Back in November, Valve announced that the Steam Link hardware had been discontinued. Existing stock would be sold off and that would be the end of it. The end of an era, if you will, of what The Verge called the best wireless HDMI gadget ever made.
For those not familiar with the Steam Link hardware, it’s a small box that you can connect your TV, keyboard, mouse and Bluetooth game controller to. It then streams your Steam store/installation to the box and your TV and you can basically play the games on your computer directly on your TV. In a sense. Steam Link is (or was) a wireless HDMI connection that created a way to connect your computer display to your TV without actually physically connecting your computer to TV.
I always have had the Steam Link in the back of my head, I just never considered it. Not until the announcement that it was discontinued.
Funny how that works, right?
At the time, it was still available for order but for the original price of $50. I dismissed it. I really didn’t need a bit of dead hardware that much.
A few days later, the Steam Autumn sale kicked in and suddenly, the Steam Link was available for just a couple of bucks, a massive price drop. It was too good of a deal to pass up.
Three weeks later, after finding some workarounds to get it shipped to Alaska, it arrived. Setting it up was fairly simple. I plugged it into my router with the included network cable, then added a wireless keyboard and mouse. Finally, I paired an old Bluetooth controller I’ve had in a drawer. I was ready to begin playing.
Connecting to the computer took only moments. The Steam Link easily recognized my computer that had Steam running and before long, I was sitting on the couch looking through my Steam library.
For me, the ultimate test with anything streaming over a wireless connection is how well it works in games that have a lot of action going on, like FPS and simulators, for example. My time was limited so I went for a game I’ve had installed for a while, just never gotten around to play: Dirt Rally.
To make a long story short, the game played like a charm. The controller was responsive, I didn’t notice any lag at all and none of the visual artifacts commonly associated with streaming. I still need to put the thing through a more dedicated test but my first impression is this: I should have gotten this thing a long time ago!
Ok so sure, these days you can get the Android Steam Link app as well. Using that, you could do the same thing on an Android TV device. In fact, I remember trying this very thing on my Nexus Player a few years ago. It really didn’t work well at all but in hindsight, that’s more likely the fault of the Nexus Player than the capabilities of Steam.
These days, the Steam Link app is even available for the Raspberry Pi, which opens up all kinds of doors to creating interesting solutions.
Oh, and let’s not forget using the Android app on a Chromebook. That’s some good portable gaming there, perfect for slower pace games like strategy and adventure games. Can’t wait to explore that a bit more.
However, despite all of this, the Steam Link hardware is an appealing piece of hardware that makes it easy for me to get back onto the couch like back in the day and just play games on the TV. It’s just like a console and it’s all so simple.
The Steam Link may be dead but as far as I’m concerned, long live the Steam Link!