Yesterday, we detailed the first big Steam Machine set to hit the public. The Alienware box is sleek, smartly designed and does nearly everything the concept promises. But it's also fairly expensive at $750.
And if you already own a mid to high-end gaming computer why buy a second when you can pick up the Steam Link?
For $50, Valve's diminutive streaming box delivers all of your PC's Steam games directly to the television of choice, almost magically. (If you pre-order it, Valve also tosses in copies of Rocket League and Portal 2.)
Where the Steam Machine concept feels like a device straddling the line between innovative gaming solution and over-the-top needless tech, the Steam Link is clearly focused on doing one thing extremely well, and it delivers.
As with the Steam Machine, the Steam Link is a breeze to set-up. You simply plug it into your TV's HDMI, connect a controller through USB (I used a wired PS4 controller with no issues), connect to your internet through WiFi or hardline and then choose your gaming computer.
Within seconds you'll find yourself viewing the big picture mode of Steam as if you were sitting at your monitor using your desktop.
Valve's diminutive streaming box is magical
It's important to note that the power of your computer, which is actually running the game, and the speed of your Internet and WiFi (if you're using it) will have a big impact on your results.
In my case, I connected the Link to my Netgear Nighthawk's 5G signal and am running a moderately fast, though slightly dated, PC. (I have a 3.4GHz Windows 10 PC with 16GB of RAM, running a Nvidia GeForce GTX 580).
As much as I love the experience, which you can see in the video above, it is wise to keep in mind that Steam streaming is not without its issues. On occasion things simply go sideways and you're forced to restart a game, restart Steam or make a trip to your PC to see what the hang-up is.
The good news is that Valve seems dedicated to fixing those issues and is continually updating the software that runs the service.
Update: A lot of people have been asking about controllers. The Steam Link does not require you to use the Steam Controller. This is what the Link officially supports as of today: Supports Steam Controller (sold separately,) Xbox One or 360 Wired Controller, Xbox 360 Wireless Controller for Windows, Logitech Wireless Gamepad F710, or keyboard and mouse.
I will be testing the wireless dongle for the Xbox One controller next week.