Valve has made good on its pre-GDC promise to unveil new living-room hardware, announcing a micro-console due to launch later this year dubbed Steam Link.
Taking a leaf from Nvidia's book, the Steam Link hardware takes the form of a compact micro-console designed to unobtrusively sit beneath a big-screen TV. The rear of the console includes two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a gigabit Ethernet port, while an additional USB port is located at the side for easy access. Specifications for its internals have not been released, but unlike Nvidia's Project Shield the Steam Link - as its name implies - isn't designed to run games natively; instead, the console is used to connect to a PC on the same network.
Using Steam's In-Home Streaming technology, games are rendered on a PC and then streamed to the Steam Link; the player's inputs are entered into the Steam Link and returned to the PC. On a high-speed, low-latency network, the effect is of having your PC connected to your TV - but without having to listen to the fans whine and whirr, with the Steam Link being entirely passively cooled.
The fact that the Steam Link doesn't need any powerful graphics hardware of its own nor any major local storage means that Valve has been able to price the device extremely competitively: the company has confirmed that when the Steam Link launches in November, it will cost just $49.99 in the US. UK pricing has yet to be confirmed, but even assuming a direct symbol-swap a £49.99 price-tag would make it one of the cheapest ways of using Steam In-Home Streaming around.
The Steam Link is being positioned as an alternative to the Steam Machine consoles for anyone who already has a well-equipped gaming rig, and as an ideal accessory for the Steam Controller. The latter device, the company has promised, will finally leave the drawing board and enter reality in November, to launch alongside the Steam Link.
The official Steam Link page was having difficulties at the time of writing, but is still viewable from Google's cache