Steam Machines and Valve's Steam OS are the great white hope of PC gaming. Valve announced 13 Steam Machine partners at CES 2014 and here are all the details on each one and what you can expect from each.
Steam Machines Specs and Price: The Budget Options
So far Steam Machine prices range hugely, which is to be expected given the open nature of the platform and concept. First up are the 'budget options' that we define was anything in the $500/£400 to $600/£500 range. We only have US pricing for most models at the moment, but we'll keep updating this article with details as they emerge.
CyberpowerPC Steam Machine Specs and Price
- $499 (~£305)
- AMD Radeon R9 270 / Nvidia GTX 760 GPUs
- AMD/Intel Core i5 CPUs
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB HDD
CyberPower PC is primarily a UK-based custom PC builder, but it has a foothold in the US market as well. The specs are fairly vague, but we can glean from them and the price that CyperPower is aiming at the low-end of the market with more console-like pricing. This spec would likely struggle to play the latest games at full whack and at 1080p, but it could do a job and act as a streaming think client in the living room for a larger PC in another room.
iBuyPower Steam Machine Specs & Price
- $499 and up
- Radeon GCN Graphics
- Quad Core AMD or Intel
This is as vague as it comes, really. Again the aim appears to be a budget gaming rig with AMD graphics, but there's not much more to say here.
Zotac Steam Machine Specs & Price
- $599 (~£365)
- Nvidia GeForce GTX (TBD)
- Intel Core (TBD)
- RAM TBD
- Hard Drive TBD
Again the specs are very vague, but we can glean from the price and the design that Zotac is gunning for a very small form-factor PC here. It has form in this market as it sells a number of low-power living room style PCs that look a lot like this. To that end it seems likely this will be more like a thin client and rely on a mobile graphics processor.
Next SPA Steam Machine Specs & Price
- Nvidia GT 760
- Intel Core i5
There's no price on this one, but the spec and case suggest this ought to be a budget option. Something will have gone seriously wrong if not.
SEE ALSO: R9 280X vs GTX 770: which is best?
Steam Machine Specs and Prices: The Mid-Range
Mid-range here refers to anything $1,500 (~£915) or less. Here we've got a fair mixture that includes out-and-out gaming PCs that should handle games pretty well to more custom designs that sacrifice performance in favour of size.
Alternate Steam Machine Specs & Price
- $1399 (~£850)
- Gigabyte GTX 760
- Intel Core i5 4570
- 1TB SSHD
This looks and sounds like a standard upper to mid-range gaming PC, albeit in a small form-factor ITX-style case. A GTX 760 typically retails for around £160 to £200 depending on design and features.
Materiel.net Steam Machine Specs and Price
- $1098 (~£670
- MSI GeForce GTX 760 OC
- Intel Core i5 4440
- 8GB RAM
- 8GB SSD 1TB SSHD
It's the same case as the Alternate Steam Machine above and a similar graphics card, but a slightly different approach. A slower CPU and less RAM keeps the price down, which probably isn't a bad idea.
Scan NC10 Steam Machine Specs and Price
- £699 / $1090
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M
- Intel Core i3 4000M
- 8GB RAM
- 500GB HDD
UK-based Scan Computers is one of the few for which we have a confirmed UK price and availability. Its NC10 is cut from a different cloth from most of the Steam Machines in this list. The flat, thin design suggests it could be mounted to the back of a TV, and it would certainly slip under a TV easily enough. The sacrific is made in performance. The GTX 765M isn't feeble, but it's not a desktop graphics part and that will come with limitations.
Webhallen Steam Machine Specs and Price
- Nvidia GTX 780
- Intel Core i7 4771
- 1TB SSHD
Webhallen, a Swedish PC maker, has opted for the very popular BitFenix Prodigy case for its Steam Machine. This is an Mini-ITX case, though in truth it's on the large side for such a case. Still, it looks damn fine and Webhallen has gunned for an upper mid-range spec using the very capable GTX 780, a step up from our favoured mid-range card the GTX 770.
Steam Machine Specs and Price: The Monsters
The title explains itself really. These are the ones you'll need a lottery to win to afford...
Digital Storm Bolt II Steam Machine Specs and Price
- GTX 780 Ti
- Intel Core i7 4770K
- 1TB HDD 120GB SSD
The spec and price say it all. You can build more powerful gaming PCs, but you probably don't need to.
Falcon Northwest Tiki Steam Machine Specs and Price
- Nvidia GeForce GTX TITAN
- 8 to 16GB
- Up to 6TB
Origin PC Chronos Steam Machine Specs and Price
- TBD (configurable)
- 2x 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX TITANs
- Intel Core i7 4770k (3.9—4.6GHz)
Another way would be to put two in. This is just getting silly.
The Unknown Quantity: Alienware Steam Machine Specs... Unknown
Finally we have this box from Alienware. It looks nice, but that's as much as Alienware is willing to reveal. It says its effort will land toward the back-end of 2014, so we'll have to wait a little while to find out what it puts inside. Unlike most of the above, however, Valve has been working very closely with Alienware on the Alienware Steam Machine.
We have been working with Alienware since we began defining our vision of the Steam Machine. Alienware’s historic commitment to gaming, their design and engineering capabilities and their global reach made them an ideal partner for us on our Steam Machine project," explained Gabe Newell, Valve Founder. "The result of our collaboration is the Alienware Steam Machine, a console that encapsulates the full potential of what a Steam Machine should be."
This makes this Alienware as close to an official Steam Machine as we're likely to get and the late 2014 release date ought to give Valve time to iron out the kinks in Steam OS. This is clearly the one Steam Machine to look out for.
Alienware also plans to release a Steam Machine version of its X51 desktop system.
First Impressions: The living room dream feels far away
Valve’s vision for Steam OS is to bring PC gaming into the living room and having had a first glimpse at the first 13 Steam Machines tasked with making that a reality, some still look more suited to sitting underneath a computer desk.
It’s great to see such a wide variety of sizes, looks and specs that will certainly prospective buyers plenty of variety. While some like the Gigabyte Brix Pro are dinky and Ouya-like in stature, others like the Webhallen Steam Machine are essentially hulking big gaming PCs that are going to look massively out of place sitting next to a big screen TV.
That’s where the problem with Steam Machines lies. There’s no doubting that most have the power and the capabilities to play high resolution gaming and take care of Netflix binges, it’s whether they can pack it into a design that people will want to make space for.
Some of the machines on show at Valve's CES press conference, like the one from Alienware, didn't even have any components inside and we were unable to see the hardware in action at all so it’s still difficult at this stage to get an idea of how well they work.
With a release date still not pinned down for the operating system and Valve still addressing issues with the Steam Controller, it looks like there is still a lot of work to be done before the Steam Machines can take on the Sony and Microsoft machines. -- Michael Sawh
Next, read our Steam OS Guide: Steam OS and Steam Machines Explained