Hardware Review: Steam Link

Last week the local gaming shop had the Steam Link on 70% discount so I figured I’d give it a try. We recently got a new TV at home, so I was eager to try out some Steam games on the big screen. If you’re too lazy to click the link above, the Steam Link is basically a set-top box that streams your gameplay to a TV via HDMI, allowing you to enjoy your steam games from the comfort of a couch. There was also a sale on Steam controllers, but I had a variety of controllers at home to try out, so I passed on that.

The Steam Link came in a box that was bigger than I was expected. The box looks neat though:

And this is the only device I’ve ever bought that came with a bunch of adapters for different socket types:

The device itself is about as large as external hard drive:

Usage is fairly simple. You hook it up to the TV with an HDMI cable. You connect controllers or dongles via USB. Some controllers like the Steam Controller have wireless support. Network connectivity is through a LAN cable or via wi-fi. When it starts up, it searches your home network for computers running Steam, then it gives you a code that you type into the computer to grant access. Once that’s done, you can stream your games to the TV.

I first tried it out with a Logitech F710 Wireless Gamepad that I’ve had forever, since that’s explicitly meant for games on Windows. I plugged the dongle into the USB slot, but had some trouble at first with the controller not being detected or taking multiple button presses to respond. I wondered if it was lag due to a poor network and worried that I had just wasted some money. It turns out however, that the batteries on the controller simply needed replacing haha.

When streaming to the Link, Steam uses Big Picture mode:

I tried a couple of games I got during the recent Steam sale. I’ve already sunk in at least 8 hours on Ori and the Blind Forest (that includes a lot of dying repeatedly!). This game is a Microsoft exclusive, so I’d never have been able to play it from a couch without the link. A very pretty game too.

I also wanted to test if an arcade stick would work. I had a PS3 Hori arcade stick at home, so I used it to play a bit of Guilty Gear Xrd:

I was also able to test that the PS4 controller works when wired. Supposedly the PS4 controller and the WiiU Pro controller can both work wirelessly, but I had both the PS4 and the WiiU in the same room so I couldn’t try it without activating the consoles.

I’m using a LAN cable, and there’s no noticeable lag or anything. Only annoyance so far is that the controller seems to become unresponsive if I bring up the Steam overlay midgame and try to go back to the game. (If the Link becomes unresponsive, you can still go to your computer and turn it off from there.) All the processing power still comes from your computer, so enjoying your Steam games on the TV still depends on having a decent computer.

While a lot of my Steam games are also available on consoles I have, it’s often cheaper to get them on Steam, so I’ve been looking towards restricting my console purchases to mostly exclusives only. Having the Steam Link helps with that, since I can still enjoy my Steam games on the TV and comfortably from a couch. All in all, a great experience, and a pretty good buy I think.

 

Sony 4K HDR Bravia X8000D

4k XLocal tech blog YugaTech is doing a giveaway of a Sony X8000D Bravia 4K TV. To be honest I wasn’t sure about using this blog to participate in a promo, but I was already in the market for a new TV since our living room TV is already starting to have some problems.

I checked out the product features of the Sony X8000D Bravia on their website. Some of the features stood out for me specifically:

  • 4K HDR – this means you get to watch high definition 4k videos. Perfect for those who really enjoy high quality displays. The TV also comes with some technologies to enhance your viewing experience such as 4k X-Reality and Triluminos display. And if you have a gamer in the family, this means you can now maximize the Playstation 4 Pro since it supports gaming in 4K resolution!
  • Connectivity – Wifi is a big deal for me because our current TV is a bit old and only supports wired connection. Wifi makes it a lot easier! The TV also has 4 HDMI slots – let me see… that’s one each for the PS4 Pro, Nintendo Switch, and XBox One, plus one more to spare for those times when you want to connect your laptop to a big display (one can dream right?)
  • Android TV – this means all the apps on the Google Play store can be downloaded and run on the TV. That means built-in Youtube, Netflix, etc, without need for a separate device to stream from!
  • Google Cast – oh, I didn’t know this even existed until now! Apparently TV’s can now have Chromecast functionality built-in, without the need for the separate Chromecast device. Awesome! We can just send content from our mobile devices directly to the TV!
  • Netflix recommended – one of the things I’ve been looking for in a new TV is that I want my folks to be able to easily use my Netflix account. Currently the only way they can use it on the TV is through the PS4, which is a bit difficult if you don’t know your way around a controller. Having the TV itself support Netflix will make it a lot easier for my parents to take advantage of Netflix’s library of movies and TV shows!
  • X-Protection PRO – to protect against power surges, this seems like it would be really good especially here in Metro Manila where power supply is not always the most stable. Added protection for your investment!

The model has a lot of other features designed to enhance your enjoyment of audio and video content. With all of these features, the Sony Bravia X8000D could definitely be the perfect home entertainment companion for the modern family!

Indulgence – the Nokia N73

I bought a new phone yesterday.

At the recommendation of my brother, I got one from the Nokia N-series, the Nokia N73. As a relatively recent smartphone release, it cost quite a chunk of cash. I was having second thoughts for a while, because I’m almost never comfortable parting with a significant amount of cash. If I’m going to spend more than a week’s salary on something, it better provide me with a decent amount of entertainment

I was also hesitant, because I didn’t really need a new phone. It’s not like I’m the type of guy that buys shiny new stuff just so he can show off to other people. Hell, I’ve avoided having a phone until, what 2005? Getting a smartphone is pretty much an indulgence. I’m not buying a new phone so much as I am buying a new toy. As I said to one of my officemates “I want a phone that I can really tinker with.”

That being said, I’m sort of settling into the purchase now that the exchange has been made. I like the camera handy. I like having an MP3 player handy. I also find a phone useful. So having all of these functions in one device is pretty okay I guess. Ooh and it also has a radio! How quaint!

I would post a picture, but I’m not yet sure how I can get the phone to take a picture of itself.

19-inches of Widescreen LCD Sweetness

I wish I had a camera right now so I could post a picture of it, but yeah, I now have a brand-new 19-inch widescreen LCD monitor on my desk. Wow, I have so much space! Both physical space and desktop space!

I came home at past 12 midnight last night and was so sleepy I would have immediately went into a catatonic sleep had my brother not brought home and installed this new monitor. I pretty much had to play WoW for a few hours on it first. As my friend said, “It’s the law!”

In other news, I may be spending too much. =/

I Have A Phone! (Nokia 6020)

After seemingly being the last man in the Philippines without a cellphone for so long, I broke down and bought one a couple of weeks ago. I’d post a picture, but I can’t find the digicam, and the phone can’t take a picture of itself.

The 6020 itself seems pretty okay, although as a phone newbie I really have not much of a basis for comparison. The camera is nifty, but it took me a while to find a data cable for the phone. And now I can annoy people by SMS! (Not that I do, just that I can.)

I am of course fairly good with technical stuff, but also a newb with regards to phones. Being so, I have had trouble setting up things like MMS/GPRS/Email using the phone. I did have the GPRS up the other day, but then I downloaded some setting using Nokia’s service, and I lost it. Oh yeah, I’m on Globe.

Speaking of Globe, is their customer support service really so bad? In this internet day and age, why do I have to call a hotline or go to a Globe store to get help in setting up my phone service settings? Their forums are a mess, their website looks terribly messy, and any setup info I could get from their website doesn’t seem to work.

So yeah, I have a phone, and I’m whining already.

PIMP MY RIG — we test parts for you..


Pimp My Rig 
is a hardware review side associated with a friend of mine from high school. Yes, I was asked to help promote it. 😀

I haven’t worried about hardware issues in a while, since I usually ask my kid brother to handle most hardware purchases/setup at home. So, I don’t really know much about the latest and greatest hardware but this site looks helpful enough to be given a try, especially if you’re the sort who enjoys putting together his own PC. Check it out.

On an unrelated note, whenever I try to type the word “rig”, I find myself unconsciously typing “right.” Deep inside, I don’t think I accept “rig” as a word. :p

New Hardware

Spent some cash this weekend. First thing was a 256 Mb Kingston flash drive. Nothing too complicated, just something to transfer MP3s to and from work with. =)

Next up was a digital camera. A Kodak CX6330 to be exact. We had been planning to buy one for a while. Pics? Not now. Funny story though. There was this promo where we could get a P5000 discount (less than US$100) if we could show a receipt for P200 worth of Pampers (a local brand of baby diapers)…so I had to explain to people why in the world I was carrying around some diapers…

19 Jan 2003: I need more screws!

Yes I do. I bought a new hard drive yesterday, a 40Gb 5400RPM Seagate. It took me a while to get the system up and running again after my plugging it in. First I had to wrestle with my PC’s small case, trying to figure out where to place the thing. Then, given how old my PC is, it predictably failed to detect the whole capacity of the drive, insisting it was only 8 Gb. I went down to Seagate’s website and did some Dynamic Drive Overlay thing that let me overcome the BIOS limitations. But the DDO installed a Bootloader that would often hang the PC upon booting! I had to send in an email to Seagate tech support and wait til the next morning before I could get everything fine and dandy. Now I have a nice healthy 36 Gb of space…almost 20 times as much capacity as the old drive. Sw33t. The only problem now is that the hard drive didn’t come with any screws — so I just placed it on top of the old one. And I had to move my floppy so it’s lopsided.