First Line-up of Steam Machines
Valve’s Steam Machines differ from the traditional consoles, that they compete with, in many ways. They are based on standard PC hardware and run a full PC OS as an interesting technical difference. The technical side provides the possibility of a different distribution model that Valve embraces. Valve will not manufacture Steam Machines themselves, but provide specifications and basic requirements for other manufacturers to use. The main requirement for Steam Machines seems to be a pre-installed SteamOS operating system and a Steam Controller provided with the machine.
There is a wide range of size, performance and price targets. There are Steam Machines from CyberPower and iBuyPower for $500 to directly compete with PS4 and Xbox One in performance and price. While Alienware has only announced the design and Falcon Northwest has taken the lead for the most expensive Steam Machine mentioned. Their compact Tiki PC can go in price up to the some fanboys’ favourite $6000. However, Tiki’s gaming performance can be considered maxed up at $2500 with i7 4770K and GTX 780 Ti (case is too small for 2 graphics cards), similar to Digital Storm’s Bolt II. Prices above that require some additional extremes, like 3 TB of SSD storage.
The most powerful Steam Machine announced is Origin PC’s “Chronos”. It has i7-4770K CPU, two GTX Titans in SLI, 32 GB RAM and up to 14 TB of storage space. The price has not been announced yet, but expecting it to cost $4000 or more is a safe bet. It even may cost more than $6000. When it comes to those expensive high performance machines, running only SteamOS would be weird, as the price of Windows does not seem a significant problem.
There are also some performance/price sacrifices for the smallest Steam Machines. Gigabyte’s BRIX seemed a nice candidate for a small gaming-capable device with Intel’s i7-4770R with Iris Pro 5200 integrated graphics. While the BRIX’s are usually barebones PCs sold with no RAM or HDD, BRIX PRO is configured to be ready out of the box with 8 GB RAM and 1 TB HDD. While its 8800 GT level of graphics performance falls behind consoles, depending on Intel’s and AMD’s advances in integrated graphics, we can expect to see the new BRIX PCs that can outperform Xbox One before the end of the next year. There is also Scan’s NC10 with Core i3 4000M and GTX 765M for $1090. The laptop parts allow a small size, but running into CPU bottlenecks gets to easy, even while the GPU can match the Xbox One.
Most of the Steam Machines announced should be released this year. It will be interesting to see how well will Valve’s attempt to compete with the consoles go and how many games will get Linux versions this year.