In the world of entertainment there are many options to stream and consume content. You can stream music and video from set top boxes or even directly stream to your AV receiver. There is another streaming option that can bring games to your big screen without owning a gaming console or building a dedicated HTPC.

You can stream games from your PC! Now, you will need a beefy enough computer to not only play the game at your preferred settings but have enough headroom to encode and transport the data. This also includes having a modern home network to facilitate low latency and proper response times.

One of my favorite ways to do this comes from Steam. They have tried and failed to capture the living room with their hardware offerings (Steam Machines, Steam Link, Steam Controller). However, their experience helped bring new software solutions and even help develop more into VR. Very cool stuff. Even though their physical hardware initiative has failed up until this point, I highly recommend you play around with the Steam Link software and Remote Play.

In this article, we’ll review the Steam Link and Steam Controller’s history and resources from Valve, as well as current methods to stream computer games to your home theater!

Steam Link

steam link

The evolution of Steam Link was pretty wild. It was arguably the best wireless HDMI gaming device ever made. You could stream in a crispy 1080p, 60fps steam. It does not support 4K streaming though, but the Steam Link software does.

It’s better than a laptop, phone, and potentially even an HTPC.

Originally produced as a stand-alone box in 2018 after the abysmal launch of Steam Machines (same release date as the Steam Controller), Valve released this tool as a free download for nearly all other devices:

Even though Valve discontinued the hardware, you have many options to set up your own build.

Steam Link Resources

I was able to pick one up during the 2019 sale. This would be the last time Valve would keep one in stock. You will occasionally see the Steam Link on Amazon. But don’t count on getting one under $100 now.

How Does Remote Play Work?

From Steam:

When you play a game using Remote Play, video and audio are sent from your gaming PC to another device. Remote input and multiplayer voice are sent back to the gaming PC, all within milliseconds. You can tune streaming resolution and bitrate for the best experience on your setup with Advanced Settings. Over a 5 GHz network, our target is a resolution of 1080p at 60 frames per second, with good quality for most scenes. If you have a powerful gaming rig, a wired network, and a capable client device, it’s possible to stream 4K at 60 FPS.

After you get a Steam Link/Remote Play setup, you can configure any mainstream controller you wish to use.

Steam Link Observations

  • You may see better performance if your monitor and TV can handle the same resolution.
  • High resolution games will play the best when the Steam Link is wired. Wireless isn’t as great as a wired connection, especially for high framerate, high resolution games.
  • Mainstream controllers will work with the Steam Link, but get one that works with Steam. Older controllers may have issues.
  • Games that are played with a controller work the best. You can play games meant for keyboard and mouse play with a Steam Controller.
  • The computer you stream gameplay from should not be doing other tasks when playing.
  • Not all games will play the same on your Steam Link as they do on your computer running Steam.
  • Works best with local coop if you are wanting to play with other games.
  • You may need to tweak controller settings before you get settings and configurations to work properly. There is not only a learning curve, but also a few “gotchas” that you’ll have to figure out with your setup.

Steam Controller

steam controller

When I saw that Civilization demo of gameplay with an early iteration of the Steam Controller, I was immediately impressed.

YouTube video

The Steam Controller came out on November 10, 2015. Valve sold over 500,000 in the first six months and it became one of the most configurable gaming devices available on the PC market. You could play fighting games with motion controls or program the grips to control a vehicle in a driving/racing game.

I picked two controllers up during the $5, 2019 Steam Black Friday Firesale which officially ended December 3rd while supplies lasted. This was the last bastion of the Steam Machine craze. Valve’s effort in getting into living room hardware is now truly dead (Again, they still make Steam Link apps, remote play together, and Big Picture mode).

Update 7/21: Valve also got into the portable gaming market with the Steam Deck, not to be confused with the Stream Deck by Elgato. This could have several nice home theater applications because it is literally a portable PC, providing even more utility to your living room than a Nintendo Switch.

Quick Steam Link Pros and Cons

The actual release was easy enough to use. Plugin in the USB dongle into your PC or Steam Link and press the Valve logo to start the pairing process. The dongle can support up to 4 controllers at once, making the Steam Controller the most convenient way to connect to local multiplayer PC games. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the easiest part of using the Steam Controller.


  • Easy connection and pairing, supporting up to 4 devices on a single dongle.
  • Easy to use Steam and Big Picture mode.
  • Customizable control schemes.
  • Nearly unlimited game support.
  • Dual trackpads allow mouse like pricision and navigation.
  • Responsive grip triggers.


  • Steep learning curve.
  • Time to configure each game. Many games require manual button remapping.
  • Feels strange to use (at first).
  • Plasticy, toy looking quality.
  • Doesn’t include rechargeable batteries.

Steam Controller Resources

You will occasionally see the Steam Controller on Amazon. But don’t count on getting one under $100 now.

Steam Controller Accessories

I tried to buy most of these accessories during the 2019 firesale, but unfortunately, their stock sold out so fast that their systems couldn’t keep up with the demand. Unfortunately, these accessories were canceled from my order. You can find these on Amazon sometimes, but you will pay more than MSRP.

Final Thoughts

Even though Steam Machines, Steam Link, and Steam Controller living room hardware initiatives failed, Valve isn’t done yet. Their focus has shifted to software through SteamOS and Steam Link and even into other hardware. The lessons they learned from the Steam Controller helped them develop VR solutions. Look at the HTC Vive’s touchpad and tell me there isn’t a similarity.