Steamy Steam Hardware

Hello, fair readers!  Sorry for the radio silence lately, but I have had a busy, busy top half of November.  Between birthdays, anniversaries, my birthday, my anniversary, and a deluge of new games and gaming toys, it has been a delectable mess.  I have so much to tell you all, but let’s start first with some show-and-tell.

Valve, a company held near and dear to my heart, dove face first into the hardware races with its Steam Controller, Steam Link, and Steam Machines.  While I lack the last one, the first two arrived the day after my birthday.  I was elated, and Owen was relieved.  This was technically our second set of hardware as FedEx did what they seem to do disappointingly well and lost our first set.  Woo.  Regardless, we go what we wanted and are not disappointed.  And now, on with the image dump!

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First up is the Steam Link.  I love this little device.  It allows me to access my computer on my TV with ease, and use the Steam client in Big Picture mode.

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It has three USB ports (two in the back and one on the side), an Ethernet port, an HDMI port, and its power port.  The top has the Steam logo molded into the plastic.

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The box comes with the instructions and manual.  It also comes with the power cable and an HDMI cable, which is greatly appreciated.  I’m greatly impressed with the three extra international plugs to accommodate multiple plug styles.  I’m sure it was more efficient just to have one SKU for the world instead of various SKUs to keep track of.

My experience with the Steam Link so far have been mostly positive.  I love being able to curl up with Saxton on the couch and play whatever I feel like at the time.  An unexpected perk is the ability to tolerate games that usually stir up my motion sickness.  I was able to play several hours of Freedom Planet with ease on the TV.  I’m guessing this is because of the TV’s lower refresh rate compared to my monitor, and me being further from the screen itself.  The Big Picture mode also allows me to listen to my music in the living room, away from my computer, with some bugs and lacking design choices along the way.  For one, I can’t directly select a song; it will just play a different song on the album for some reason.  I’m chalking this up to a bug.  The system will also get bored after several minutes and go to sleep, leaving my TV hanging in limbo and my computer playing my music instead.  I’m going to chalk that up to a firmware issue.  It’s safe to say that there are bugs, but what early system doesn’t have those?  If you don’t feel you have an immediate need for the handy streaming, I would recommend waiting a little bit until more updates come down the pipeline.  Considering how frequently my Steam client updates, I’m sure the kinks will be ironed out eventually.

And now, the Steam Controller!

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I want to take a moment to point out just how wonderful the packaging for all of the Steam products are.  The box itself feels like a quality product, the inside is custom printed (especially the sleeve), the plastic holding the items is a nice fit, and even the printed materials inside are interesting.  I get excited over good packaging design, and this made me foam at the mouth a little.

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The box comes with the controller, a USB dongle, two AA batteries, a micro USB cable, and a USB port adapter, making it easier to access your dongle if you’re moving it about and only have USB ports on the back of your case.  Handy!  Cat not included.  The controller itself has the usual modern controller layout we’ve grown to know, but also has grip buttons on the back.  It took some getting used to, but I really like how those feel.  Underneath are the batteries, which slide into each handle.

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Here’s some better, more reflective angles of the controller.  Even the dongle has the Steam logo embossed on it.  How neat!  I love little details like that.

I’m far less enthusiastic about the Steam Controller.  It feels really good in the hands, but I’m just not very impressed by it.  The touch pads are really clever, but not always responsive.  I’m not sure if I have it functioning properly because of user error or software error.  The grip buttons are neat, but I tend to forget about them.  The controller’s shining moment is with typing, allowing the user to split the keyboard in half and assign each side to a pad.  It takes some getting used to, but it does allow for quick controller typing.  Gaming with the controller is okay, but not revolutionary.  It needs some work, but I’m sure there will be some grand update in the future to make it useful… I hope.  For now, I’d say skip.

So there’s Valve’s newest addition to my controller collection.  The Steam Link is pretty awesome, but needs some software love; the controller is iffy, but is still lovingly welcomed to the family; the packaging is amazing.

I am RNDMMeow, catless crazy catlady extraordinaire! Obsessed with gaming big and small, I relish in the weird and quirky. Join me on Twitch every Tuesday as I burrow through my collection of games, one life at a time.

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