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Valve’s Steam Deck is a versatile handheld gaming PC that, thanks to its emulation capabilities, can play both new Steam games and decades of older titles. But, at its core, the Steam Deck is a Linux computer, and you can turn it into a powerful home theatre PC (HTPC) for your living room TV with a few simple accessories you might already have lying around.

The first step is to locate the best dock for your needs. Like the Nintendo Switch, you can plug the Steam Deck into a USB-C dock to send a signal to your TV, connect to a wired Ethernet network, and charge your device.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use a single dock for both handhelds. Aside from the fact that the USB-C port on the Steam Deck is physically located on the top of the device, whereas the Switch’s is on the bottom, Nintendo employs a proprietary HDMI handshake that ensures only docks designed for the Switch will function properly.

Valve charges $89 for an official Steam Deck Docking Station, which includes an HDMI 2.0 port, one DisplayPort 1.4 output, an RJ45 Ethernet port, three USB-A 3.1 ports, and power delivery. It’s a convenient way to connect your Deck to a TV or monitor, but the $45 JSAUX Docking Station I tried performed just as well. The company sells several models, up to the $130 HB0604, which includes an NVMe drive slot built in.

You’ll need more than just the dock. To control your Steam Deck from across the room and play games on your TV, you’ll need a keyboard and mouse, or at the very least a controller. I recommend purchasing peripherals that support multidevice pairing; for example, I use Corsair’s Sabre RGB Pro Wireless mouse for both my PC and Steam Deck because it can connect via 2.4GHz wireless or Bluetooth and switch between the two with the press of a button. It’s also one of our most popular gaming mice. Because of the dock’s USB ports, you should have no trouble finding compatible hardware.

If you want to go Bluetooth, I used the 8Bitdo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller for all of my testing and found it to be snappy, responsive, and lag-free.

Streaming Made Simple
You’ll probably want to add a few key programmes now that your Steam Deck is connected to your TV and you can control it from the couch (assuming you stick with SteamOS and don’t want to instal Windows).

It is simple to add non-Steam programmes to the Deck. Navigate to the Applications menu after switching to desktop mode, either through the settings menu or by holding the power button down until the option appears. From there, you can look for Linux programmes to instal. Personally, I use Discord on the Deck to watch movies that friends have streamed on a larger screen.

Unfortunately, there are no dedicated desktop apps for Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, or any of the other major streaming services on Linux. The good news is that all of these services can still be accessed via your preferred web browser. I installed Google Chrome and had no problems watching content in any of them.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get Plex or Emby, two popular programmes for centrally managing your media content, to work on the Steam Deck. After installing, Emby refused to open, and I couldn’t get past the Plex login screen. However, Plex HTPC, the version optimised for large screens, works perfectly.

On the plus side, the Deck’s Bluetooth 5.0 connection allows you to listen to music or play games with your favourite wireless headphones or gaming headset without disturbing others.

Gaming on a large screen

The fact that the Steam Deck performs best at 800p does not preclude you from gaming on a 4K display. Many less-demanding titles and emulators can run at 60 frames per second in 4K resolution. It’s simple to get them to run at a higher resolution than the Steam Deck can output on its own screen—just go to the settings menu for each game once docked and change the resolution.

Going all the way up to 4K isn’t really necessary. Playing at 1080p was frequently sufficient while sitting on the couch across from the living room TV, and this is about what the Steam Deck can push in newer games anyway. To get the best game performance, you can always fine-tune the graphical settings.

I was able to achieve between 40 and 60 frames per second in Spider-Man: Miles Morales using a combination of low and medium settings at 1080p thanks to AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). Control lacks FSR, but by increasing the display resolution to 1080p and the internal render resolution to 720p, you can easily exceed 30 frames per second. The game still looked fantastic.

You can go even further by using less demanding titles. Dishonored wasn’t a great experience at 4K, but lowering the resolution to 2560 1440 (1440p) keeps things at or near 60 frames per second with everything on high. The same can be said for Hades, which struggles to maintain 60 frames per second at 4K but performs admirably at 1440p. If you care about pushing the best visual fidelity possible, older emulators and 2D games should have no problem running at 4K.

Alternatively, you can stream from your own gaming PC to the Steam Deck. This is useful if you don’t want to drag your computer into the living room, and even a low-cost setup will provide significantly better performance. Aside from the occasional hiccup, I had no trouble streaming games to my TV via Wi-Fi using the Steam Deck, even at maximum settings with ray tracing enabled.

If your Steam Deck cannot output at a full 60 fps or 120 fps at 4K out of the box, there are a few fixes. To begin, navigate to the Display section of your Deck’s settings menu. Check the list of available resolutions if it’s only set to 1080p.

If the highest resolution available is 4K 30Hz, the problem is most likely with your television. I had to go into the HDMI secret menu on my Roku set and change the HDMI speed of the port my Deck was plugged into from 1.4 to 2.0. To take advantage of 60Hz or 120Hz gaming, make sure your TV’s HDMI ports are outputting at the correct speed.

Unfortunately, you may have to repeat this process several times. After unplugging and reconnecting the dock to my television, I discovered that it had been reset to HDMI 1.4. While this helps manufacturers ensure the greatest possible compatibility between their TVs and connected devices, it is inconvenient if you want to get the most out of your game console (not just the Steam Deck).

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