For all the talk about squeezing three graphics cards into small form factors and dropping PC power into console-like forms, none of the Steam Machines revealed thus far have delivered what I'm really looking for in my living room: A diminutive, dirt-cheap box that simply lets me stream games from my PC to my TV. Forget firepower in the living room! I already have a gaming PC tucked away in my office, and true Steam Machines will be limited to running the limited Steam for Linux library natively--which means PC gamers are likely to lean heavily on Steam in-home streaming's services anywho.
Enter NZXT's intriguing little Doko set-top box.
On paper, the $100 Doko checks a lot of the boxes I'm looking for in a Steam Machine. The concept is simple: Just plug the box into your TV and your local network and BAM! You're instantly running your PC's desktop on your TV. (Presumably there's software to install on the PC side as well.)
Admittedly, the keyboard-and-mouse-focused Windows desktop isn't exactly gamepad friendly, but by delivering a full desktop experience the Doko sidesteps Steam in-home streaming's biggest limitation--namely, that it's limited to Steam titles alone. The Doko streams games from GOG.com, Origin, emulators, and DOSBox just as well as Steam games, according to NZXT's press release. The same capabilities should also make it an intriguing HTPC replacement option.
Doko also sports four USB ports and packs USB over IP technology, which means that plugging a USB device into the set-top box is like plugging the device into your main PC. Those signals as well as the audiovisual feed all travel over a single, apparently mandatory Gigabit Ethernet connection.
The stream itself may put off some hardcore PC gamers. It's limited to 30 frames per second and 1080p resolution--perfectly normal for the living room and mainstream consoles, but perhaps a tad disappointing to #PCMasterRace types used to rocking 60fps at 2560x1440.
More concerning is the latency. Latency has long been the killer of streaming game ambitions, and the Doko rocks a response time of 50 to 80 milliseconds. That's not horrible at all! Slower titles (like Endless Legend or Fallout) will be utterly playable with those response times. Faster-paced games such as first-person shooters and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings may suffer, however--something we won't know for sure until we're able to test the Doko ourselves. (For what it's worth, Steam in-home streaming often delivers much lower latency over my wired home network.)
All in all, the concept of Doko is exciting: "If your PC can do it, so can DOKO" NZXT's press release proudly proclaims. If the execution matches the idea NZXT might just have a winner on its hands.
But even if it doesn't, it's a thrilling time to be a PC gamer in search of some couch surfing: Doko, Nvidia's Shield devices, Razer's new $100 Forge TV set-top box, and Valve's own deeply delayed Steam Machines are all vying for the right to drag computer games into your living room.
The $100 Doko should appear in NZXT's online store imminently, though it's not showing at the moment.