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Have You Played... (with a) Steam Link?

Use a cable not wifi, I beg you

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Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Despite not having previously felt as thought I needed one, I picked a Steam Link dirt-cheap in the sales, more out of curiosity than anything else. It’s pretty good – unless you try to use it over WiFi.

I can only presume you know what a Steam Link is already, but just in case: it’s a small (about 6×4″) box that plugs into your telly and can stream games from your PC to said telly – i.e. for those situations where a really long HDMI cable just isn’t viable. Some PC games require a keyboard, mouse and hunched posture. Some PC games are better suited to sitting back on a sofa and looking at a big screen.

I guess this is going to be more a piece of advice than a set of opinions. If you’re at all interested in a Steam Link, or Steam Home Streaming in general, be aware that you will almost certainly experience poor results if you try and play it over a wireless connection. What’s happening is that your PC is turning the game into a video stream on the fly, and as such it transmitting vast amounts of data constantly. You need a super-fast connection for that, and right now only a hard-wired ethernet cable can achieve that.

Use a cable and the experience is so much better – a infinitely crisper picture, less lag, almost no sudden spikes or collapse into a mess of smeary shapes. And the Steam Link provides a mostly elegant Steam Big Picture UI for it too. When it works, it feels as though in-home streaming is a solved problem. When it doesn’t work, which is usually over wifi, it feels as though we’re light-years away from getting it right.

These things are ace, but use a cable. Even if it means drilling. Trust me.

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Who am I?

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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