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Steam Link runs SteamVR and Steam apps directly on Quest — but YOU SHOULDN’T

Steam Link lets you play SteamVR and Steam games on Quest

You can now run SteamVR PCVR games and Steam apps directly on Quest 3, Quest 2 or Quest with the new Steam Link app.  I’ll show you how to install it and how to use it.  But I’ll also discuss why you shouldn’t use it, and what you should use instead.

Steam is the largest software distribution platform for PC, and SteamVR has the largest library of VR games (about 5,844 at the time of this post).  Until yesterday, you could play SteamVR games (and Steam games, on a virtual screen) on Quest headsets but it would require you to run both the Oculus desktop app and either SteamVR or Virtual Desktop (with VDXR).  Running two apps in addition to a PCVR app imposed a heavier load on PCs compared to the same PCVR app running natively for Oculus desktop.

But the new free Steam Link app for Quest now enables the Quest 3, Quest 2 or Quest to run SteamVR (or non-VR Steam games) without the need to launch the Oculus desktop app.  Not only is this more convenient but should result in lower overhead — in theory.

You can play some Steam games on Quest on a large virtual screen
In addition to SteamVR games, you can also play some Steam games on Quest on a large virtual screen.  Vanquish shown.

WHAT YOU NEED for Steam Link

You’ll need a 5Ghz wireless router and you’ll need a VR-Ready PC:

  • CPU: Intel i5-4590, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X equivalent or better
  • RAM: 8GB or more
  • Graphics card: GTX 1060 (6GB) equivalent or better

HOW TO INSTALL STEAM LINK

Step 1 (strongly recommended): connect your PC to your 5Ghz wireless router via an ethernet cable.

Step 2: Install Steam.

Step 3: Install SteamVR app (free).  On the Steam store, search for the SteamVR app.

Step 4: On the Meta Quest store, download Steam Link app for Quest (also free).

Step 5 (Optional): Download an app from the Steam store.  One of the best free VR games is The Lab.  You can find other VR games by searching for the VR tag.

HOW TO USE STEAM LINK

Step 1: Connect your Quest to your 5Ghz Wi-Fi network.  Make sure your PC is also connected to your 5Ghz wireless router via ethernet cable (strongly recommended) or is on the same 5Ghz Wi-Fi network as your Quest.

Step 2: On your PC, launch Steam.

Step 3: On your Quest, launch Steam Link.  Click on your PC and then the Connect button.

If your PC is not using an ethernet cable, you’ll get an error.  You can bypass the error but the performance will suffer.

STEAM LINK vs QUEST LINK vs VIRTUAL DESKTOP

Steam Link is convenient to use — you can use it for both SteamVR and non-VR Steam games.  However, on my system, it performed poorly.  I’m using a laptop with these specs:

  • i7-7820HK
  • 32GB RAM
  • GTX-1070 SLI (to be fair, only one of the cards is being used by VR)

And instead of an ethernet cable, my laptop is connected to my router wirelessly, which is not officially supported by Steam Link.

On this setup, SteamVR games become a jumbled, pixelated mess with any kind of movement.  It was like playing with a mosaic filter and was unplayable.  (Note: I’m using SteamVR ver. 2.1.8).  For Steam games, the results have varied.  Some of them look OK while others are also unplayable (e.g. Vanquish).

As I said, my laptop isn’t connected via ethernet and that’s definitely not helping the compression.  But the reason I’m complaining about Steam Link is because this exact same setup performs normally with Quest Air Link and even better with Virtual Desktop.  You read that right — with Oculus desktop app and SteamVR running, I get far better performance than with Steam and SteamVR.

Again, I’m glad that there is now a native Steam app for Quest.  But if you’ve never tried PCVR before and you try Steam Link, you might get a bad impression of PCVR.  But the truth is that PCVR works very well even on an aging setup such as mine.  I’m assuming Valve will try to improve Steam Link’s performance.  In the meantime, if you want PCVR that works well with Quest, I instead recommend using Quest Air Link or Virtual Desktop.  See the tutorial here.

About the author

Mic Ty

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  • Mic I’ve used Steam Link on a PC with an ethernet connection and the performance difference between Steam Link and Virtual Desktop Streamer is vast. Usually I watch movies, play Google Earth VR, or Rec Room Paintball when I connect to SteamVR through VDS, and the lag is noticeable. I’ve turned down quality and bitrate settings to get Paintball playable, but it still regularly stutters, skips, and sometimes freezes. I usually don’t do very well when playing Paintball via VDS>SteamVR because of this. Even playing Google Earth VR will eventually become unplayable from the lag and skipped frames. But I had zero and I mean ZERO issues with Steam Link playing RecRoom Paintball last night. The graphics were full quality, absolutely no skipping, lagging, freezing of any sort. It was exactly like playing RecRoom on the native Meta app, except with much better graphics since the PC version through Steam utilizes a much more powerful GPU.

    Please recommend using Steam Link if your system actually meets the specs, I can confirm it is fantastic.

    • Thanks Ethan. Can you try a graphically more demanding game such as Half Life Alyx? Also, have you tried disconnecting the ethernet cable to see if it still performs well for your system?

      • OK So I played HL:A in a room 2 floors up and furthest from my router for about 30 minutes using Steam Link, and 30 minutes using Virtual Desktop Streamer. I played using my Home Theater PC located in the AV closet in my basement, which has a LAN connection to the router. Ryzen 2700x (no OC) and a GTX 1080ti, 32gb RAM, game installed on a 1tb NVMe drive with plenty of free space. Headset is Quest 3.

        STEAM LINK: no visible skipped frames or lagging, fpsVR confirms the average frame rate was 89.8fps with a GPU latency of about 7.7ms. Twice I experienced a 1 second freeze, and after the second time it froze for a second there was a little bit of visible compression artifacts for a few seconds. Other than that, it pretty much looked and played like a wired connection to the PC.

        VIRTUAL DESKTOP STREAMER: Again, fpsVR confirms the average frame rate was 89.8fps with a GPU latency of about 7.7ms. So no difference in the performance hit on the PC, the difference is just the stream itself. The stream was slightly worse than Steam Link, in that there were regular frame stutters every 30-60 seconds. But it wasn’t a bad experience because for the most part, it too pretty much looked and played like a wired connection to the PC.

        Haven’t had a chance yet to try a wireless connection, I think I have to disconnect my HTPC because it won’t find any other PC’s running steam wirelessly over the network.

    • Just make sure that your PC and your Quest are on the same 5Ghz Wi-Fi network. Pls note that the performance on Steam Link is poor if you are not using an ethernet cable. If you aren’t using an ethernet cable, I instead suggest using Quest Link or Virtual Desktop. See tutorial here: https://360rumors.com/quest-3-pcvr/

  • Mic – while running tests I have discovered something very exciting that requires both Steam Link and VDS: two VR headsets can watch a 3D movie together using the same PC and therefore the same audio system! I need to confirm there’s no lag since I could only wear one headset at a time, but I delayed headset sleep mode for both headsets (I have a Quest 2 and a Quest 3) to 1 minute so they were both on at the same time and streaming, I just couldn’t look at both at the same time. I will try and get my wife to wear one and confirm for me that both stream smoothly.

      • I can confirm – utilizing Steam Link and Virtual Desktop connected to the same PC, it is now possible to watch a movie in 3D with a friend using two VR headsets instead of 3D glasses. This is how 3D movies were meant to look!

  • Even if it run smoothly on an proper VR Machine, if you use also an proper Headset, the not deactivatable foveated rendering leads to REALLY blurry and annoying mess outside of the center. Tried it on Q3 and it was really disappointing. I think also Q2 will show the problem.

  • I run a i9-13900h & 4090 mobile Asus laptop and steam does fine over wireless on an ATT provided router in another room and it does even better over wired 2.5gbe which I tried at work. I haven’t pushed it over wifi6 yet, but I do find having max hardware alleviates any kind of stutter or graphics problem. I have the FB fiber cable from my quest 2 if I need max resolution and FPS.