What’s the Steam Link Made Of ?

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As you may be aware, Valve has started shipping some of its Steam Hardware, such as the Steam Controllers and Steam Link units used for streaming only from one home gaming PC to your TV screen. There was some speculation as to what hardware they would use and what OS they would run on that kind of device, and now since some folks managed to crack its shell open, most of its secrets are unveiled.

The Steam Link looks like that when you receive it:

link

From the left it has the following ports:

  • power port
  • two USB ports
  • Ethernet port
  • HDMI out

There is another USB port on the side of the device.

Once you remove the shell, you get to see its innards (thanks to this source) :

downsmall

Nice Valve logo there. It looks like Foxconn is manufacturing this device, which is not surprising since it’s one of the major actors out there for a bunch of electronics, even since the 80s.

The heart of the device is a Marvell DE3005-A1 CPU.

marvell

This chip is apparently the same that’s being used on the Chromecast (first model) from Google. It seems to be one of their chips from the Armada 1500 line, well capable to decode Full HD streams (and maybe higher resolution as well) on the fly. It’s an ARM chip anyway. It seems to be supported by the Linux mainline kernel, and we assume Valve is using Linux here as main OS for streaming, since they mentioned in a previous interview that this device would be running a customized Linux kernel. This chip is probably using the Vivante GC1000 GPU for graphics – which is a well known piece of hardware also used in Android phones to drive Full-HD displays. There is apparently some open source driver available for that GPU for Linux (ie. not only Android).

The Steam Link board also features Flash memory (4 GiB) and 512Mb of RAM. The other side of the board shows some other components:

topsmall

Such as the Wifi chip used, again from Marvell (88W8897):

wifi

This chip is fully 802.11ac compliant as the specs suggest:

IEEE 802.11ac (draft) compliant, 2×2 MIMO spatial stream multiplexing with data rates up to MCS9 (866.7 Mbps)

Bluetooth 4.2 + High Speed (HS), supports Low Energy (LE)

Near field communication (NFC) connectivity technology, per NFC Forum specification, for short-range, contactless communication

While Valve recommends a wire connection for a good experience, It’s possible to stream games wirelessly while there may be some downsides to it (the Chromecast definitely shows some latency when you display your browser window, for example), but depending on the kind of game you play it may be acceptable (Civ 5 for example?).

This recent review seems to confirm that wireless streaming works almost flawlessly, so even without wires it may actually work very well provided you have a decent wireless home connection.

Not sure if anyone is going to take a shot at unlocking this device to run something else on it, but it could be another cheap Raspberry-Pi like alternative should it become Open at some point – but no doubt that Valve does not want to go this way, since they probably need to lock the device down to make exports easy.


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Ekianjo

6 Comments

  1. Latency should be excellent, actually, since people have been using Steam in-home streaming even on smallish Android devices through things like Moonlight and played FPS games on them. Not competitively, I’m sure, but it works well enough. The Steam Shield works the same way, and there’s David Nadler on YouTube who shows comparisons of streaming to Shield and Moonlight at 1080p.

  2. Brilliant article. Have seen tear downs online for steam controller but this is the most detailed info i have found on the innards of the link. Thank you.

  3. Marvell is a arm v7 processor and banana pi is arm v7 i think this software can be ported to any armv7 reverse engineer jobs on the way thanks for greate pictures and article well done 🙂

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