The Valve has been opened – the PC gaming gurus behind Steam have revealed their first batch of Steam Machine gaming PCs.
"Each one of these represents a different take on the right solution for their customers in the living room," says Valve co-founder Gabe Newell. "There's a lot of variation from the low to the high end, both in the devices we see here and in the product lines that people are going to have. That's one of the strengths that the PC has, that customers can get the PC strengths that they want, while software developers can be guaranteed a stable platform."
Building up Steam
A range of partners have developed the Steam Machines – PCs that follow guidelines and meet standards laid down by Valve, and run its SteamOS operating system.
They range from the dinky to the bulky, and take in everything from heavily designed machines that wouldn't look out of place next to an Xbox One or PS4 under your telly, to black boxes that look like servers.
Of course, it's what's inside that counts.
Alternate, Alienware and CyberPowerPC
Alternate's Steam Machine packs in an Intel Core i5 4570, 4GB of RAM, a Gigabyte GTX 760 GPU and a 1TB SSD, with a retail price of US$1340.
Alienware is keeping its cards close to its chest as far as specs and price are concerned, but design-wise it's the standout success of the line-up – a gorgeous, angular box with subtle glowing details.
CyberpowerPC's device starts at US$500, with an AMD/Intel Core i5 CPU, 8GB RAM and either an AMD Radeon R9 270 or Nvidia GTX 760 graphics card, and 500GB of storage.
Digital Storm, Falcon Northwest and Gigabyte
The Digital Storm Bolt II crams in a Core i7 4770K processor, 16GB RAM and a GTX 780 TI GPU, with a whopping 1TB HDD and 120GB SSD. Unsurprisingly, it's pricey, at US$2585.
Falcon Northwest's Tiki comes in a perfectly hideous airbrushed case, and is the most expensive of the lot – starting at US$1800 and going all the way up to US$6000, depending on how you configure it. The spec list includes a Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan graphics card, up to 6TB storage and between 8 and 16GB RAM.
Gigabyte's adorably tiny Brix Pro features a Core i7 4770K, 16GB RAM, Intel Iris Pro 5200 graphics and a 1TB SATA HDD.
iBuypower, Materiel.net and Next
iBuypower has conjured up an Xbox One-style case that sells for an Xbox One-style price – US$500 and up. Inside, you get an Intel or AMD quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, Radeon GCN Graphics and 500GB storage.
Materiel.net's US$1100 black cube doesn't bother with the fripperies of design; it's all business, with a Core i5 4440 processor, 8GB RAM, a MSI GeForce GTX 760 OC graphics card and a 8GB + 1TB SSHD.
The Next SPA is a similar black box, with a Core i5, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GT 760 graphics and 1TB storage.
Origin PC, Scan, Webhallen and Zotac
Origin PC's Chronos comes in a variety of different configurations, starting with a Core i7 4770K, up to 32GB RAM, 2 6GB Nvidia Geforce GTX Titans and up to 14TB storage. The price has yet to be confirmed, but expect it to be astronomical.
Scan's NC10 is one of the most interesting designs of the launch lineup, with an unusual stretched-out configuration wrapped in a metal shell. The prototype on display came with some unsightly Inside, you get a Core i3 processor, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics and 500GB storage, with a price tag of US$1090.
Webhallen's big and bulky US$1500 beast has specs to match its size – and price. You get a Core i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, GTX 780 graphics and a 1TB SSHD.
Finally, there's the Zotac Steam Box – which loses points for design, being a rebadged Z Box. Specs have yet to be confirmed, but expect it to clock in at US$600.