Hopping on the PC bandwagon isn’t the smoothest transition in the world. Sure, your games will look a lot better, but you'll also have to deal with plenty of unwanted interruptions that you wouldn't see on a console. If only there were some way to make your PC experience more like what you get on a console — well, it just so happens that a Tom's Guide forum user asked us for help with that very issue.
Lukasamba writes, "I just really like console gaming. I mean, I like going straight to gaming without any worries, [and] I really like gaming with [a] gamepad. So, I have tried a Steam Big Picture mode, [and] it's not bad, but it has some cons. So, is [it] possible to make my laptop go straight into gaming [with a simple menu or launcher]?"
Not to worry, Lukasamba, we found the most streamlined app and hardware to get you to your games as fast as possible.
One solution, on the hardware side, is to buy yourself an Nvidia Shield, which allows you to stream your games from any monitor or TV you'd like. All you have to do is pair the Shield to the Nvidia account on your computer, and the TV will seamlessly stream the games that appear in your GeForce Experience library. The best part is that Shield TVs are compatible with Xbox One controllers.
Of course, the downsides are that a Shield TV costs $149 on Amazon and is compatible only with a laptop that has an Nvidia GPU. However, you do get free access to games like Tomb Raider and Batman: Arkham City. And like a traditional console, the Shield has apps like Netflix, YouTube and Plex.
Another solution is to use Steam Link. It works like Nvidia Shield but connects directly to your Steam library, which is much more convenient. However, Valve stopped selling physical Steam Links in November 2018.
But fear not, you can still access the Steam Link software if you have a 2016 (or newer) Samsung TV. You can now even program the Steam Link app into a Raspberry Pi computer using a neat little guide that Valve published.
If your connection isn't strong enough to stream or if you'd rather just game directly on your laptop, you can do so, with software called LaunchBox. It offers a Big Picture-esque mode called Big Box that'll let you dive straight into gaming. LaunchBox is typically used to host emulators, but you can instead use it to host your Steam library.
The launcher itself is free, but if you want the Big Box mode, you'll have to pay for LaunchBox Premium, which is $20. However, with the premium version, you can completely customize the UI's design, color and spacing. You can even add custom fields and filters to organize your games, so even if you don't like the default design, you can make it work by suiting it to your liking.
We hope that these solutions help you find the best console experience on your PC. Let us know what you decide to go with!
Credit: Laptop Mag; Steam; LaunchBox