Want to play your favorite PC games on your main TV? You’re not alone.
With that huge library of games, using a Windows, macOS, or Linux computer like a quasi-games console is an attractive prospect. Given that console game controllers will run on desktop operating systems, it just makes so much sense.
But there’s often a problem, and it’s usually related to position. Your PC is in one room, your TV in another. Running a long HDMI cable between the rooms is both expensive and impractical. As is buying a second gaming rig!
So, what is the solution? Streaming. Here are five ways you can stream games from your existing desktop or laptop PC to your TV today.
You’ll find several wireless HDMI systems available that are compatible with desktop operating systems. Wireless HDMI enables the transmission of audio and video signals between two devices, which makes the technologies you see below possible.
Early wireless HDMI devices (such as those using Intel’s WiDi and AMD Wireless Display) have been superseded by Miracast. This is now the standard for wireless connections from devices to TVs and other displays. With support for Windows, you can easily stream games from your PC or laptop to your TV via a compatible dongle.
Several smart TV manufacturers also include Miracast support, which means you might even be able to stream your favorite games to your TV without spending money on a Miracast dongle. If you need a dongle, they’re generally available for $30-$90.
In terms of a complete solution, Miracast doesn’t handle your game controllers. A wireless controller solution might work here, but if not, you’ll need to look at another option.
2. Steam Link
This option combines affordability, a dedicated console-style interface, and a controller. Steam Link launched in 2015 with an initial price of $49.99, but a series of price cuts in 2017 have seen it sold through major retailers for (at least) a 50% discount.
While you’ll need a Steam account and library of games to use the Steam Link, the device is straightforward to set up. With two USB slots on the side for connecting game controllers, the Steam Link also features an Ethernet jack and HDMI port. For best results, you should wire the Steam Link to your router.
Once up and running, all you need to do is make sure you have Steam installed and running on your PC. Both your PC and the Steam Link should be on the same network, and a few minutes later you’ll be playing your favorite games on your TV! You can use either a standard console controller, your keyboard and mouse, or buy the Steam Controller (our review). This last option is intended to make keyboard and mouse-controlled games easier to interact with.
Game resolution is as expected, but note that audio is limited to standard stereo, rather than the Dolby 5.1 surround you probably enjoy on your PC.
See our guide to Steam Link for an in-depth look at setting it up.
3. Nvidia Gamestream
Offering a similar solution to the Steam Link, Nvidia Gamestream (available via the Nvidia SHIELD TV) is also capable of streaming video and other media from the internet. This, along with the bundled game controller and remote (both with built-in mics for voice commands) explains why it is considerably more expensive than the Steam Link.
Note that a suitable Nvidia graphics card will set you back an extra $100 or so.
Although positioned as a cord-cutter’s dream, the Nvidia SHIELD (our review) isn’t limited to streaming 4K content from the web. Once set up, if you have a PC or laptop on the same network with a suitable Nvidia GTX series GPU, the Nvidia SHIELD can manage game streaming from your computer to your TV.
Meanwhile, if your gaming rig isn’t up to scratch, the Nvidia SHIELD will let you stream video games from the cloud. The GeForce NOW service is available for $7.99 a month, and will stream games to your TV via the Nvidia SHIELD TV box.
4. Create Your Own Steam Link With a Raspberry Pi
Meanwhile, if all of these options seem a bit expensive, but you happen to have a Raspberry Pi 2 or 3, you can replicate the functions of a Steam Link on the little computer!
Incredible but true, you’ll need a PC or laptop with an Nvidia GTX series GPU, starting with the GTX 650. Also required is the GeForce Experience software, and Steam itself. Naturally you’ll need to install the games you wish to play from your Steam library.
Finally, this excellent Raspberry Pi hack requires Moonlight. This is an open-source version of the software found on the Nvidia SHIELD, and runs on the Raspbian operating system. Once installed, you’ll be able to run Steam on your PC and stream the desktop and games to your TV.
Find out more in our tutorial to setting up a Raspberry Pi as a DIY Steam Link box.
5. Solutions With Limitations
Reading the above, you’ve possibly been considering some alternatives, based on hardware that you already own. For instance, you might own an Apple TV, or a Google Chromecast.
Sadly, these solutions don’t work reliably, if at all. For instance, while it’s possible to cast your PC’s display with a Google Chromecast (providing you use the Google Chrome browser!), the lag is horrendous, making games unplayable. When it comes to Apple TV, meanwhile, AirPlay has similar restrictions. While some attempts have been made to hack the Apple TV to run the Moonlight software, the results aren’t yet ready to use.
Curiously, it isn’t possible to stream PC games from your computer to your TV via an Xbox One. Instead, the Xbox Play Anywhere service makes it possible to play games on both Windows PC and your Xbox One, with a single purchase. So, for example, you could play Gears of War 4 on your PC while a family member is watching TV, then continue the game on your Xbox One when they’ve left the house.
This isn’t streaming, but it’s a great solution. Sadly, it’s limited to a few titles, but the list continues to expand.
Stream PC Games to Your TV With 5 Easy Methods!
While some of these solutions might require some expense, overall, they’re all better value, and require less fuss, than a long HDMI cable. Let’s remind ourselves of the five ways you can stream video games from your PC to your TV:
- Steam Link
- Nvidia Shield TV
- Raspberry Pi DIY Link Box
- Chromecast/Apple TV/Xbox Play Anywhere
Which one should you choose? It’s a tricky call, but if you’re looking for an affordable, game-focused solution, then the Steam Link makes sense. Not only is it cheap, it’s simple to set up and has a companion game controller.
If you play on consoles too, check out ways to stream your video games to a TV from anywhere.