Hey guys, so I just bought the Steam Link and the first task I knew I had to do was run some tests, and share my experience with you all. I remember there were a lot of people wanting to know how well it performed in all sorts of conditions. Before we start, here are my PC and network specifications and then let's get into it. If there is more information on my setup you'd like added or if you have any questions or tests you'd like answered/run, please feel free to ask and I will see what I can do.
|CPU||i7 4790k (4.7GHz)|
|Storage||500GB SSD + 3TB HDD (Samsung 840 Pro + WD Black)|
|OS||Windows 10 (Up to date)|
|Network||2.4Hz Wired; 5Hz Wireless|
|TV||Samsung 48J5200 (29.2ms Response Time, great for TV)|
My desktop is located in my room which is not the greatest of places to play video games when there are more than three people involved. Four can manage but it is cramped. This means I typically move my whole desktop to the living room to accommodate 4+ people when playing PC games. This is less than ideal so I had always been contemplating the purchase and use of a Steam Link for such situations, but I'm someone that splits hairs when it comes to specifications and results. So as a pessimist, I held off. Well, I have some friends coming over tomorrow and I finally decided that I wasn't going to let my pessimism hold me back anymore. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, at least I gave it a shot.
Out of the box, Valve gives you all the tools you need to get yourself going. The Link itself, a CAT6 cord (~10ft), HDMI 2.0 (Silver Plated) (~7ft), and a power cord with an adaptable power connector. In addition to the standard North American Type A connector, you get three others. They are type G (UK), type C (Europe), and type I (Australia, China). The size of the link is about the size of an average hand up to the second knuckles and it is light. There's a nice little grip on the underside. You get 3 USB 2.0 ports on the link, and connections for the other cords that you would expect.
First, my baseline is all optimal settings and the changes and results to these settings will be mentioned within the subsections here. I'll underline the key words here to allow for easy navigation. The performance setting of fast/balance/beautiful was kept on , and my TV's was enabled throughout as well. Within Steam, I kept enabled the "," and "," settings but can test without those turned on if someone would like. There's a setting of "Prioritize Network Traffic," that I toggled but didn't properly test because there was no other network usage. I'll come back to that and update the post. If there's specific scenarios people want me to test as far as network usage (while downloading, other devices streaming specific amount of videos, etc.) let me know and I'll see what I can do. My to remain a constant variable and will be individually discussed later in the post.
A 50ft CAT6 cable was used to connect the Link to my modem directly. This is an old, used, somewhat weathered cable. The frequency is a standard 2.4Hz when wired. I threw some Dark Souls 3 up on the TV and played some PVP. Immediately, and I mean immediately, I was amazed. We've all heard about quality loss there. Well I've only been playing DS3 on my 1440p monitor at 144hz but with the game locked at 60fps. So, although I can't compare the Steam Link 1080p60 with GPU direct to TV 1080p60, I can still speak from the perspective of someone coming from a higher resolution and refresh rate. Well it was just as beautiful as I expected. It seemed just as clear as any other 1080p game I've played. That's great and all but what about the input latency? Can't play action games if there's input latency. Well guess what, I couldn't notice a bit of difference in controller response time! . Okay, okay, subjectivity is one thing, but let's see some objective results. I popped up Titan Souls and tested the response of the rolling. Keep in mind that my monitor's response time is 1ms in contrast to the TV's 30ms. There's only the slightest ever difference between the Steam Link and direct response times. You could have a worse difference between two different TVs! Take this from a person who is very anal about compromise and playing in the most optimal of ways available to me and, I would play any game on Steam Link based on my experience so far. In fact, I kept playing Tital Souls and defeated a boss. Real world tests!
Moving on to Wireless. Here is where the frequency of the signal should make a difference. My modem is outputting a 5Hz signal which to my understanding works through walls better. The Link was ~30 feet away with one wall (closet) between it and the modem. I fully expected artifact when I launched Dark Souls 3, but I saw To test response times, I once again launched Titan Souls and started rolling again (video). Again, , perceived and when looking over the videos. I was amazed with the initial wired testing but I was FLOORED when I tested this wireless. Insane. Here's a panorama of the setup. The PC is in the far left corner you see (faint red light you see) and the Link is right under the living room TV . Oh, and don't mind the CAT6; I just left it out.
Before getting into it, can I just say how awesome it is that the Link has bluetooth built in? Because that's damn awesome. This also means I can utilize the BT with multiple controller while also utilizing USBs for other ones to not bog down the BT connections.
So now we come down to Pad support. I was using the DS4 and had been using it wired up 'til now. The setup of the wireless controller was kind of tricky. When there's no controller connected to the Link it shows a screen that asks you to connect a controller as you would expect. The only problem is you can't pair your controller while it's wired and you can't connect it while it's not paired (to access the bluetooth devices pairing screen). To circumvent this, I started the searching function of the DS4, hooked it up wired, and had to quickly select it on the pairing screen before it stopped searching (due to it sensing that there's a micro USB) attached. At that point, I could disconnect the cord and use it wirelessly. Connecting additional controllers is far easier because you're already on the screen and you don't have to worry about them halting their search. It's not too difficult to do once you know it, but it's a fairly clunky process.
Wired was already covered in the Performance section so here is where we'll tackle wireless. Well... this is easy because there was no difference I could tell. Not even when I sat 15 feet away from the thing.
So there you go! My experience with the Steam Link! I have to say, I am still floored. This product works as intended. If you're worried about quality and latency, and have a setup similar to mine, don't be. The thing performs as advertised. My pessimistic side was half expecting an experience similar to PSNow but boy, that would be so far off that I couldn't even. When I tried playing God of War 2 through PSNow, I immediately could see the difference and was questioning if I wanted to play with the rest of my trial. With this, I am definitely going to be using often. I can NOT believe I have been missing out on this for so long with all of my parties. Do yourself a favor and jump on it. Remember, since this is a local network service, your down/up speeds don't matter. But I am curious to see if there would be a difference with a 2.4Hz wireless signal because those are still common. Anyway, thank you for reading! Let me know if you want me to test any specific scenarios!