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tpusch Nov 20, 2015 @ 2:06pm
Collection of hints and workarounds for new users/specific setups
When hearing about steam link a few months ago, I was thrilled: This was the exact kind of device I had been looking for, and for an affordable price to boot. I preordered as soon as possible, and since receiving my device, I spent some time to iron out a few issues I had, some of them surely related to my specific setup.

These forums have been tremendously helpful in explaining and ironing out these issues, but I had to collect information in various threads in order to resolve them all. This is why I thought it might be nice to have a thread where all hints and tricks from the community might be loosely gathered at one place in order to provide a starting point for people new to the hardware and having similar, sometimes very specific issues not necessarily covered elsewhere.

So, here I go with a few things people on this board helped me to find out:
(my experiences are based on the state of stable Link firmware 3.72 and steam beta client state up to the 17th of November 2015)

Edit: Post now reflects my current (as of Link Build 554, Steam Client Current Version Nov 2016) state of knowledge regarding changes since last year. Many thanks to the Valve team for continuously improving an already great product! :)

What if the monitor connected to my host PC has a resolution lower than my TV?
There might be a software-based solution, maybe someone will be able to chime in. But the thing that worked flawlessly for me so far is a headless HDMI dongle (originally meant for remote administration of server PCs without a monitor connected).

This is how I set things up:
I am on a two monitor (1280x1024) setup on my Windows 7 PC, so technically the only 16:9 resolution available for streaming would be 720p (1280x720). I very much wanted to get a 1080p picture to my TV, this is what I did:
  • I plugged a dongle ( fit-Headless [www.amazon.com]) in to the hdmi port of my GTX950 card. It emulates a display capable of 1080p and 720p.
  • I then I extended my windows desktop to the new display
  • I chose within Steam options (Display -> Resolution) my new "monitor" from the drop-down list
  • When starting steam, it would start big picture mode on the new "display", enabling pristine 1080p streaming to my Full HD TV!
  • I had a few occasional hiccups, e.g. steam or a game reverting to my 1280x1024 screen and sticking with the lower resolution. In order to make sure everything works fine, the keyboard shortcut Windows key+P is sometimes very helpful: It will offer you a few display options, defaulting to "Extended Desktop". SInce the display connected to my HDMI port registers as (1), I can switch to "computer only" and only the 1080p "display" will remain active - the other two displays switch off which is nice if they're in the same room as your TV and you would not want them to be on anyways. Only drawback: In order to switch back, you will have to act blindly, pressing Windows key+P the appropriate amount of times to switch back to "projector only". In my case, this activates my two standard displays (registered as (2) and (3)) and switches off the invisible monitor. When not using steam, this is quite convenient for preventing any open windows to be accidentally moved to a display you cannot see anything on...

What if my streaming frame rate dips considerably (30fps) when starting some games, even though hardware encoding and decoding are activated in the host/client options respectively and the games run at a much higher frame rate if looked at directly on my PC?
In my case, I had to delve into the hardware encoding subtleties (this thread helped quite a lot) in order to sort things out. I am on a i3 (just two cores) setup, with a GTX950 graphics card. This means that software encoding does not perform very well, at least for CPU intensive games. Switching to 720p helps quite a bit, but my intention was to enjoy FullHD...
In my case, I had the following problem with streaming frame rate: Only Portal 1 out of a few games I tested performed flawlessly at 60fps and low latency, all other games I tried out (even not very recent ones) went down to some 30fps and tens of ms latency.

When activating the performance info display in Steam Link, I saw that with Portal, encoding would switch to something like Game Async NVIFR, in all other cases some expression containing "lib264" would be displayed under "encoder". This meant that although the checkbox for hardware encoding was ticked, I ran software encoding.

The solution: For hardware encoding to be truly active on nVidia hardware, one of these two encoder options has to be active:
  • NVIFR: Sophisticated method, apparently appreciably more efficient on older GPU (like GTX7xx series), fetches frames earlier in the processing pipeline, but apparently does not work with all games!
  • NVFBC: Compatible with all(?) games, but can apparently be a bit less efficient on older GPUs

Curiously, NVFBC was not activated any time on my PC, this could be why: I did a new install of the latest GeForce drivers opting out of the GeForce Experience in order to keep things nice and clean - I thought I would not need it. It turns out that GeForce Experience brings ShadowPlay with it, nVidias capture solution for recording/streaming purposes. I had to active it once and then I deactivated it again - only then, Steam would be streaming all games with NVFBC @60 fps to my Steam Link!

Again, on newer GPUs like the GTX9xx, the performance gap between NVIFR and NVFBC would seem to be small - with Portal, I noticed next to no delay/fps differences. On older GPUs, your mileage may vary, which is why you might want to revert to the workaround described in the thread linked above for enforcing NVIFR (it would seem that once Steam recognizes the option for NVFBC, it would default to it from then on) for those games really supporting it.

Edit Nov 2016: Meanwhile, the streaming options feature a checkbox regarding NVFBC which possibly could resolve most of the issue as described above. I could not test it since my system already operates as intended, but maybe some user without GeForce Experience installed prior to putting his Link into operation may want to chime in...


What about peripherals you did try out?
I tested the following things:
  • Logitech K360 wireless keyboard and M185 wireless mouse, both connected to the same unifying receiver plugged into the Steam Link: Works flawlessly, after pairing both devices on my PC with one of the included dongles via the Unifying software.
  • Wii U Pro Controller: Works almost flawlessly after pairing it directly with the Steam Link via its bluetooth settings, no dongle whatsoever needed. One of course does miss out on the analogue triggers offered by the XBOX 360 controller... Only issues: I had to switch the controller off manually after switching off the Steam Link by pressing the red power button on the controller for a few seconds. (Resolved, it now turns off when the Link powers down!) One thing I noticed within the racing game Grid was the extremely strong rumble effect - taking it down a few notches via in-game options did not work, only switching it off was possible...

What if I want to stream the desktop?
I thought it to be a little counter-intuitive, but you will have to select the "Power Off" icon in the upper right corner which I initally assumed was meant to end streaming to the Link altogether. But if you do, you can chose "return to desktop" to leave or minimize Big Picture in the list of options, allowing for some Windows action on the big screen...

So far, thanks again to all the resourceful people off whose postings I gleaned much of the above information...

Some suggestions to Valve / Steam Link team
  • You may want to add a hint to the "headless HDMI" option for people on less-than-Full HD monitors to your official FAQ - right now, the latter recommends to set some 16:9 resolution on par with the the maximum pixel width. This could be some sort of deal breaker for people on traditional 19" or laptop displays - not being able to max out resolution on their shiny, huge TV...
  • When selecting a target display for Steam, all monitors register as "plug&play monitor", making it difficult to chose the right one. Could you perhaps read out the specific display names (manufacturer & type) Windows already knows about according to its control panel? This would be useful for multi-monitor setups. Resolved!
  • Maybe it was only my specific setup where I did opt out from installing GeForce Experience and thus obviously forbearing the most compatible encoding method (NVFBC), but it was quite frustrating during the first few days not to be able to get hardware encoding running with just about any game I tested, I thought I should be settled given my very recent GPU. Some less tech-savvy people might not even know that their poor frame rate is a result from software encoding, given the fact that they specifically did check the "hardware encoding" checkbox in the settings. (May be resolved by the NVFBC checkbox in the streaming options.)
  • Could you add a way to switch between NVIFR and NVFBC on nVidia GPUs? Some people may very well rely on such an option in order to maximize performance on their specific setup. Checkbox for NVFBC introduced, I don't know about enforcing NVIFR.
  • Could you find a way for the Wii U Pro Controller to automatically power down when switching off the Steam Link? If I recall correctly, it even did accidentally wake the Steam Link again if I did not specifically switch the controller off via power button. Resolved!
  • This might be very low priority and might even be a specific issue with my setup/the Grid game, but could you keep a lookout for the issue cropping up of rumble being too strong/not being able to be toned down in case of the Wii U Pro Controller? As said above, reducing "Force Feedback strength" in-game was to no avail.

All in all, while there might be few minor quirks yet to be ironed out, I am very satisfied right now from what I am experiencing with Steam Link. Recommended!
Last edited by tpusch; Nov 29, 2016 @ 1:45pm
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Showing 1-15 of 50 comments
Failrunner Nov 21, 2015 @ 10:20am 
How about a method of accessing the recovery. Seeing as my device is now bricked and I can't do anything to fix it. Instead of making everything requires files on usb thumbdrives that my link now can't even access.
mcd1992 Nov 21, 2015 @ 8:22pm 
Originally posted by Failrunner:
How about a method of accessing the recovery. Seeing as my device is now bricked and I can't do anything to fix it. Instead of making everything requires files on usb thumbdrives that my link now can't even access.

The recovery system isn't interactive. It exists just to do factory resets or flash firmware images via USB.

How did you manage to 'brick' your Link?
Last edited by mcd1992; Nov 21, 2015 @ 8:23pm
vatiquette Nov 22, 2015 @ 3:17am 
I think this thread is a great idea. I posted registry edits on a thread here to run headless without the adapter.

http://steamcommunity.com/app/353380/discussions/0/490125737470862532/

Also when I run headless I always get NVFBC with good performance. With TV/Monitor attached I get a mixture of NVIFR for Direct X 10+ and software encoding for Direct X 9.

If I enable my iGPU, which I have, then the software encoding is replaced by hardware QuickSync encoding.

Best for me is to run headless NVFBC for everything.

Windows 8.1 Core i3 4160 + NVidia750Ti
Last edited by vatiquette; Nov 22, 2015 @ 3:18am
Failrunner Nov 22, 2015 @ 4:50pm 
Originally posted by mcd1992:
Originally posted by Failrunner:
How about a method of accessing the recovery. Seeing as my device is now bricked and I can't do anything to fix it. Instead of making everything requires files on usb thumbdrives that my link now can't even access.

The recovery system isn't interactive. It exists just to do factory resets or flash firmware images via USB.

How did you manage to 'brick' your Link?
During a factory reset it crashed. Not allowing access to the recovery is a major mistake! If the software breaks you're screwed! I've never seen such a crazy idea! O.o
Rusty Nov 23, 2015 @ 7:51am 
Originally posted by tpusch:
  • Could you find a way for the Wii U Pro Controller to automatically power down when switching off the Steam Link? If I recall correctly, it even did accidentally wake the Steam Link again if I did not specifically switch the controller off via power button.

I don't use a Wii U Pro Controller with the Steam Link, but I do use the DS4/PS4 Controller*, and it's having the same issue.

I also use a Steam Controller* on it as well, and it turns off on it's own shortly after I turn off the Link, so the functionality is there, it just needs to be changed to support the other controllers.

Actually, and while not much of a surprise, the Steam Controller has a ton of support and functionality through the Link and Big Picture Mode. I wonder if that's all restricted to just Steam peripherals or if that could one day be pushed to other controllers (likely going to have wait for Valve to do that).


*Primarily wirelessly, unless otherwise needed
Last edited by Rusty; Nov 23, 2015 @ 7:54am
Dott. Serpente Dec 29, 2015 @ 9:57pm 
Hi guys, I need some help..
I managed to restore to factory settings and now it wont update..
it is blocked to firmware version 249 and can't update.. it's possible to update the firmware via USB Drive? If yes, how do I do and where do I find the files?
please help me out!
Last edited by Dott. Serpente; Dec 29, 2015 @ 9:57pm
mcd1992 Dec 30, 2015 @ 8:35am 
You can update over USB by downloading the update zip you want to flash and putting it on a USB drive as /steamlink/SystemUpdate.zip

I'd advise against it though. Try factory resetting the Link again. It should auto-update via the network. Check your network settings on the Link and see if its getting assigned an IP address. (If the IP is 169.254.*.* then you're not connected properly)
Dott. Serpente Jan 1, 2016 @ 9:36am 
ok thanks where do i find the firmwar's files?
Darknothing Jan 1, 2016 @ 10:50am 
WIndows 7 users.
if in desctop mode and you notices LOW FPS. please change your theme to WINDOWS BASIC.
you will go from LOW FPS to 60 fps jsut with that little fix.
also change your REZ or 1280x720 witch looks fine on a 55 inch lcd tv.
Not_Michael Cera Jan 5, 2016 @ 3:41pm 
CAN ANYONE HELP?

I've just plugged in the Steam Link for the first time. I'm either getting no power or no signal, i cant tell which. There's a glowing green light on the ethernet port so there is deffo power to the unit, but nothing will happen. Someone help please :((
trayle Jan 8, 2016 @ 12:12pm 

Originally posted by The Disastronaut:
CAN ANYONE HELP?

I've just plugged in the Steam Link for the first time. I'm either getting no power or no signal, i cant tell which. There's a glowing green light on the ethernet port so there is deffo power to the unit, but nothing will happen. Someone help please :((

Are the Ethernet LED lights on constantly or does it turn on and then off after you plug the power cable into the Link?
Darknothing Jan 14, 2016 @ 8:51am 
Originally posted by The Disastronaut:
CAN ANYONE HELP?

I've just plugged in the Steam Link for the first time. I'm either getting no power or no signal, i cant tell which. There's a glowing green light on the ethernet port so there is deffo power to the unit, but nothing will happen. Someone help please :((
HDMI says not connected???
paresser Feb 20, 2016 @ 6:05am 
Are there any quick settings for new users? Should I enable hardware decoding? Or encoding? Etc.
blehz. Feb 22, 2016 @ 4:07am 
Originally posted by paresser:
Are there any quick settings for new users? Should I enable hardware decoding? Or encoding? Etc.
Try with and without hardware encoding/decoding. You'll have to test yourself with your hardware.
If possible, go with hardware encoding. For me software is not playable.

The biggest issue I found was on my TV.
You'll have to set your HDMI port the Steam Link is connected to to "PC" or "Game".
I chose "PC", don't know the difference with "Game". On LG TV's you can do this in the input selection screen.
It will remove the input lag. Otherwise there's post-processing on the image which delays the image compared to the input.
Last edited by blehz.; Feb 22, 2016 @ 4:07am
fuchs Mar 12, 2016 @ 4:47pm 
What if the monitor connected to my host PC has a resolution lower than my TV?

A simple solution that worked for me:
Enable resolutions your desktop can't display. I did it through Catalyst Control Center/My Digital Flat Panels/HDTV Support. I'm sure Nvidia Cards have similar options. Added 1080p resolutions. These are then displayed in the display properties of your monitor (guessing that just allowing unsupported resolutions in "Display Properties" might have the same effect).
Make sure your monitor is off when you are streaming. Big picture will run in a letterbox and should not be affected, but when you tell a Game on your TV to run at 1080p it will force your monitor into that mode as well. 9 out of 10 games will run without a problem. In some (e.g. Tomb Raider) you'll have to turn off letter boxig. A few games won't do it unless you run your desktop at 1080p. In that case, on your TV, minimize big picture mode, set your desktop resolution. Get back into big picture, start your game and it will work (Ori, Lords o Xulima are the only ones I've seen so far). Hope that helps somebody...
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