Learn whether Steam Link or Nvidia Shield is best for you and under which conditions they may apply to you.
Episode #9-20 released on December 30, 2018
We are going to be focusing on gaming for this comparison, and my analogs will be the Nvidia Shield Portable, and the Steam Link made from a Raspberry Pi. I will be ignoring some facts of life because other Nvidia Shields have addressed those issues already.
Gaming is a multi-platform endeavor these days, you can play video games on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, etc. And, since Nvidia develops hardware that can be used in many of those environments, you would think that you can use the Nvidia GameStream feature in Windows, Mac or Linux, at the very least, but you can only use it in Windows. Further complicating things is the requirement to use a Nvidia Shield device to take advantage of the Gamestream option in the first place, and that requires newer graphics cards, on top of everything else.
Now, Steam itself works on many platforms which include Windows, Linux and Mac. You can get an older device, or a less powerful devices like a Raspberry Pi to run Steam Link. They even had their own Steam Links for sale before. You can run Steam Link on an Android phone, and maybe at some point on an Apple iPhone or iPad, too, depending on whether Apple ever allows the app to be available in the iOS App store. You can connect the Steam Link device to any computer with any OS capable of running the Steam Client.
Now, the Steam Link itself works over the Network, and if you are willing to go through all the pain and suffering, can work over the Internet, but you have to do all the work yourself at port forwarding, figuring out what your IP is, etc. Nvidia's Gamestream is attached to your Nvidia Account, and you simply need to select which computer you want to use and which game using your Nvidia Shield device. It is easier to use in that manner. What is difficult and annoying is that while you need to have a Steam Account anyway, when your Steam Link devices first boots while you Steam Client is load, you are provided with a key, you enter that, and you are linked. For Nvidia you need to enter it into the GeForce Experience to log in and use that same login information in your Nvidia Shield, only GeForce experience will periodically log you out without any warning what so ever.
Steam Link can be used on Android, may be available on Apple devices, are available on devices like the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B or better, and anything running Linux. This means that you can take most devices you have laying around and make a Steam Link, and best of all, it will be supported for the long haul. Nvidia Shields do get updates for the Gamestream application, but since they are entirely reliant on specific Android devices, will cease getting Android updates for the operating system.
Game selection is something that is better with Nvidia Gamestream, you can play virtually all your video games on your PC, and while Steam could play most, there are some extra steps, that will be talking about soon, that you need to do before you can play games from outside the Steam Client.
Controller support amongst the Steam Link option and Nvidia Shield GameStream option are basically a non-issue, most controllers will work for both.
What will not work, is if you get a Nvidia Shield device, and don't have a Nvidia Graphics card. This is the biggest issue with that closed system. Being closed means only compatible hardware will work.
Steam, Steam OS and the Steam Link software and hardware are open systems, meaning any configuration of computer and network will work. This means, your computer can have any graphics card you can afford, and you can use any other device that supports Steam Link application or Steam OS and stream your game play with little hassle what so ever.
Deciding which is better will definitely depend on one of two scenarios.
The first scenario, you just want everything to work, and be able to use it from anywhere you want. In that regard the Nvidia Shield is better, provided you aren't logged out of the GeForce Experience application on the computer. This method can potentially be more expensive, but the ease of use makes it good for anyone who just needs it to work.
The second scenario, where you want to pick and choose every part of the network, computer and stream device, the Steam Link option is better, and possibly less expensive, and is easier to upgrade with time provided Steam, and by extension Valve, continue to support Steam OS and the Steam Link applications. While, you can't play just any game out of the box, with a bit of explanation you can load any game you want with a little more work. And, you are less likely to experience issues like being logged out without notification.
Host : Steve Smith | Music : | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Dot Net