Gaming on the Pi: Steam Link

A project log for Raspberry Pi 400 Daily Driver

Learning to use a Raspberry Pi 400 laptop as an everyday computer and sharing the results.

DustinDustin 11/27/2021 at 21:130 Comments

I finally got Steam Link running on my Pi 400 and am really enjoying it. I'm currently typing this on my Pi laptop, into the Firefox browser running on my gaming laptop. I thought Steam Link would only allow me to play games over the network, but it's pleasantly surprised me by letting me control the entire OS. I was actually looking at hardware just today to make the gaming laptop easier to access. I was getting tired of having to switch to the other keyboard and track pad to do anything. This is a nice change of pace. I may still set up a proper remote desktop client in the near future.

As far as networking goes, I plugged the Pi 400 into the laptop using a cheap Cat6 ethernet cable. It's plenty responsive, even at the limited 90Mb/s of the Steam Link software. This is a known limitation, probably caused by porting over the settings from the original Steam Link hardware. This limitation is what makes me want to set up proper remote desktop. The Pi 400 may not be very powerful, but it does seem to make an excellent remote client for more powerful machines. I shared the laptop wifi connection over ethernet to get internet to the Pi, and it hasn't much, if any affect on internet speeds. If I had to guess, I'd say its because the laptop has a better antenna and gets a stronger signal than the Pi where I am located at the moment. I may end up sharing the laptop internet connection to my old wifi router and using that to connect everything else to. The end goal is to be able to take a high powered laptop, my Pi 400 laptop, and a small but speedy wifi router on the road with me and run them all from a vehicle battery, portable battery bank, and random outlets. I really just want to see if it's possible to travel super light and still take all of the tech comforts of home with me. I think it would be quite fun to play my Steam games on top of a mountain or something stupid. Not everything I do has to make sense. It would just be nice to have a portable set up to take with me and share with friends and people I meet. I'm also looking into a VR headset that could travel and run off the laptop I'm saving up for. Vanishing Realms was the first VR game I ever played and it became one of my favorite games of all times. I'd love to be able to play that wherever I go and share a VR experience with others who may not be able to afford such a set up. I know I couldn't for the longest time. Still can't justify it yet. Anyway, the Pi running Steam Link is the first step in playing decent games on this humble, yet capable little PC. It runs very well, and I can already play games on it that never had ARM releases. Like Golf with Your Friends. Love that one.

There was a trade off I had to make to get this to work: I can't run Steam Link on my favorite Pi OS. Pop!_OS is based on Ubuntu 20.10, which is unsupported and will not run Steam Link. Luckily, I have an SD card with Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye on it. Oh wait...Steam Lin won't run on that either... Luckily again I have an SD card with Raspberry Pi OS Buster on it, which runs great. I'll be keeping a boot drive with Buster on it for gaming and general goofing off. It's not my preferred OS, but it is still quite capable. One of the best features of the Pi is that the boot drive can be changed out very quickly. Unlike my laptop, which is going down for an upgrade from Linux Mint 19.3 to Pop!_OS. I love mint, but Pop is my new favorite. I'll be installing Pop on a different SSD and swapping them out in case I run into problems with Pop and need to revert. I've been running Mint on this PC since I got it, and on everything else since 2018 or so. I'm hoping that Pop will have better hardware support for my GPU(GTX 765M) and give me better gaming results, which would make the Pi experience even better.

Overall, I'm very happy with everything so far, and have learned quite a bit just trying to get Steam Link working on the Pi 400. I don't game often, and it's mostly because I usually don't have the time, and it's too much hassle to set things up. I like Steam and will actually use it. The key for me getting things done is often just making them easy to do. The Pi is becoming easier to use every day as I iron out all the little wrinkles.

My game should be done updating now. Let the gaming begin.