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Valve Steam Controller and Steam Link Overview and Impressions

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Valve

A new controller for PC gamers

Last Friday, the early buyers of the Steam Controller and the Steam Link device, built by Valve directly, began to receive their hardware. I was one of the lucky early users to get my hands on both of the units. The Steam Controller has evolved drastically since I first got hands on with it and its implementation of unique haptic feedback and a thumb-specific touch pad on the right, rather than a second analog stick, make it quite different than the Xbox or PlayStation controllers popular today. The Steam Link is Valve's answer to GeForce GameStream and allows you to share your Steam library on your local network to another display or TV in your home.

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The video below walks through a quick unboxing of the two new hardware options from Valve and demonstrates the use of the controller in a couple of games as well.

We'll definitely have more on the Steam Controller and Steam Link very soon, but I think this video should be able to help you decide if this is something you want to add to your gaming arsenal.


October 19, 2015 | 11:44 PM - Posted by mLocke

Was there a deadzone on the directional touchpad when playing Rocket League?

What does DirectInput "Game Controllers" see the controller as?

October 19, 2015 | 11:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Don't forget to test the gyro for driving games and FPS!

October 20, 2015 | 11:03 AM - Posted by Areus

I'm excited for the possibilities that this controller brings, but I'm REALLY worried about the FPS interaction there Ryan. The constant minute swiping-to-aim looks tedious. I was expecting an edge ring that would carry continuous movement, like we have now on joystick and mouse play. I can see the benefit for precision control, but if I have to swipe 5 times to turn 180 I will probably put the game down.

You seemed bullish in your review during bioshock. Am I wrong, was the feel of swiping better than what I describe?

October 20, 2015 | 06:59 PM - Posted by JimboLodisC

I would actually prefer it to behave more like a mouse with swiping than I would with continuous movement like on a smartphone game. I would think there would be an easy software solution to switch it to either method, or even add a modifier key to make it swipe with greater movement. I know some games I've played have a button dedicated to a 180-degree turn. Seeing as it's a PC peripheral, I wouldn't worry about configuration options.

October 21, 2015 | 07:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is swiping really all that great? I know you're comparing swiping to a analog stick but wouldn't swiping still mean that you're basically using a laptop touchpad on your controller?

October 20, 2015 | 12:13 PM - Posted by funandjam

I got the Steam Link and it works really well, although there are a couple of situations that games don't work well or not at all and I think that is mostly due to my PC being connected to my network on wireless N @ 2.4Ghz(link is hardwired to router). For playing games while on the recliner or sofa, the vast majority of my games run and look just fine, like borderlands 2, Styx and some sidescrollers I have.
When I told my wife I bought it, she was initially ticked off until she realized that the Link easily streams your desktop to the TV and now she wants to go shop for a wireless KB&M so she can work from home on the sofa.

I tried playing some non-steam games and BF4 was basically unplayable in my situation. The game looks great on my monitor, but on the TV is is worse than having a blank screen. Haven't tried other games on Origin yet, so can't comment on that, but I did try playing an old game from a disc(007 bloodstone) and it was almost as bad, looked good on pc monitor, really bad on tv.

Multiple monitors enabled on the PC tends to confuse steam link and causes game to show blank screen on TV, had to disable one of my two monitors and game then shows correctly on the TV.

October 20, 2015 | 01:47 PM - Posted by Dr_Orgo

Picture quality problems with streaming have defined terms to describe them. Were you seeing artifacting, tearing, stuttering, dropped frames, input lag, etc.? The router likely is below the recommended bandwidth for streaming. I've heard wifi is only worth using for streaming if it's 802.11ac. It's interesting that it look alright for some games despite the slower wifi.

I'm interested in Steam Link, but I'll continue moving my desktop PC to the living room if the current streaming experience isn't polished. With very good cable management, it's only ~5 minutes to get everything moved and started up.

October 20, 2015 | 07:06 PM - Posted by funandjam

Ah, you are right and I didn't give enough information. We'll concentrate on the games that work. The Steam Link gives you the option of what resolution you want to stream at. My source is 1080p and the Link will stream at 1080p @60hz. I am at work and I don't recall all the resolutions it offers, but I do know it allows you to stream at 720p in order to give you better performance if needed.
I did not notice screen tearing, stuttering, dropped frames, artifacting and no noticeable input lag. The only thing that I did notice, and from reviews I've read it's the same across the board is a slight compression of the video. So while it isn't as good quality as what's on my 1080 pc monitor, it is worlds better than my old xbox 360 on the same tv as the steam Link. As an example, streaming the OG Borderlands on the Link at 1080 looks way better than playing the same game on my xbox 360 on the same tv. So yea, I think the Link is worth it because I really can't see moving my pc to the living room, even just occasionally.

more later.

October 20, 2015 | 04:09 PM - Posted by nevzim (not verified)

I like controllers because they give realistic experience of controlling physical objects in action games.
I am glad that Valve decides to innovate and I hope to hear soon what steam controller excels at.

October 20, 2015 | 09:27 PM - Posted by Michael Ciancio (not verified)

Did anyone else see the emote spam in Rocket League? did it have multiple actions mapped to the d pad or are you not supposed to click or what?

October 20, 2015 | 09:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How does it work for RTS?

October 21, 2015 | 08:13 AM - Posted by remc86007

I'm disappointed by how tacky looking it is. Hopefully in some future videos Ryan will find a better use case for the controller, because from what he showed in that video it looks like a significantly worse experience than an Xbox One controller.

I know practice may help, but it seemed like the trackpad made him even more likely to strafe to aim than an Xbox Once controller would.

October 22, 2015 | 03:08 PM - Posted by VintageDon (not verified)

I pre-ordered both the controller and the Steam Link and have been playing with them about a week. My entire house is hard wired with CAT6A, with 10GB to prime points (home office [I own a cloud hosting company], basement game room, bedroom and living room) so I have plenty of bandwidth overhead. The rig I'm streaming *from* is an i7-5960X w/32GB of RAM and an R9290X. I have triple 27" monitors, but I didn't experience any of the multiple monitor issues noted above in some comments. I use DisplayFusion, so perhaps this helped. For obvious reasons, I didn't use Eyefinity.
The only games I see noticeable controller latency on are driving games, which we have a passion for (and I have a G25). My son could barely play Dirt3 until he got used to the latency, and even then, had less than stellar comments about it. I did have issues where a couple of games simply would not play (black screen), but other than these two issues, I'm good with the Link.
The controller ... sigh. It's love and hate for me. I love the feel of the design, but the pads are taking some getting used to. It's a learning curve for sure. I'm 47 and my son is 15, and we're both facing it, so it seems to be just a general curve. I've found playing Geometry Wars and any fast-paced FPS of your choice are great training wheels.

October 23, 2015 | 08:22 AM - Posted by Mcfids (not verified)

I'm interested in your experience with streaming from a multiple monitor server to the Link. From what I can gather, the Link displays the streaming PC's resolution (ratio) scaling it to 1080p. In other words, if your streaming PC uses a 21:9 wide monitor (as I do), the Link will diaplay the full 21:9 image but with black bars top and bottom to fit the 16:9 1080P TV.

The way around this apparantly is to change the resolution whilst playing the game on the Link to 16:9 but that would mean changing it back again when using your PC locally.

This is a bit of deal breaker for me and I was hoping it was going to be addressed considering there is dedicated hardware involved.

Can anyone confirm that this is how the Link works?

October 26, 2015 | 09:59 AM - Posted by obababoy

Kinda unrelated but the streaming of my XB1 to my PC has almost NO latency. They should be able to do this...Now if only they could reverse that so I could play from my PC to XB1(Not for MP FPS games)

October 27, 2015 | 06:54 AM - Posted by Krieger (not verified)

I watched a video where the user had different accuracy/overshooting results for CSGO by setting up the controller via the Big Picture mode. Have you tried using the Big Picture interface for setting up your controller for these games?

October 27, 2015 | 06:57 AM - Posted by Krieger (not verified)

He was using the "WASD and mouse" setting versus the Gamepad one.

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