steam_box_prototype

Valve’s Steam Machines initiative has been in the works for quite some time and has been delayed quite long enough that people began to wonder if they would ever be released on time, or at all. While SteamOS continues to be made better through the collaboration between Valve and the Linux community, the partners who originally signed up for the Steam Machines initiative have been meanwhile forced to sell their machines bundled with Windows instead. At GDC 2015, Valve says they’re finally ready for the official launch of Steam Machines and SteamOS and they showcased a number of partner designs that they say will be ready at launch. Hit the jump for the eye candy.

The cheapest of the Steam Machines will sell at a starting price of US $460 (approx. R5400), so by no means will these machines be considered console killers. In fact, the cheapest configuration may indeed be pummeled by the power of Sony’s Playstation 4, as the graphics hardware and memory configuration inside the PS4 are far superior. The table below summarises the specifications of the Machines on display and includes their starting prices.

SteamOS Steam Machines for 2015

Model CPU GPU RAM Storage Price
 Microsoft Xbox One AMD Steamroller Octa-core AMD Radeon R7-ish graphics 8GB DDR3 500GB $399
 Sony Playstation 4 AMD Steamroller Octa-core AMD Radeon R9-ish graphics 8GB GDDR5 500GB $399
 iBUYPOWER SBX AMD Athlon X4 840 AMD Radeon R7 250X 1GB 4GB DDR3 500GB $459
 Dell Alienware Steam Machine Various Intel i3-i7 Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB 4-8GB DDR3L Up to 2TB $479+
 Syber Steam Machine AMD Athlon X4 840 AMD Radeon R9 270 2GB 4GB DDR3 500GB HDD $499
 Gigabyte BRIX Pro Intel Core i7-4770R Intel Iris Pro HD5200 128MB Up to 16GB DDR3L Up to 1TB SSD $599
 Digital Storm Eclipse Intel Pentium G3220 Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB 8GB DDR3 1TB HDD $699
 ASUS GR8S Steam Machine Various Intel i3-i5 Nvidia Geforce 9-series 4-16GB DDR3L Up to 512GB SSD $699+
 NEXT Nextbox Steam Machine Intel Core i3-i7 Haswell  Up to Geforce GTX 970 4GB 8GB DDR3 Up to 1TB $799+
 MAINGEAR Drift Intel Core Pentium-i7 Haswell Up to Geforce GTX 980 4GB Up to 16GB DDR3 Up to 8TB $849+
 Materiel Steam Machine Intel Core i5-4460 Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB N/A 1TB SSHD $899
 Origin PC Omega Intel Core i3-i7 Haswell Up to tri-SLI Geforce GTX 980 4GB Up to 32GB DDR3 Up to 24TB $899+
 Webhallen S15-01 Steam Machine Intel Core i5-4460 Nvidia Geforce GTX 960 2GB 8GB DDR3 1TB SSHD $949
 Zotac Steam Machine Intel Core i3-5010U Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M 3GB 8GB DDR3 1TB HDD $999
 SCAN 3XS ST Steam Machine Intel Core i3 Haswell Nvidia Geforce GTX 750Ti 2GB 8GB DDR3 120GB SSD $999
 SCAN 3XS ST Steam Machine Intel Core i5 Haswell Nvidia Geforce GTX 970 4GB 16GB DDR N/A $1299
 Syber Steam Machine Intel Core i7-4790K Nvidia Geforce GTX 980 4GB 8GB DDR3 1TB HDD $1399
 FalconNW Tiki Steam Machine Various Intel i3-i7 Geforce 9-series and up 4-16GB DDR3 Up to 8TB $1999+

Looking at all the options presented at GDC 2015, I’m not sure if Valve has actually done any work in addressing the main issue with Steam Machines – what configurations should people buy? Only iBUYPOWER and Gigabyte buck the trend of offering some combination of an Intel processor and a Nvidia GPU and there’s a very good reason for that – the Linux drivers for any GCN-based Radeon graphics are not serving up the best performance that the architecture can offer, while Intel’s drivers serve up what can be mostly described as “decent” performance out of the box, but not much more than that. The real test of SteamOS will be how closely Valve works with AMD, Intel and Nvidia to optimise drivers for their platform and ensure that performance is up to snuff when it comes to OpenGL acceleration.

There is also a dearth of options and there are few reasons why you’d want to move over to SteamOS completely at this point. Yes, a lot of games and game developers currently have it in their sights, but I hope it will be enough to make the platform viable for everyone. Valve’s been wrong about technology trends before. Still, it is nice to see these machines without the Windows license figured into the price and this means that anyone building up a gaming rig in 2015 can now have the option of installing a Linux variant or SteamOS instead and save money on their build. If you’re going to be playing mainly free games like DOTA 2, that makes the platform even more attractive based on price alone.

Honestly, I wouldn’t tell people to rush buy any of these machines just yet. Rather wait and see how the official launch goes and then look at building your own instead. After all, with the exception of the BRIX Pro and the Zotac Steam Machine, all of this stuff is built up with off-the-shelf parts.

Will Steam Machines come to South Africa?

I spoke to Evetech’s Kamran Sorathia about SteamOS a while back when the announcement was made and I asked him again recently about Evetech’s plans to offer SteamOS and Steam Machines as an alternative to their options that only have Windows 8.1 currently. This was his reply;

“Yes, we will have a selection of Steam Machines when they (hopefully) launch later this year. We’ll even have a dedicated section to it on the site. I think it will be very exciting for gamers on a low budget who don’t have to spend R1200 just for a Windows licence. We’ll have a complete range available from mini-ITX HTPCs to full-fat tower builds that can dual boot between SteamOS and Windows. We did test SteamOS when it was first announced but we haven’t been testing any of the recent versions. We’ll be validating all our planned builds prior to the launch and hope to be ready for it starting on day one!”

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