Valve’s $50 Steam Link looks like a Chromecast for games

Valve's bid for the living room includes more than just standalone Steam Machines. At the Game Developers Conference yesterday, the firm announced Steam Link, a $49.99 device designed to stream games from local PCs.

According to the press release posted by Steam Database, the device supports 1080p streaming at up to 60 frames per second. Valve promises low latency, though the official product page (which has since disappeared) notes that Steam Link is designed for folks with a "fast home network." A wired network connection—or a very fast wireless one—will likely be required to get the best experience.

The final hardware will look something like this. Source: Valve

The press release and product page are surprisingly bereft of details on the actual hardware. However, the product renders show a slim, compact device that appears to be fanless. I count one HDMI output, one Ethernet jack, and three USB ports, one of which isn't pictured in the image above.

The number of USB ports suggests Steam Link is compatible with third-party controllers. Steam Link will also be sold with Valve's own controller for an additional $49.99, but it won't be available for a while. Valve says Steam Link is due in November, just in time for the holidays.

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell has been pushing in-home streaming since 2013. The functionality has been part of the Steam client for almost that long, and it works reasonably well over my home gigabit network. Streaming games isn't as good as playing them natively, of course, but Steam Link may still be able to deliver a compelling experience given its low asking price. $50-100 is a lot less than the cost of even a low-end gaming PC.

Comments closed
    • travbrad
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]What percentage of Steam's audience doesn't already have a computer attached to their TV, [/quote<] I would guess the vast majority of Steam's audience doesn't have a computer attached to their TV. Steam is mostly filled with gamers, not hardware/home networking geeks. Heck, I consider myself a hardware/network geek, and I still don't have a 2nd PC connected to my TV. I agree it would be nice if it was available as an app on other devices, but I guess they'll sell more Links if it's only available there. Some devices that support Netflix/network streaming wouldn't work with game streaming anyway. I'm pretty sure my Sony Bluray player doesn't support Xbox360 controllers as an input, for example. :p

    • Ninjitsu
    • 8 years ago

    I doubt it’s even meant for that. Additionally, a lot of PC gamers will probably not want to play FPSes with a controller anyway.

    • Jason181
    • 8 years ago

    I think this is actually the way to go for Steam; most people with a considerable Steam library already have a gaming PC.

    Like a lot of things Valve does, this is an incremental improvement, not a revolution. The incremental improvements add up to an unparalleled user experience, even if you only use a subset of those features.

    • Jason181
    • 8 years ago

    This is where having an i7 actually makes sense. I played around with this and the encoding time was sub-1ms iirc. Like you, I have a Sandy Bridge and an AMD card, both of which aren’t supported.

    • llisandro
    • 8 years ago

    Honestly the Shield is more compelling to me even at $200. At least there I get a future-proof GPU (h265 and 4K in hardware) bundled with a streaming app, and it’s still a stock Android Netflix/Hulu streamer with vastly more horsepower than a Roku/FireTV. The only reason to buy SteamLink is because they don’t make an Android App, as the hardware isn’t any better than the streaming box you probably already have, which seems like a missed opportunity. they keep trying to make hardware, when it’s their software I want.
    FWIW, I tried Limelight on FireTV with a 360 controller for a few minutes last night and it works pretty well (requires GameStream compatible GPU). Only had time to try it on the default settings, but on a 720p TV, but latency reported was 52 msec on wired gigabit. There were a few hitches every few minutes but not enough to outweigh the upside of sitting on my couch. Works well enough to prevent me from buying a SteamLink. The biggest benefit of these streaming technologies is my wife seems to be more tolerant of me playing a video game for an hour on the couch as she reads beside me than she is of me hiding away in my office (where the gaming rig is) while she’s in the living room :/

    • travbrad
    • 8 years ago

    Game streaming was the only part of the Steam Machine I was actually interested in, so I’m glad they are making this. For $50 it’s hard not to buy it.

    • fhohj
    • 8 years ago

    Yes, yes, lack of motivation, that’s what it was. It isn’t more complicated than that. There are no external and localized forces that exerted any influence on Valve’s plans here. There is but the Steam machine, and Valve’s refusal to make it.

    Did Gaben steal your sandwich?

    I know he stole my heart.

    Or my wallet.

    • superjawes
    • 8 years ago

    Now that I think about it…it might be strange, but a Netflix “app” running through Steam would kind of solve the issue. It would still run into the Chromecast problem of needing to run two devices for one application, but at least you could work in the coverage needed for instant video apps.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 8 years ago

    I’m surprised by the fact that it isn’t being targeted to include Netflix, Amazon Instant, Hulu Plus… you know, the services every device seems to have nowadays.

    If it doesn’t actually include these, I’ll be surprised, but I’d be fine as long as it at least includes an option to have Kodi/XBMC installed on it.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t care if they also sell this adapter, but I concur with the general idea that Valve needs to update the Steam Android app to include stream-to functionality. Especially since Android (and iOS for that matter) have had proper controller support for quite a while now.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Bask with me… NSABAVORYLG Gaben diss, HL3 confirmed.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Sure… and there is nothing wrong with them releasing a streaming PC, just even that development was late to the party.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Yay… so they still are stringing along the developers doing all the work for them. Who needs to paint a fence when you can get someone else to paint it for you?

    • ludi
    • 8 years ago

    Good news, everyone! I’ve invented a console that can stream the PC Master Race!

    • llisandro
    • 8 years ago

    Seriously. who is this for? What percentage of Steam’s audience doesn’t already have a computer attached to their TV, or b) have a Roku/Chromecast/Fire, etc? Seems like this money would have been better spent making an Android app you can sell for $5 a pop. Hell, I’d almost rather pay $50 for a Steam app for my FireTV instead of having to add another damn box and tie up an HDMI port in the process.

    Supposedly Limelight on my FireTV will already do this- has anyone tried this? 60 fps is limited to 720p (GPU limitation), but obviously this isn’t for FPS games anyway.

    • NeelyCam
    • 8 years ago

    You still haven’t learned your lesson.

    [b<]Never Say Anything Bad About Valve Or Your Lord Gabe.[/b<] Downthumbs shall utterly destroy you.

    • Firestarter
    • 8 years ago

    Steam Big Picture is something else though, and that is what you’d want to use with your HTPC and HDTV. Not everybody wants to have another device lying around on the couch, although I guess it wouldn’t be as bad with those combined keyboard/touchpad things

    • anotherengineer
    • 8 years ago

    Nah, it looks like an 8-track with some ports on it 😉

    • NTMBK
    • 8 years ago

    OEMs held up their end, Valve didn’t. Look at the Alienware Alpha, which was forced to ship running Windows because SteamOS wasn’t done in time.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 8 years ago

    The price knocks my socks off. $50 is impulse/fun price territory, with few regrets that you’ve wasted money even if it’s not used a lot. That’s why I wanted to know about the flexibility…you don’t need apps for web services if you can install a full browser. The key is whether it’s a simple matter of downloading the compatible installer, or if it gets moderately Linuxy with CL, or full blown nerd territory with compiling or imaging.

    • MadManOriginal
    • 8 years ago

    It was up to OEMs to make pc-style steam machines, with Valve just providing the OS. You can say what you want about the Steam PCs, but this is different and not instead of.

    • NTMBK
    • 8 years ago

    Valve, please just make an Android app which does this. All it needs is a solid network connection and a h.264 decoder. If I put a box like this under my TV I want it to run Netflix and Amazon Instant Video as well, or I’ve just added another box to the growing pile of crap.

    • wierdo
    • 8 years ago

    Yeah it varies by TV,

    Can try [url<]http://www.rtings.com/tv-buying-guide-tool[/url<] and such. Maybe your specific model was tested there? Based on their figures I would recommend the Sony 800/850 and 950 lines for PC gaming, input lag is ~25ms and ~18ms respectively and they have some features like "impulse mode" that may aid with that usage scenario. Many TVs are commonly in the 40ms+ range, yours may be one of such cases. Here's a list of tested TVs by input lag: [url<]http://www.rtings.com/info/input-lag-tvs[/url<] Or you can do what I'm doing and wait for OLEDs to go mainstream. Also worth noting is that in the next couple years the quality of panels should probably further improve due to the 4k related standards getting finalized recently.

    • Shambles
    • 8 years ago

    And to top it off if you think that was a bad experience just wait until you try to plug your PC into an A/V receiver using HDMI. I simply don’t install games on my HTPC that are latency sensitive because there’s no point in trying to play them.

    • MEATLOAF2
    • 8 years ago

    I played on a TV for some time, the input lag wasn’t a big deal, but my TV had a “game mode” that removed image processing and whatnot to reduce latency.

    • blueknigh7
    • 8 years ago

    Depends on the model. With the increasing number of Console gamers, lag’s becoming a spec that more and more people are looking into when buying a TV. I specifically went with a high end Sony to get the lowest input lag that I could (19ms). Made a world of difference coming from my old Samsung DLP (180ms).

    To get there though, you usually have to put the TV into “game” mode. This usually turns off all the visual fluff, but you might have to make manual adjustments too. Every TV is a bit different, but give it a try!

    Personally, I think some games are meant to be played on the PC (RTS, MOBA, FPS), but there’s a large number of games that or ports, or just play better with a controller, and play just fine in the living room. In fact, there’s a large number of indie multiplayer games on steam that work best in the “friends on a couch” mode. (Crawl, Towerfall, Castle Crashers, Nidhogg, Divekick, etc).

    Using a PC instead of console’s saved more than a few bucks on purchase prices.

    • Platedslicer
    • 8 years ago

    Once I plugged my PC directly into the TV at home, and the input lag was worse than playing with vsync (which is bad enough for me). Maybe it’s just my particular model that’s crappy, but it’s consistent with the annoying experiences I’ve had with consoles at other people’s places. And that was before I was spoiled by a 144Hz monitor…

    I’m willing to stick out a limb and make a guess that TVs just aren’t made with fast reponse in mind (and why would they be?). Add some more lag from the streaming and I really don’t think this is for anyone with even the vaguest aspirations at “serious” gaming.

    Which is kinda sad, considering they could be working towards important things such as learning to count to 3.

    • DPete27
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]The final hardware will look something like this. Source: Valve[/quote<] [quote<]but it won't be available for a while. Valve says[/quote<] Or ever, knowing Valve. Enough said.

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    About 2.5x that as of today but considering that it was like 115 in June of last year it looks promising. My packages are for some libraries that are not needed for Steam or gaming so it looks like people are adding functionality to their SteamOS boxes. People that just want to run SteamOS for steam would have no reason to download them.

    • superjawes
    • 8 years ago

    I feel…nothing, really. I always thought that in-home streaming was a good idea to get the library coverage lacking in Steam’s Linux library (the part that would work with SteamOS), and this seems like a logical step.

    But still…nothing really knocks my socks off about this. I mean it doesn’t even mention app support to replace something like FireTV, AppleTV, or Roku, so you’ll still be using multiple devices.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    So like what? 10,000 users?

    • Deanjo
    • 8 years ago

    Going by the openSUSE build service stats on a few of the repos I maintain, SteamOS is actually growing pretty well. (Yes, the build service can build for many distros)

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    I agree with you entirely.

    • puppetworx
    • 8 years ago

    I wasn’t contesting that point, only the idea that the streamer was an afterthought.

    A streamer makes more sense in many ways, for example not requiring that the game run on Linux. Steam machines will take a lot of investment to get over the lack of Linux content problem, if Valve deemed the task insurmountable then who can really blame them? SteamOS never really got off the ground though, and that is most definitely their failing. If they had a viable solution out perhaps the devs would have taken notice. Maybe if the VR thing actually takes off powerful Steam machines in the living room will. Maybe and if.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    That’s good information. I appreciate the write up.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    It is just a debian based distro with steam already installed.
    I doubt wide adoption though. Even to catch Ubuntu would surprise me.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    Steam is a webkit based browser.

    • sweatshopking
    • 8 years ago

    That doesn’t really change his point about them dying out though.

    • puppetworx
    • 8 years ago

    They announced Steam streaming devices way back when they announced Steam machines, this was always part of the plan.

    • Misel
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve been wondering long enough already when Steam would be availabe for ARM to put it on a Raspberry PI. But when this device is out I guess, I won’t need it. 🙂

    • The Dark One
    • 8 years ago

    Epic announced that they’ll be demoing the new Unreal Tournament running at 4K on a Steam Machine.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    Mm… and this seems to be what the Steamachine has devolved into. Good job Valve. With lack of motivation you managed to basically just clone your competitors after waiting around long enough.

    The whole Steamachine launch was botched beyond belief with almost nothing to show for it besides a controller and quickly died out there after. Notice how Valve hasn’t been pushing it anymore? As with the majority of their products it probably lost momentum internally and it slowly died out as people went to work on other things.

    I guess if you’re trying to compete with Chromecast good job Valve…

    • Firestarter
    • 8 years ago

    You can enable the desktop on SteamOS and install whatever you want yourself. I ended up installing Xubuntu instead with Steam auto-launching, because SteamOS didn’t like the NIC in my Chromebox. BTW, the big picture interface in Steam includes a web browser if I’m not mistaken

    • Firestarter
    • 8 years ago

    Looks nice! I’ve been messing with steam in-home streaming to my Chromebox/budget-NUC over the last weeks, and in my experience wireless can work if it’s [i<]perfect[/i<]. You'll find out soon enough if it isn't. Depending on the game I'd recommend at least 50 to 100mbit, racing games for example require a bit more bandwidth to look nice and you want a lot of excess bandwidth to keep the latency down. I've had it working nicely on a good powerline connection and MoCA (ethernet over coax) also works even though the latency is slightly higher. BTW, if Valve wants in-home streaming to have more mass-appeal, I think they should work at game and hardware compatibility as well. I have several games that crash on launch or don't play nicely because of a popup screen (that you'd need a mouse to get past), and although my gaming computer has 2 hardware H264 encoders in them I can't use either because they're not supported (Sandy Bridge) or don't work well enough to bother at all (AMD HD7950). Their fall-back (OSS-based) software encoder is very good actually, but it will still slow down newer games unless you have CPU-cores coming out of the wazoo.

    • f0d
    • 8 years ago

    i dont know about anyone else but i cant see streaming ever working well for people that really like fps games and want low latency

    i have tried many fps games streamed from steam and every one of them i can notice the latency and it just kills the enjoyment for me and this is using a 3930k/gtx670 over a gigabit network to my htpc which has a 2600k/6970 – both ends should be plenty of power to do it

    other styles of games are hit and miss but most of them seem not too bad
    but fps games? not for me thanks

    • MadManOriginal
    • 8 years ago

    How flexible is SteamOS? Can you install and run whatever Linux programs you want without a lot of trouble? Or is it more like a firmware OS ? Even just the ability to install a full web browser and media programs would go a long way.

    If it is flexible, and easily allows a lot of hacking and customization while maintaining the Steam OS foundation, it has a lot of potential and might be the first non-console STB from a big name to take off, at least among the tech crowd.

    • tsk
    • 8 years ago

    Oh this looks nice. Pair this with the razer turret and you got a winner!

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