A second try at In-Home Streaming…

While I had previously mentioned that it’s looking more and more like the Playstation 4 will be my next (this?) generation console of choice, I have to admit that I’ve still been considering my PC to be a viable alternative. That hasn’t been helped by the fact that at least one game I want, Gauntlet is going to be PC-only. While I wouldn’t mind playing my PC games on my 24″ monitor, I’d personally rather play them on my 32″ HDTV. The first thought I had was to get something akin to the Alienware Alpha, which is a PC meant for gaming on a home theater or TV. However, at a price point starting at $550, it was more than I was willing to pay.

However, something occurred to me: I could try Steam In-Home Streaming.

I’ve posted about In-Home Streaming in the past, specifically in regards to streaming Mortal Kombat. I had mostly done it on a lark, but now I thought it might be a valid option for me, gaming-wise. In addition, I thought it might be useful for letting Jennifer play her LEGO games on the main TV. I checked the laptop, and as I suspected, it had an HDMI output. Hooking it up to my TV went without incident, and I was able to connect the laptop to Steam on my main PC without a problem.

The main hurdle I felt I had to overcome, however, was the network bandwidth. Before, I had been using an older Linksys router, and thus lag was definitely a problem. However, I had replaced it with a new Netgear router with 5 GHz Wireless-N capability, and gigabit ethernet ports. The 5 GHz Wireless-N was faster than standard 2.4 GHz Wireless-N, so I figured at the very least I would get a speed boost from the wireless.

Unfortunately, that turned out to not be the case. As it so happened, my laptop only connected to the router using the 2.4 GHz Wireless-N, so I ended up getting network lag anyway like I had before. That essentially ruled out its use for the living room, as I wasn’t going to run a network cable through the walls. As the laptop was right next to the router anyway, I grabbed a network cable and connected the laptop into one of the gigabit ethernet ports.

Fortunately, the performance of the In-Home Streaming increased dramatically, but not to a point where a game was actually playable without a hell of a lot of lag. Curious, I noted a message on the lower left corner of the laptop’s screen: “SLOW ENCODE”. It was then that I realized the problem wasn’t on the laptop’s side, but on the desktop PC’s side. Essentially, the PC’s CPU wasn’t powerful enough to play the game and do the encode at the same time without lagging. Upgrading that would require me to purchase a new motherboard and new memory as well, and I’m not sure I can justify the cost of that just to play games on my TV… especially if I’m planning on getting a dedicated game console anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. Steam’s In-Home Streaming service is fairly useful, but you need a fairly modern and powerful CPU and a fast network connection (5 GHz Wireless-N or Wireless-AC minimum) to run it. As my desktop PC can’t handle the encoding portion for now, I’ll just keep with playing directly on the main PC, and deal with getting a console for the TV in the future. :-)