This may seem like a no-brainer to many, but for a good while, I never really put a whole lot of thought into the idea of in-home streaming via Steam beyond the idea of using a Steam Box to play games on a big screen TV. However, one random afternoon last fall, when checking some things out on Steam on my laptop, I noticed that certain games in my Library had an option to “Stream Game from Desktop.” Odd, I thought to myself, What does that mean? Well, turns out it was actually something that was really cool and definitely worth doing!
For those wanting to enjoy their Steam games on a big TV screen, getting a Steam Box is just one option out there. Yet, Steam Boxes are expensive, and if you already have a pretty decent gaming rig, getting one would feel a bit redundant and a waste of money. If the Steam Box is your only device capable of playing a PC game on good settings, though, then go for it! But what if you don’t want to bother with a Steam Box, and you don’t want to lug your desktop PC over to your TV or get some crazy-length HDMI cable to run over to the TV to pass the signal over there? Those options were meant to sound ridiculous, yes, but in the past, those might have been your best bets.
Well, if you have another device capable of running Steam, you’ve got the option of opening your Steam client on your main beefy PC as well as on the secondary device, and once you are logged into both devices at the same time on the same wireless network, you’ll get the option to stream game content from one device to the other. So, if you wanted to take your laptop into the bedroom to relax in there for a while, but wanted to continue enjoying your adventures in The Witcher 3, you could fire up the laptop and tell Steam to stream the game from your desktop PC. Theoretically, you could also connect your laptop to a TV as a display if you wanted to, then use the streaming client to pass the video over to your laptop and thus to the TV.
On the other hand, you also have the option to purchase a $49.99 Steam Link device to connect to your TV and stream games directly from your PC without the need of your laptop. This, I think, is a very useful tool.
Note that this can also be achieved with getting a third-party mini-PC box that can run Windows and thus Steam as well. I’ve considered getting something like that one day in order to have both a Steam slingshot box as well as a networked media center/hard-drive hub, but I digress.
Notably, there are some minor hiccups you should be aware of in any of these cases. First, you’ll need to make sure your network is up to the task. If you notice severe lag or artifacting, you can adjust the broadcast settings to be of a lower quality. Secondly, you’ll want to try and make sure that your source resolution is of the same aspect ratio as the device you’re streaming to. Streaming from your PC at 1080p to a TV running at only 720p is just fine, as the TV will scale down the resolution as best it can. However, streaming in a 21:9 ultra-wide ratio to a 16:9 screen could result in a messed up signal, as the device may go “out of range” trying to display it. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a 21:9 picture that’s letter-boxed and thus works. In my experience, this generally would work fine, but in the rare case that it didn’t work out properly, some settings in Steam might need adjusting.
Anyway, hopefully this gives you some alternatives to think about in terms of enjoying your PC games without needing to be at the PC and without having to buy another major gaming desktop to play while in another room. The Steam Link seems like a good deal if you ask me, but you have plenty of options at your disposal! 🙂