Valve made its first shot across the game console bow, releasing SteamOS to the masses and shipping its promised 300 Steam Machine beta kits to lucky recipients. The recipients have been nice enough to capture unboxings for the rest of us, as well as divulge the console’s specs, and test out some games. How does the first official Steam Machine hold up?
Previously, Valve stated that the different Steam Machine beta kit specs are widely varied across the spectrum of viable gaming rigs. Each spec would come with 16GB of RAM, a 450w power supply, and 1TB-8GB SSHD. However, the processor could be either a Core i3, i5, or i7, and the graphics card could be a Titan, GTX 780, 760, or 660. Reddit user colbehr revealed the specs of his Steam Machine, along with detailed unboxing pictures. This model appears to be a higher-end spec, packing a 3.2GHz quad-core Core i5-4570, 16GB of RAM, a GTX780 graphics card with 3GB of memory, a Silverstone ST45SF-G power supply, and what appears to be an ASRock Z87E-ITX motherboard. It’s no slouch, and should be able to run just about anything Steam has to offer on either high or the highest settings possible.
While an impressive spec, if Valve hasn’t made some kind of unique subsidy (involving a Steam games-purchasing contract, perhaps) — or isn’t willing to take a giant hit on sales — this model Steam Machine should be quite expensive. The GTX780 alone is $ 500 on Newegg — the price of an Xbox One or $ 100 more than a PS4. The processor is $ 200, and the average price of 16GB of RAM is around $ 150, though for now that’s only going to get more expensive. The motherboard is $ 130 on Newegg, the power supply is around $ 95, and a 1TB-8GB SSHD is around $ 130. So, this particular Steam Machine would cost around $ 1,200 to build yourself, and that’s not taking into account whether or not the Steam Controller would be included with third-party Steam Machines, or how much the case would be.
The Steam Controller that shipped with the beta kit is also a beta unit. Rather than having a touchscreen in the middle of the pad, it has a square separated into four quadrants of input that aims to simulate the eventual touchscreen. Colbehr noted that though the controller is a beta unit, it feels cheap, is buggy, and certain games — like Fez — were frustrating enough to play using the controller that he had to go back to the keyboard. Yes, it’s not the final version of the unit, but as we previously saw in a Valve demo, the viability of the controller remains to be seen. You’re not going to, for example, survive very long in a DotA 2 match if you’re sporting the gamepad.
Another user who received a beta Steam Machine, Corey Nelson, benevolently took to YouTube and posted a handful of videos showing off the attractive crate-like packaging, SteamOS, a mini-teardown, and Portal running on the box. Portal can run on just about anything these days, so that’s not the best benchmarking game. However, SteamOS is Linux-based, and doesn’t have much in the way of choice at the moment.
Nelson also tested a dual-boot of Windows and SteamOS, which opens up the the wide world of Windows gaming, which you can see over on his YouTube channel.
While Valve’s Steam Machine beta box is a powerful rig, it’s just a gaming PC made with off-the-shelf parts running an operating system you can install on your own gaming PC right now. If you have your TV plugged into your gaming rig and use it as an extended display (for viewing media from your bed, for example), you can turn that setup into a Steam Machine simply by loading the Steam client and clicking the Big Picture mode button. Regardless of the specs, it’s likely that the success of the Steam Machine will come down to pricing, and ultimately the library of games. Requiring developers to create a Linux-based port isn’t promising for SteamOS, but that never matters in the world of gaming if the hardware makes its way into enough households. This beta test will give us our first glimpse at the potential size of the Machine’s market.