Steam Link – First Thoughts

Steam Link has been something I have been looking forward to since the original pre-order announcement. Ever since I pre-ordered mine just minutes after it was announced, I waited very patiently for it to come in, read a lot of speculation about the device and even more speculation about the Steam Controller. After the long wait, it finally was delivered by my friendly local FedEx guy. So, lets dig a little deeper on my initial expectations and what expectations have been filled and what have not.

Steam Link

Please keep in mind, this is not a full blow review. I just wanted to express some of my first thoughts about Steam Link and the Steam Controller before the full release in November. When that time comes around, I will be considering doing a full review. Now don’t mind me while I rant a bit lol.

What I was expecting
Originally when I first gave Steam Link’s listing on the Steam Store a first yet brief read, I was expecting something that will stream nearly all of my steam games, from my computer to my TV.  Something else I expected from Steam Link is to be able to use it anywhere in my house, wherever I have a TV plugged in. Finally I was expecting it to be a very straight forward and easy install and to be rather intuitive.

Since I purchased the Steam Controller with Steam Link in the offered bundle, I will be talking about both respectively.

Reality Vs Expectations
First off, when I opened the Steam Link package and finally was able to handle it, It is very small with a sleek low profile design.  Which is great for me, I have very little room left on my TV stand with what game consoles and other gadgets I have hooked up. When I finally had the chance to set up the Steam Link I originally set it up over my Asus N66u Router, went through all the normal start up processes which was very straight forward.  I started up my computer and paired my Steam and Steam Link for at home streaming and started to really dig into it.

The first thing that really irritated me and you will hear me mention this a lot. The Steam Controller has a huge learning curve and takes quite a bit of tweaking to get it to how you want it to work. In an original write up I read about the Steam Controller I was only expecting an hour or so to get used to the controls.  The reality of this is for my personal tastes, the joystick and the XYAB buttons are completely misplaced. It just not feel natural to play with them there. The controller is just a bit bigger than an Xbox 360 controller and if you are a joystick user you may feel the strain in your hand from trying to get used to the joystick placement. I had that very same issue with the XYAB buttons as well. The triggers are functional enough and the buttons on the back of the controller do come in handy.

My two major gripes about the Steam Controller is that they are a pain to tweak them how you want them to be. More so if you are playing games that do not have native controller support. The touch pads are the worst part about the tweaking. By default the right touch pad is set up to act like the bastard baby of a joystick and a rollerball mouse. It was extremely awkward to use before the most recent steam controller firmware update. Right out of the box the touch pads are completely useless. After the update it is more palatable with the necessary tweaks.  It took me nearly 2 days to get everything set up just how I wanted.

Steam Community controller configurations for the Steam Controller do help but there are many that just do not make sense at all to use. Be aware there are a lot of user submitted configurations that are down right ridiculous.

Back to the Steam Link. Valve HIGHLY recommends using a hard wired connection for Steam Link. At that point, why even offer it with wifi? That was very apparent to me when I ran it over my wireless network, there was a bit of input lag and degradation of video quality. Which nearly made it unusable for me but I did end up hard wiring it into my gigabit Ethernet on my router. After that, it has been a dream! Zero input lag very little video degradation. It still is nice that they offered wifi capability for the device and it may work for other people but for me, it was simply not an option.

Steam link works very well with games with controller support Rocket League, South Park Stick of truth and The Long Dark are brilliant with the controller after minor tweaks to the right touch pad. Right out of the box I was able to play Rocket League with the Steam Controller without wanting to bash my head off the wall. First person shooters have been issues but I am slowly warming up to them with the Steam Controller.

I attempted to use my wired Afterglow Xbox 360 controller on Steam Link and was very disappointed to find out after much reading on the community forums that there is an extremely short list of supported wired controllers. I guess I will continue to use that controller on my computer itself.  Which is almost a slap in the face for  people who did not order Steam Link with the Steam Controller. It was almost as if Valve wanted to sucker people into buying their controller to be able to use the Steam Link. Dont get me wrong, you can use a keyboard and mouse with Steam Link but that is not what I want to use when I play games on my couch. Controller is the only way to go for me.

Some games with launchers such as H1Z1, Trove Borderlands, Skyrim to name a few, may present some difficulty in playing. Getting the right touch pad to behave enough to try to launch those games was a lot of fun originally NOT! Not failing to mention if you have to log into the launcher, you may as well forget about it. You can use the virtual keyboard but you may as well by a small mini keyboard with touchpad to do all of that. Even better, walk to your computer and log in when you want to play and walk back to play it. This is not Valve’s fault but it is still annoying.

With Valve’s Big picture, Steam Link really shines paired with a hard wire connection you are good to go. Just as long as you can overcome some of the hurdles that come with owning a Steam Link. I imagine after the full release, it SHOULD get better but right now I am satisfied with my purchase. The controller I could take or leave but I am stuck with it for now until I can find another controller that works.

So if you are looking to play your Steam games on your TV and not spend a lot of money on building a Steam box or buying some of the other Steam hardware that is offered, consider purchasing a Steam Link and a compatible controller. $50.00 is a very sweet deal and it works relatively well for what it is. Valve describes Steam Link as “good” in a Good, Better and Best hierarchy. But for the price it is really best in my opinion. BRB while I go enjoy more Rocket League while being super comfy on my couch!

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