By the time you read this, Steam Link may already be dead. This week Valve announced they’d soon no longer have physical hardware units for their Steam Link system available for sale. This was true of both stock in the UK and in the USA, and final stock will likely leave the official Steam store soon. For those users that already have a Steam Link, there’s good news. For those that are just hearing about Steam Link now – you’re not alone! Also, there are alternatives for what’s basically the exact same service.
What is Steam Link?
Steam Link is Valve’s “Steam In-Home Streaming technology” as enabled by the Steam Link streaming box hardware for televisions. Steam Link works by doing “real-time encoding of H.264 video and sending it over a custom low-latency network protocol, then displaying it on the client.” This system also streams to Android devices via the Google Play app store.
Save the hardware (the box and Valve’s controller), every part of this streaming process is free. There are no subscription costs, and there’s no sign-up fee. At this time, Valve’s suggested that they’ll be supporting (i.e. updating) their Steam Link software – and the app for Android – for the foreseeable future.
What is the Steam Link streaming box hardware?
The Steam Link hardware is a little box that connects via HDMI to your television. This device does ONE thing, and it does it well. It mirrors your compatible computer’s Steam app and game launcher, doing so on the television to which it is connected. This device also works with accessories like the original Steam Controller to allow the user to control what’s on the screen from their couch, or whatever chair they’ve got in front of their TV.
This Steam Link device is still up for sale on Steam under the hardware button section, the same place it’s been since November of 2015. This device currently costs $50, but you might find it for … different prices… elsewhere.
What’s the best Steam Link alternative?
As luck would have it, the NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV device has a nearly-identical service in play. Users need only own an NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV device and a PC with an NVIDIA GeForce GPU inside. That’s at least GeForce GTX 650 or higher for desktop or GTX 700M or higher, and select (Kepler-based) GTX 600M GPUs for notebooks.
Just like Steam Link, the user will be able to mirror games from their high-powered PC to their television, and control said content with a gaming controller. NVIDIA SHIELD’s service is called NVIDIA GameStream, and all the info you could possibly need can be found over at the NVIDIA GameStream page, including requirements and setup process.
You should take a peek at our NVIDIA SHIELD TV Review (Gen2, 2017) to see what this device is all about. Both the first and second-gen NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV devices have the same processor inside and each work just as well as the other – it’s the internal storage that’s the difference. Also you’ll probably want the newest version of the gaming controller and tv remote, while you’re at it.