With everyone talking Steam Boxes, here are a couple of our takes on how to get the most out of lounge-room PC.
With the launch of Steam’s Big Picture Mode we thought it was about time we built a gaming-focused PC for the lounge room. The system we’ve built won’t be ideal for everyone, as some people may prefer storage capacity over size, quiet operation over performance, or rock bottom prices to compete with the console market. If you do have a more specific purpose in mind the information provided in this build log will help you decide on what is important for a PC in your lounge room.
With the launch of Big Picture Mode in Steam there hasn’t been a better time to assemble a PC in your lounge room. Parts are affordable, CPUs are running cooler than ever and the console market has remained stagnant for the last 4 years with no real innovation in sight.
The system we’ve assembled this month is designed to play any title on your TV at 1080P with a constant 40-60FPS, offering a superior experience to that of a console, with the added benefits and functionalities that only a PC can bring. The general role of this PC will be something of a multimedia centre, offering gaming, web surfing and jukebox duties as well as anything else you’d like included.
We’re sure not everyone will agree with the hardware choices we’ve made, and for that reason we’ll discuss each choice made throughout the article, justifying our decisions while also offering alternative solutions that should be considered for your very own build.
Playing PC in the lounge room creates new possibilities and also challenges to the PC gamer. It removes the shackles of a computer desk, but as the same time removes the familiar surfaces we’re all used to. For this reason investing in console controllers may not be a bad call, especially if you’re playing games that favour them. With more and more games now being developed for console first, and PC second, you may be surprised at how a game can change for the better (please don’t hate us for saying this) when you put down the mouse and keyboard, and pick up a controller.
Of course, certain titles simply play better on the mouse and keyboard, there is no denying it. So mini-keyboards should be remembered, along with specialised gaming pads. The biggest challenge for lounge room gaming is perhaps finding a flat and comfortable surface for mouse use. Short of a TV dinner tray or lounge with a swivel drink table, it can be rather hard to find an ideal solution for gaming sessions longer than a few minutes.
Logitech has a product line called lapdesk, and other manufacturers have similar products designed to let you use a laptop while sitting. Though they are designed for laptop use, not keyboards and mice, in testing it seems a lapdesk sitting on your lap, works quite well as a keyboard surface. While a second lapdesk resting on the lounge next to you can offer a fairly neutral mousing platform, that fits with your posture if you’re sunk back into the couch. For others who prefer a more rigid (read correct) posture, perhaps investing in a pilates ball and using the coffee table will suffice.
Luckily with some in-house testing, we were able to discover a beanbag is actually a pretty good solution, as it allows you to sit in the exact posture you want, and a breakfast in bed table is often large enough for a mini keyboard and mouse combo, and if you’re lucky has extendable legs to reach the floor either side of you.
The trick with controls for your personal setup is being creative, and looking at objects that usually don’t have a primary function as a computing aid. You may be surprised what you can find that is already lying around your house.