Can I run Steam Link off a laptop? Answer: You could certainly try, though all it did with the MSI GTX 970M-equipped model I tested on was crash Steam.
Speaking of crashes, if a game ever locks up or needs to install an update or what-have-you, there’s a good chance Steam Link will kick you back to your desktop. If you’re running a dual monitor setup this can be really strange. In my case, Steam Link ended up streaming my two 1080p monitors as one long 3840x1080 desktop with massive black bars on the top and bottom. Not a great experience.
Valve’s promised “lots of updates” between now and launch, which is why this isn’t an official review yet. But they’re playing it overly safe. Steam Link is already the best game streaming device you can buy, and it’s a steal at $50. With a strong network and a powerful PC already in your home, the differences between Steam Link and a full-fledged Steam Machine are negligible—and the Steam Link’s only a fraction of the cost. Is it perfect? No. You’re going to see some compression artifacting, you’re going to encounter latency occasionally, you’re going to drop frames.
But here’s the deal: From the day you buy a full Steam Machine, it starts to degrade, and the internal hardware becomes increasingly outdated. Steam Link? As Valve further optimizes in-home streaming and as you upgrade your primary PC, the Steam Link experience can only get better, year after year after year.
Editor's note: This article originally published as an impressions piece on October 16, 2015, but was updated to review status on November 10.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.