There’s been a lot of buzz lately about Steam’s new controller and Steam Link accessory. We’ve also been hearing more about the Steam OS “Steambox” consoles. But after doing some research, I’ve come to a firm conclusion: You don’t need any of it.
First off, you’ll have to excuse the barren entertainment centre... I’m in the process of moving, and I’ve packed away everything but the PS4 and PC. Anyway. I’m going to share my techniques on how to get the full Big Pictures experience without having to drop $100+ on new kit for living room.
It honestly shocks me how few people even consider this. Sure, a decade ago, an HDMI port on a graphics card or laptop was uncommon. But we’re in 2015 now, and both your PC and TV should have an HDMI port. It’s possible that all your ports are occupied, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Here’s what you’re going to want to buy:
That’s a generic, 50ft HDMI cable. You can go longer, or even a bit shorter, but for your typical single-family home or single-bedroom apartment, this should be more than sufficient. It’s just under $30 CDN, or ~$22 USD.
I’ll usually run the cable along the length of the wall (and tuck it between the carpet and kickboard, where possible), but odds are, you’re going to have to run across a doorway at some point.
If so, you’ll need some of this:
This is a pretty generic item that has a million different names, but you can find it at any hardware or electronics store. It’s a soft rubber that won’t slide on hardwoods or carpet, and it’ll keep the cable concealed, so you don’t trip on it. It’ll run you around $5-20, depending on the length you need, and you can always cut to size.
Alternatively, you could do this:
This is an aux cable I ran for my cell phone signal repeater (which is a great buy if you live in a basement apartment or otherwise get poor reception), and I did a pretty ramshackle job of it, but the concept is the same; sometimes elevating the wire with adhesive zip tie brackets makes more sense.
Easy, get one of these:
There are definitely cheaper options, but after I bought a dud from China (it worked, but the image came out like shit), I just went for this Fosmon one based on the reviews. This one comes with a remote control, so you don’t even have to get off your ass to switch it. It’s great! It does have one draw back, however, in that the blue LEDs on this thing are bright enough to blind - because my bedroom/living room space is all one big, open room, I had to cover it with tin foil so I could actually sleep. If you look straight at the lights, they will blind you.
Anyway. That should solve any issue you have regarding getting the image and sound of your game on your TV. So what about controllers?
Just buy one of these.
I had been using a PS3 controller using an application called MotionInJoy, but it would frequently crash and just was not worth the headache. For a stable, effortless connection, just buy a dedicated 360 controller for your PC (AND MAKE SURE IT’S THE ONE WITH THE OVAL-SHAPED DONGLE, OR IT WON’T WORK - I LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE, GUYS).
I’m of the understanding that the PS4, XBone and Wii U controllers also work in the same way, but I haven’t tried any of these to verify.
And if you really want to, that Steam controller is an option too. I think it looks weird, and the loud clicking is annoying, but if it’s your thing, it’s a valid option.
Now, as with any wireless solution, you will have a certain range on these things. If you’re having a hard time keeping a good connection, I suggest running a long male-to-female USB extension cable along the same track as your HDMI, and connecting any wireless dongles you need to that point.
You may not know this about me, but I’m a crazy person. Really! I’m actually planning on building a PC gaming... Thing. Basically, a small table that’ll swing out from the side of my couch, giving me a stable surface on which to have a mouse and keyboard. I’m not finished designing it yet, but basically, it’ll be built similar to that lamp thing that dentists use; a stable platform articulated on multiple axes, one that can be pushed aside when i don’t need it. The trick will be finding a way to build it on the cheap, but I’m really not satisfied with some of the solutions I’ve seen - a lot of tables designed for couch potatoes are either flimsy or uncomfortable, and I’ve got enough know-how to build my own.
But, if you’re not as ambitious as me, yes, solutions do exist so that you can lean back in your gaming chair and hammer away at some WASD. Just... My way’s gonna be cooler. :P
So, this is how I do my Big Picture set-up. As I mentioned, none of this requires fancy peripherals, or a second computer, or a Steam box, none of that. And on top of that, it’ll provide you with a much more reliable set-up than the Steam Link can provide wirelessly.
Assuming you’re not already using Steam in your living room and want to get a set-up similar to mine, you’re looking at about $30-80, all-in, depending on what you do and don’t already have. You can probably go even cheaper if you have a store like Sayal Electronics in your area, but I wanted to link to websites that are fairly ubiquitous for the average buyer.
Admittedly, the set-up does take a bit of work, and if, like me, you’re willing to invest in proper mounting brackets and cable track, it can run a bit more - really all depends how many cables you’re running and how crazy you want to go with it.
But, at the end of the day, I wanted to write an article showing an alternative method of addressing the problems Steam’s new toys seek to resolve. The gaming media seems to be presenting these products as the *only* solution to these problems, although I doubt that’s their intention.