Steam Machine Partners And Hardware Unveiled

Gabe Newell took to the floor for a few minutes at CES to quickly introduce the partners that Valve are working with to bring their Steam Machines initiative to market. In the process, a lot of details on specifications and price were unveiled, though not everything has been explicitly detailed.

Valve are working with 14 partners now, moving well beyond the previously announced deals with iBuyPower and Digital Storm. Also on show were Alienware, Alternate, CyberPowerPC, Gigabyte, Falcon Northwest, Materiel.Net, Origin PC (who have nothing to do with EA), Next Spa, Scan, Webhallen and Zotac. Elsewhere at the show, Engadget discovered that Maingear were also bringing a device to market, to fill that 14th spot.

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What’s interesting to see is that there is such a wide variety of machines being offered, with many going for mid-low powered boxes that would be ideal for streaming, leaving the high end to a select few. Most of these companies, with roots as custom gaming PC builders, are to offer configuration options that will let you get more or less powerful hardware. At a cost.

Prices start at $499 for a few, with CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower closest to that mark with mid-high end graphics tied to quad core CPUs, 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDDs. However, prices soon skyrocket in line with the cost of an actual PC. Digital Storm’s Bolt II features an Intel Core i7 4770k, Nvidia GTX 780 Ti, 16GB RAM, 120GB SSD and 1TB HDD for a whopping $2584. Alternate, Falcon Northwest and others follow down that path.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have Gigabyte and Maingear working on low-end APU-based systems, which would be best suited to streaming solutions.

All in all, there’s a lack of anything that could go directly up against consoles in terms of price and specs, let alone style – Alienware (reported to be a 3″ tall, 8″ square by The Verge) and iBuyPower are the only two with any sense of style – but this is still quite a fascinating market to keep an eye on as Valve inch closer to a full release of SteamOS.

Source: Steam Machines PDF, Engadget.

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16 Comments

  1. Read about this last night and it was interesting to see how much of the media was mentioning that Sony and Microsoft were probably not quaking in their boots.

    Saying that, even if it just addresses (and compartmentalises) the PC world (for gaming) then that’s no bad thing.

  2. I’m not sure I totally get what Valve are aiming for here…

    Why would somebody choose a Steambox over a more traditional console? Or over a gaming rig?

    What gap in the market are they trying to fill?

    • I think they’re trying to consolidate the PC gaming world which makes sense. However, it’s interesting to see a strategy that looks like it doesn’t want to take on the consoles at all. :-\

      If you think about the hilarious number of configurations you can have with a PC, streamlining that makes it a bit easier for game developers to work with. Games could be Steambox approved which creates momentum for all developers to adhere to. No bad thing.

      • Valve are playing the long game, and one which borrows a page from Windows and Android. They’re creating the software and the software alone. (Well, there’s the controller too)

        They key thing is that these are effectively just gaming PCs right now, with a few exceptions. Only the Alienware box seems to have parts which are going to be truly customised, but for the rest, it really depends on what Intel and AMD have in store for the next few years.

        Both are eager to push their APU designs to the next level, with AMD already very strong with regard to integrating GPU hardware (hence why they got the console gig with both Sony and MS), while Intel are making quite decent advances with their Iris Pro integrated graphics.

        In 2-3 years time both AMD and Intel will have APUs that are quite easily able to match what these latest consoles can do. What it then comes down to is how these various Steam Machine partners are able to concoct from that.

        It’s the traditional ebb and flow of hardware power, but with the new twist that Valve are pulling the strings, and pushing for a move into the living room.

      • Wont work. There are always going to be more “standard” PCs than Steamboxes. Devs will make games for whatever sells (you only have to look at them deserting the Wii U). Games will be made for PCs, not Steamboxes.

      • Thanks for the replies, and not to be ungrateful, but I’m still none the wiser as to what this is actually achieving. I get that Valve will control content (as they do now with Steam on regular, old PCs) and what SteamOS offers in terms of a controlled ecosystem in a living room friendly box.

        What I don’t get is that the SteamBoxes presented thus far are essentially gaming rigs, with prices to match, wrapped up in Valve iconography and running an OS that only allows you to play games (and some of the other stuff Valve will inevitably offer). So why not buy a normal gaming rig, avoiding the Valve premium, and get a machine that can do everything a PC can do with none of the limitations SteamOS will bring? And if you really want to play games on a living room friendly box, why not buy a PS4 for a fraction of the cost? I’d get it if Valve was attempting to ‘standardise’ the PC gaming scene, by providing a blueprint for manufacturers to a system with standard specifications, but the wild range of options and configurations suggests that this isn’t the plan…

        Sorry for being negative, but I’m always a bit skeptical of these hybrid type devices… They always seem to try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

      • @Eldur

        Steamboxes can do everything a normal PC can do, they just run SteamOS instead of Windows. Although it’s designed to sit under the TV instead of on a desk and boots into Steam’s Big Picture mode, you can use it for anything you like, its just another variant of Linux (like Ubuntu, Debian, CentOS, etc), so you watch movies, listen to music, install LibreOffice and make Documents/Spreadsheet, etc..

        While buying a PS4 for less is an option, there are plenty of game genres that aren’t suitable for a console (or arent released anyway), so if you like strategy games, like CIV5, Rome II or Crusader Kings, then a PS4 isn’t going to help. Also, games are a lot cheaper on PC, so it balances out in the long run.

        Personally, I already have a decent gaming PC, so I wont be buying one of these, but I will be getting the controller and I will install SteamOS on my gaming laptop and dual-boot with Windows.

        For me, the long-term benefit is being able to eventually dump Windows, because I only use it for games and currently it grates that I’m handcuffed to an OS I don’t really like using just to be able to indulge in my hobby.

        Of course from Valves point of view, its even worse. Their entire business model is reliant on a third party that has no respect for its customer base and seems quite happy to destroy the PC gaming market, just to try force it onto its console platform.

    • Valve were really unhappy with windows 8 when it launched and I think this all came from that. There should be some performance benefits with SteamOs being built with gaming perormance in mind. These steam machines are just windows PCs with steamos as a dual boot option. Performance when you want it (SteamOs). Flexibility and compatibility when you need it (windows).

  3. at those prices, they wont be pulling many console gamers away from their ps4 and xbox1

  4. I’ll be sticking with my PS4 then. Seems like a lot of different hardware configurations. I thought the idea was to have the os super optimised and limit the different types of hardware?

  5. I’m interested in getting a smaller, but powerful desktop, like an ITX Mini thingy. These seem to be similar, but less upgradable. And for now, Windows is still where it’s at.

  6. One thing I don’t fully understand is that I thought people bought PCs because they are happy spending silly money on top of the range equipment that they continually spend over and over again just to maintain that ‘top of the range’ ideal (for example updating graphics cards every couple of years at £200+, adding memory, upgrading cooling systems, could go on…)

    This feels like it defeats the purpose as it offers the expensive machine at thousands of pounds that the user will have to shell out again in a few years to maintain that top of the range box.

    If you aren’t bothered with top of the range machines surely a PS4 at £350 is more attractive (or even ps3 at £99!)

    Have I misunderstood?

    • no mate!surely you can pick up a cheap gaming rig for about £500 if that’s what your into.
      i suppose the steam machine is an easy way to get into pc gaming but thats why i chose consoles to game on…

    • Don’t take those high end prices as the mean price that PC owners will pay for a new system.
      There is an element of the PC community dedicated to “the bleeding edge” but for those few the hobby isnt’t actually gaming, the hobby is the rush of new parts.

      You shouldn’t throw millions upon millions of gamers into a tiny box either, PC gaming is hugely diverse what with the Linux boys, the Raspberry Pi nut-jobs and even those people that cling to Windows XP with tears in their eyes.

      Fact is that most PC gamers are like myself, they buy an upgradeable machine at around £600 and then upgrade individual parts whenever we feel that overall performance in games is starting to fall short of our needs. That upgrade cycle is actually longer now than it’s ever been thanks to the last console generations capability to forget how to hurry up and die, I havent spent more than £100 on my system in five years.

      Sure it’s a chunky outlay, you could get two PS4s for that, however with a gaming PC i’m able to truly multi-task well beyond the abilities of consoles, I have backwards compatibility with the biggest library of classic games available to any platform and add to that that I get to run new games at far better resolutions than any console user.

      In my opinion it’s better to pay the price and be a PC gamer than to tie myself into one companys ecosystem.

      • Also bear in mind that the extra money you shell out on the hardware is offset by the fact that the games are cheaper on PC..

  7. Erm, but it isn’t PC Gaming, isn’t SteamOS Linux based? Wont’t Games written for Windows need re-written for SteamOS?

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