My experience with Steam Link and PS4 Remote Play on iOS

When the Steam Link device was released I was pretty excited about what it promised. It allowed you to stream your Steam library from your PC to any TV in the house, which sounded great for someone who wasn’t a huge fan of always sitting in a computer chair at a desk. Once I got the hardware, however, I was disappointed from the start. I never had a great experience with it, even though I had a quality router. It’s highly recommended that both the PC and Steam Link are connected to the router via ethernet, but that wasn’t going to work for me.

While listening to a podcast a few days ago I was made aware that there’s now a Steam Link app for iOS. This discovery happened to coincide with the release of Persona 4 Golden on Steam, and I was thrilled to give it a try. Persona is a game that doesn’t suffer if a little bit of input lag or drops in video quality are introduced. I quickly got the app up and running, and plopped my iPad on a table in front of our porch swing to give it a go. It worked surprisingly well, even with my desktop only being connected via WiFi. I didn’t get any pixelation or hiccups during the hour I played on the iPad. From there I got Steam Link set up on my Apple TV in the living room and continued on for another hour or so, without any issues.

I then dug out my Steam Link hardware and set it up to see if I’d get the same experience, but unfortunately little had changed from the last time I tried to use it. It was a pixelated mess, hardly playable at all, despite it being set up closer to my router than the Apple TV or my iPad.

The only downside to using an Apple TV for Steam Link is that there’s no mouse support. I have another Apple TV in my office and wanted to play Command and Conquer Remastered on it, only to find out there’s not a way to use a bluetooth mouse through the Apple TV. I ended up connecting the mouse to my desktop and used a bluetooth keyboard connected to the Apple TV and it worked, however I’m not sure it would work well (if at all) from the living room.

I ended up spending some time running an ethernet cable into my office and setting up an ethernet switch to finally wire everything up, which did make the Steam Link usable. From there I decided to give PS4 Remote Play another try on my iPad and MacBook, and while it works, it’s a much lower quality experience compared to the Steam Link app.

I played some of The Last of Us Remastered on my MacBook in the living room as my wife was watching Netflix, and while it worked, it certainly wasn’t an ideal experience. During scenes with lots of action I experienced heavy pixelation and some lag, and I often had to pause to let the quality improve so that I wouldn’t die. I didn’t adjust the display settings on my PS4 Pro (I had it set to prioritize higher resolutions) so that may have played a part in my experience, but the best way to play The Last of Us is on a TV anyway, as the scenery is part of what makes the game special.

These remote play experiences has made me wish that the experience were better for the Xbox. As far as I’m aware there’s not currently a way to stream an Xbox to an iOS device or MacBook (outside of the Xcloud beta or running Bootcamp), and even trying Xbox’s remote play on my desktop has been a poor experience. I have yet to try since running ethernet to everything, but my desktop is in the same room as my Xbox, so there’s little reason to try. I did try streaming to the Xbox app via BootCamp on my Mac and it was unplayable.

Sony streaming player fiasco

So this weekend I brought my Sony digital media player to my girlfriend’s house so that we could watch some movies (because who rents DVDs anymore, really?) However I forgot to throw the remote in my bag. No problem I thought, there’s an iPhone app that lets you control the device. I download the app and it tells me I need to turn the streaming player on first to set it up….Ok… The problem is, there is NO on/off button on the device at all. I’m not sure if Rokus and Apple TV devices are the same, but there is literally NO way to power on the device without the included remote.

I tried unplugging the device and plugging it back in which causes it to power on and display SONY on the TV, but it immediately goes into off / standby after it powers up. I tried pushing the reset button on the device which did the exact same thing as cycling the power.

I even bought a cheap universal remote thinking I could program it to turn on the Sony streaming player. False. None of the Sony codes would work with the device. Lastly I called Sony tech support only to be told that indeed there is no way to turn on the device without the remote, and I could order a new one for $45. Forty-five dollars? Are you kidding? The streaming player itself was $99, who would pay half that price for a new, cheap remote (pictured below). I asked them if there was a way to program a universal remote only to be told they can’t help me unless I have a Sony universal remote and I’d have to call Phillips to see if they could help.

What a mess… I find it hard to believe that the ONLY way to turn the device on is with a cheaply made $45 remote you can only get through Sony. Not cool. I think I’ll be selling this device and getting an Apple TV.