Step 1: Carry your PC or Mac to your HDTV.
Step 2: Connect them with an HDMI cable
Step 3: Play.
HDMI carries both HD video and sound, so one cable is all it takes. Of course, this setup requires that both your computer and your TV are HDMI-compatible. Check yours to find out. If they're not, read on for more options.
This is probably the easiest way to get Big Picture up and running. Simply connect a PC to your living room TV via the HDMI cable mentioned above. Done!
For a living-room gaming computer, some obvious desirable features (aside from good performance) are low-noise, small size, good USB connectivity, on-board WiFi, and a decent case design. As we become aware of machines which fit this overall profile, we will add information about them here.
Many of the latest generation laptops come equipped with a discrete graphics card capable of meeting Big Picture’s requirements. If your laptop instead has an “integrated” graphics solution, it’s unlikely to deliver performance that you’ll consider satisfactory with Big Picture. (There may be exceptions - we have not exhaustively tested with a full range of laptops to determine how they’ll all perform.)
As for connecting to your TV, more and more laptops of recent manufacture have an onboard HDMI connection, making the connection to most HD televisions a snap. (See one-cable setup, above.) If yours doesn’t, it’s still likely that you can use Big Picture with a different cabling setup (DVI, or even VGA), but unlike HDMI you’ll have to connect sound separately.
There are some really interesting solutions on the market that allow you to use your TV as a secondary monitor for your desktop PC - without even having to move it from the desk. The most interesting solutions are wireless. This kind of technology is still evolving, but solid products have already been on the market for a year or two.
We have had good luck with devices based on the technology from Amimon, when used within the same room. Whole-house solutions (which transmit through multiple walls) are beginning to appear on the market - if you have experience with one of those we’d like to hear about it. One industry standard is called WHDI, and there are several such devices available today.
Although Big Picture was designed with TVs in mind, there’s no reason you can’t use it with your usual Steam setup. For best results, plug in a controller, lean back in your chair, and go!
Big Picture has been designed for use with a game controller or a keyboard and mouse. If you’re shopping for a controller, there are several good choices. Logitech’s F710 is one, as is an Xbox 360 controller (either wired or wireless). Razer’s Onza is also one that works well with Steam.
As for wireless keyboards and mice, there are many on the market to choose from. They come in many styles and configurations, so we won’t go into much detail here about how to choose ones that suits your needs best.