Steam Ma­chines

PC gam­ing on your big telly was CES’s hottest property, but will Valve’s souped-up fun boxes of all shapes and specs catch fire?

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Valve’s next-gen gam­ing PCs are com­ing! Built to play nice with your telly, will they make a se­ri­ous play for the liv­ing room?

“The PC is suc­cess­ful be­cause we’re all ben­e­fit­ing from com­pe­ti­tion with each other.” That’s the be­lief of Gabe Newell, co-founder and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of PC gam­ing be­he­moth Valve Cor­po­ra­tion, the US firm be­hind Half-life, Por­tal, the Steam dig­i­tal gam­ing ser­vice and, now, the nex­tgen con­sole-both­er­ing Steam Ma­chines. Fol­low­ing his dec­la­ra­tion at this year’s Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show (CES) in Las Ve­gas, Newell lifted the lid on the first wave of 13 Ma­chines, with more on the way; that’s a whole lot of friendly com­pe­ti­tion.

Steam Ma­chines, for the unini­ti­ated, are cus­tom PCs run­ning Valve’s new Linux-based SteamOS, a be­spoke gam­ing hub that puts a plethora of PC games on your liv­ing-room telly; like an open-source ver­sion of those old Win­dows Me­dia Cen­ters but al­to­gether more gamey. At present, there are just 250 com­pat­i­ble ti­tles, but that’s sure to grow.

While each Steam Ma­chine fol­lows min­i­mum spec guide­lines laid down by Valve, any PC man­u­fac­turer can at­tempt to make one. The four we’ve selected (right) span the price gamut from US $499 to US $6,000, depend­ing on how much grunt you want un­der the hood; as you can see, there’s plenty of space for in­di­vid­u­al­ity, both in spec­i­fi­ca­tion and style.

The big­gest name in the sta­ble so far is Alien­ware and the US firm’s pro­to­type pays de­sign lip-ser­vice to the PS4 and Xbox One, even with no specs on show. Other brands have been more forth­com­ing, with the Fal­con North­west leading the pack when it comes to fire­power. Tar­geted to­wards high-end gamers, it has a fa­mil­iar PC tower look and a spec that can be cus­tomised up to a whop­ping US $6,000. On the more af­ford­able, less in­tim­i­dat­ing front, the likes of the Cyberpower PC A Se­ries and iBuyPower will sit pretty un­der your telly, but with just Core i5 pro­ces­sors in tow, there’s less pal­pa­ble rea­son to shun next-gen con­soles.

Along with a shared OS (see box, top), Valve is also try­ing to rev­o­lu­tionise PC gam­ing con­trols. All Steam Ma­chines are com­pat­i­ble with – but don’t nec­es­sar­ily in­clude – the ded­i­cated Steam Con­troller (pre­vi­ous page). It mar­ries a con­sole-like de­sign with dual hap­tic touch­pads re­plac­ing ana­logue sticks, at­tempt­ing to closer em­u­late the PC’s killer key­board and mouse combo.

Yet Steam Ma­chines have a dif­fi­cult task ahead of them as they be­gin to roll out. Valve may have 65 mil­lion reg­is­tered Steam ac­counts, but that falls to seven mil­lion reg­u­lar users. How many will want to over­haul their en­tire PC setup in one go? And will the myr­iad op­tions con­fuse the ca­sual con­sumer? Ei­ther way, a gamer’s choice just got a lot wider. steam­pow­ered.com, steam ma­chines from US$499 out tbc, steam os free beta out now

The specs may be top se­cret and the de­sign just a pro­to­type, but this Ma­chine looks to be most closely ap­ing next-gen con­sole aes­thet­ics. Big per­for­mance and price tag ex­pected.

$TBC, alien­ware.com

Alien­ware is one of many PC brands build­ing set-tops for Valve’s big idea

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