If you've ever dreamed of playing a big AAA gaming title on your phone, you can do it now. Somehow.
Valve Steam Link ($ 32.00 on Amazon.com) The system originally required a physical box connected to a TV and connected to the same network as your gaming computer. You would then use the processing power of your dedicated gaming rig to stream your favorite tracks to your TV so you can play PC games from the comfort of your couch.
Last week, however, Steam Steam Link has been extended to Android devices. (Sorry, iOS user, Valve says Apple rejected the Steam Link app because of "business conflicts.") This is how the Steam Link app works and how to set it up.
For Steam Link to work, you need a host computer running SteamOS or Steam Big Picture Mode on Windows (Vista or later), MacOS (Yosemite or later). or Ubuntu (12.04 or later). If you're already playing from your computer, it should work with the Android Steam Link app without much problem.
You also need a fast wireless network. Steam recommends setting up everything on a 5 GHz network if possible, and lists the minimum speed requirements at 15 Mbps (30 Mbps is optimal). The closer you are to the access point, the better.
After all, you need an Android device – either a smartphone or a tablet. And while you can play some games without a controller, this is not recommended. You want to pair a Bluetooth controller (or a keyboard and a mouse). Do not be surprised if Input Lag ruined the experience for a few games. (I was trying to play Rocket League and while the game was going well, the input lag made the competitive game unbearable.)
Setting up Steam Link for Android
The Steam Link configuration starts on the host computer , You need to enable streaming over your network. To do this, open Steam on your host computer, then:
- Click Steam in the upper left corner of the window.
- Select Settings from the drop-down menu.
- Click In-Home Streaming in the left menu
- Select the check box next to Enable Streaming .
- Click Advanced Host Options .
- If your host PC has an Nvidia graphics card, check Use NVFBC Capture on NVIDIA GPU .
- Optionally enable Prioritize Network Traffic and click OK .
You can also set client options in this menu. Select either Fast Balanced or Beautiful for performance on the Android device. Advanced Client Options allows you to set a bandwidth or resolution limit, enable hardware decoding, configure speakers, and view performance information. (These settings can also be adjusted later in the Steam Link app.)
Next, install and open the Google Play Steam Link beta. Make sure your Android device is on the same wireless network (and the same router – network bridges and wireless extenders can prevent your phone from recognizing your computer) as a host computer.
When you open the app for the first time, you will be guided through the initial setup. Tap Getting Started and choose whether you want to pair your own controller or a Steam controller. On the next screen your host computer should be visible. If it does not, check if you're on the correct Wi-Fi network or tap Rescan .
Once you have selected a host computer, you will receive a four-digit PIN. Enter the PIN on the host computer and click OK . The app will test the connection with your computer and tell you how well Steam Link works.
Play a PC game on your Android device
After connecting, open the Steam Link app on your phone and select your host computer. Make sure your controller is detected and touch Start Playing . This will start Steam Big Picture Mode on your host computer. Your Android smartphone is in control of your computer until you stop the Steam Link connection.
Scroll through the menu with the left-hand directional pad or joystick to start playback. (The controls may differ depending on the controller you are using, so you can change the controller settings in Settings> Controller Settings .) Select Library to display games and other media available on Your computer. To view all installed games, hover over Installed in the left menu. Select a game to start playing.
You can also install other games by going to Games in the left menu and selecting an option that is not currently installed. If a game usually requires a keyboard, you must configure the controller settings before you can play it.
The thing to remember is that not all games work well with such a small screen. But while most people would rather play a game while sitting at the computer or on the big screen of their TV, it's nice to take your games anywhere within reach of your wireless network.
CNET's own Lori Grunin has used the Steam Link app for a round to learn how well PC games are put on the small screen.