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NZXT Doko review: The little streaming box that (barely) could

Hayden Dingman | March 12, 2015
When Valve first discussed bringing the PC into the living room with Steam Machines, it outlined an entire ecosystem. On the high end we'd find $1,000-plus media center PCs, equipped with top-of-the-line hardware. But on the low end, there was a much more interesting proposition for those who already owned a capable PC: A streaming-only device that cost barely anything but relied on your home network and your primary tower for horsepower.

In my time with the Doko I tried everything from Dying Light to Dead Rising 3 to Pix the Cat to Gravity Ghost to Talos Principle to Limbo to Civilization. Talos Principle, as a mostly-slow puzzle game, and Civilization, as a turn-based game, were the only titles I'd classify as "playable."

The rest of the titles in that list all rely on some measure of precision, and the Doko just can't deliver. Even with both the PC and Doko plugged into the same router I experienced at least 40-80 milliseconds of input lag. For reference: The average person starts to notice input lag at 30 milliseconds.

And typically you can even grow accustomed to input lag as long as it stays constant, but the Doko fluctuates. You might have a scorching-fast 40 milliseconds of input lag one second and then 70 the next. Your character doesn't really "move" as much as drunkenly lurch around the screen. The consistency is key. I have input lag when streaming from my PC to a Shield Tablet also, but it stays at a semi-stable 40 or 50 milliseconds. I still have to compensate for the lag, but play long enough and it becomes sort of reflexive.

To be fair, NZXT recommends plugging your computer's Ethernet port straight into the Doko, but at the point where I'm running cables across my entire apartment why not just run an HDMI cable from my computer to my TV?

I'm also lucky enough that the previous occupants ran cable for us from the bedrooms to the living room. The Doko has no built-in wireless, so your personal set-up might be even more painful. In my old apartment, for instance, the router was four rooms away from the TV. You know, in the room where the computers were. Running an Ethernet cable across four rooms just to stream games from my PC? No thanks.

One last complaint: The Doko comes with an Ethernet cable (Cat 5e) but no HDMI for some inexplicable reason.

Bottom line

The "all-streaming Steam Machine" is exactly what I want, but the NZXT Doko isn't a good solution. It's too expensive to compete as a media center, too sluggish for games.

And it definitely isn't fit for the masses. Some of the issues I had, I was able to fix. For instance, troubleshooting why my 360 controller wasn't working. But would I give the Doko to the average person and say "Yeah, it's just like a console!" and hope for the best?

Absolutely not.

 

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