy. The Steam Link comes with a power ca­ble, an eth­er­net net­work ca­ble, and an HDMI ca­ble. Plug the power ca­ble into the wall, the HDMI ca­ble into your TV, and if pos­si­ble, the eth­er­net ca­ble into your net­work router. You can also con­nect it to the net­work with Wi-Fi, as pre­vi­ously dis­cussed. When you’ve plugged ev­ery­thing in and pow­ered up your

Steam Link, you’ll be taken through an easy, step-bystep process for con­fig­ur­ing it. If you’re con­nected over eth­er­net, it may au­to­mat­i­cally down­load an up­date first, though – let it, if so. After that, you may be prompted to pick your lan­guage. Easy enough; pick the lan­guage of your choice.

Set up the dis­play

The Steam Link will now run you through two screens where you’ll have to con­fig­ure your dis­play set­tings.

In one, you’ll be asked to set the screen scal­ing to make sure the en­tirety of the im­age is vis­i­ble on your TV. If you’ve con­nected a con­troller, you can use left and right on the di­rec­tional pad to set this.

In an­other screen, you’ll be pre­sented with some ba­sic set­tings: scal­ing, res­o­lu­tion, and CEC. Leave scal­ing at 0 per­cent in most cases, and pick the res­o­lu­tion and Hz re­fresh that best matches your TV. Some­times you’ll even see this au­to­mat­i­cally rec­og­nized at the top of the screen, as seen in the

be­low screen­shot. But other times, you just have to know what your TV can sup­port. Chances are it’s the high­est set­ting listed in the menu.

CEC is a fea­ture on some TVs that lets you to con­trol mul­ti­ple de­vices con­nected to your TV with the same con­troller. If you don’t need this, leave it off. But if you have thought through how to set up a whole CEC sce­nario, keep it en­abled.

Pick and con­nect your host PC

Your Steam Link will now try to au­to­mat­i­cally de­tect avail­able PCs that are run­ning Steam. If ev­ery­thing’s set up on your PC, it should ap­pear on the menu and you just have to hit a but­ton (‘A’ on most con­trollers) to pro­ceed. If it’s not listed, you’ll have to search for it (‘Y’ on most con­trollers). If you search, you’ll be prompted for in­for­ma­tion that will help the Steam Link find your PC, like its host name or IP ad­dress.

Once you’ve se­lected your host, the Steam Link will show a four-digit PIN num­ber that you need to

en­ter on the host PC to con­firm the con­nec­tion. Look at your host PC, and you should see that a prompt has ap­peared ask­ing for the code. Type it in and you’re set. From here, you’ll be taken to the main menu.

Stream games from your PC to Steam Link

From this point, you’re home free. Just load up your ‘Li­brary’ and look at the list of games. You can re­motely in­stall games to your PC from your pur­chased games li­brary here. If you’re us­ing a gamepad, you can press

a des­ig­nated but­ton to ap­ply a fil­ter (‘Y’ on the Xbox con­trollers, tri­an­gle on the PlayS­ta­tion 4 con­troller, and so on – it’s listed at the bot­tom of the screen). This is help­ful for iden­ti­fy­ing which games sup­port the gamepad and thus are eas­ily playable on your TV.

There are a few set­tings you should know about, too. In In-Home Stream­ing on your Steam Link, you can pick from three qual­ity pre­sets – Fast, Bal­anced, and Beau­ti­ful – or you can more finely tweak the set­tings that af­fect qual­ity and con­sis­tency of the im­age. If you’re on an eth­er­net con­nec­tion, the max­i­mum set­tings will prob­a­bly work. If you’re on Wi-Fi, you may spend some time ad­just­ing these op­tions.

The process should be pretty straight­for­ward, but be sure to check out Valve’s guides to Steam Link net­work set­tings and net­work trou­bleshoot­ing if you run into any trou­ble.

Re­mem­ber that the Steam Link only streams ac­tual game­play from your PC, so you may need to up­grade your graph­ics card if you want to crank up graph­ics

qual­ity with­out sac­ri­fic­ing frame rate. If your gaming PC can’t play a game at Ul­tra set­tings, your Steam Link won’t ei­ther. Steam Link won’t mag­i­cally make your games any smoother.

That’s it. It might take some tweak­ing, de­pend­ing on your net­work con­di­tions, but you should be play­ing Steam games on your TV be­fore long.

The in-home stream­ing in­ter­face in­side the Steam PC client

The Steam Link’s phys­i­cal con­nec­tions in­clude an eth­er­net port

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