At the start of this year Steam ‘s Home Streaming service went into public beta. Basically, if you’re unaware, what Home Streaming allows you to do is stream games from your main gaming rig to any other computer with a Steam client on it. Steam recommend you use a wired network and a client PC with fairly modest spec.
You can read about what sort of set up Steam recommend on their website section for Home Streaming. My main rig is an i7 3770k with 16GB ram and a GTX 770 OC. It sits out at the back of our garage conversion and is hooked up to our network in the sitting room via a pair of AV500 Homeplugs. Typically you’ll get up to 90Mbps throughput with these powerline adaptors (the 500 in the name is somewhat misleading), and that’s roughly what we get here unless the washing machine or tumble dryer in the adjacent room is switched on, then it plummets.
I decided to use my laptop, an ASUS S200E, as my client machine. It’s got Windows 8.1 installed on it, an i3 and integrated graphics and only goes up as far as 2.4ghz G when it comes to wifi. It’s got a built in screen resolution of 1,366 by 768, which isn’t remotely awesome and probably less than some people have on their phone but it does the trick for me when it comes to blogging and running a few emulators.
The game I decided to have a play with was Tomb Raider. On my main PC I run it at 1080P60 with everything bar the TressFX hair bumped up to ultra. Frame rates never seem to drop and it looks lovely- one of the benefits of gaming at what is a relatively low resolution for PC gamers now days. I’ve completed the game so decided to have a wander around some of the more impressive locations and then run the benchmark.
Firstly I decided to play it natively on my laptops screen over wifi. It felt a bit sluggish and the frame rate wasn’t great, despite the resolution drop to the built in panels 1,366×768. Benchmarking confirmed this, with an average frame rate of 29FPS. I have to admit this left me feeling a little bit despondent but I decided to persevere by turning the wifi off, connecting it to ethernet and hooking the laptop up to my 50 inch LG plasma. I’m glad I did because it was a completely different experience. Even though I’ve been limited by the homeplugs, I was able to run the home streaming at 1080P at 60FPS without discernible lag or glitching.
The obvious benefit of home streaming is you can play your extensive Steam library (or a fair chunk of it at any rate), away from your main PC. An Intel NUC or Gigabyte Brix could effectively become your sitting room games console (and media streamer) with the caveat that you do have to have your main rig turned on and running Steam. It’s certainly made me think twice about “upgrading” to a PS4 or Xbox One.