Valve's Steam Machine will join the fight for the living room and compete with Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Wii U and a bunch of (mostly) Android-based gaming consoles. Unlike those other gaming systems, Valve has designed the Steam Machine to run PC games. While information are scarce at this point in time, we do know that the box is using a custom version of Linux called SteamOS that can stream or run PC games from Steam's library.
One interesting aspect is that users can create their own SteamOS systems, just like they can install Windows or Linux on computer systems, and that multiple hardware vendors will offer Steam Machines for purchase.
Focus right now is on the prototype that Valve announced about a week ago. The company is currently accepting applications on Steam and will pick 300 random users who will receive the prototype as beta testers.
Yesterday, Valve revealed the hardware specs of the prototype, and boy is it one powerful machine.
- GPU: some units with NVidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760, and some GTX660
- CPU: some boxes with Intel i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
- RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB GDDR5 (GPU)
- Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
- Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
- Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high
It is a high-end system, and since it is a PC more or less, fully upgradable. Users can replace hardware in it, for instance the cpu or the storage, but also the motherboard if they really want to. The options to customize the Steam Machine, or even built your own version of it, is certainly one that appeals to users who have built PCs before.
Valve has not revealed anything else about the prototype they have created, but from its specs alone, it will certainly play all PC games without issues. It may be a bit on the loud side of things though, but that remains to be seen.
Since it is possible to customize the hardware, it is theoretically possible to replace system fans for example, to reduce the noise generation of the system when it is running under load.
A quick cost calculation on Newegg for the hardware mentioned returned the following.
- GPU between $200 (GTX660) to $1000 (Titan GTX780).
- CPU between $300 (Intel i7-4770) to $120 (i3)
- RAM about $150
- Storage depends a lot on the model used. A Seagate 1TB + 8GB SSD Hybrid hard drive is available for $129 for instance.
- Power Supply available for $60 or more, depending on model.
Add to that the other requirements, motherboard, sound, case, and peripherals and you may end up with a system that costs about $2000. Depending on the hardware used, it may also be available for a lot less, especially if a GTX660 is built-into the device and not the Titan GTX780.
The Steam Machine prototype may or may not be available for sale in the future. It is used for testing, and since Valve plans to ship it with different hardware configurations to testers, it is likely that the company will sell Steam Machines with different hardware specs.
Would I buy a Steam Machine for the living room? No, I would not. I have my PC for that. I'm interested in the controller though, and may buy it just to check it out and see how good it is.