Steam Box hands-on previews begin to appear online

Steam Box

By on November 5, 2013 at 11:54 am

Select sites (not us unfortunately, but we are small fry!) appear to have been released from their embargo on the Steam Box, as various hands-on impressions have begun to appear across the web.

Since we have a policy of linking you to good content rather than stealing it, here’s some of the ones that you should check out!

Engadget’s preview notes that “as far as speed and usability goes, the Valve Steam Machine prototype we tried is literally a gaming PC with an Intel i7 and a high-end NVIDIA GPU” and that “there’s no file browsing system or image viewing application. While these limitations may not affect the vast majority of Steam Machine buyers (who are essentially buying a game console), it certainly impacts folks who are looking at Steam Machines as a replacement for their standard PC. Make no mistake: Steam Machines are PCs posing as game consoles, which comes with both positives and negatives.”

This preview from The Verge explains the inner workings of the beast, saying “Valve designed the case so the parts can breathe individually. The CPU blows air out the top, the power supply out the side, and the graphics card exhaust out back, and none share any airspace within the case.”

“That might sound like common sense, but it’s remarkably hard to find a case that does so while still making it easy to drop components in. Here, the key component responsible for dividing those three zones is a simple plastic shroud which unscrews in a jiffy. The box we touched was already surprisingly cool and quiet, but Valve’s still tweaking the design: we saw Valve printing a couple of the shrouds as we walked through its rapid prototyping lab.”

You may also like to read IGN’s piece on the Steam Controller, which details Valve’s experiments with various input devices, and also has some neat photos of their prototypes. There’s another one from the Seattle Times which doesn’t give too much detailed information, but has a lot of interesting quotes from Valve’s developers.

What do you all think?

22 comments (Leave your own)

So to summarise those articles, at the moment it’s high end HTPC hardware with a very limited/non-functional OS running on top of it.

The lack of even a basic file browser doesn’t inspire confidence that this isn’t just an attempt by Valve to lock down the PC platform in a whole new way.

I’ll be much more interested when I read about someone being able to successfully hack the OS to do something other than what Valve commands.

 
Lord_PorkSword

Even though I prefer Nvidia gfx hardware over AMD (& the new gen consoles having AMD hardware), I would still have had quite a good laugh if the steam box had AMD gfx in the box. It would have been like a jolly Santa belly kind of laugh.
Would have been another crushing blow to Nvidia if that’d happened methinks.

Admittidly I still think “why a Steambox?” if your PC is nice n speccy? Is it for gaming folk with money to burn or to keep grubby kid mingers away from your keyboard?

 

To be honest, this steambox really doesn’t do anything for me.

Also this line here: “Make no mistake: Steam Machines are PCs posing as game consoles, which comes with both positives and negatives.”
It annoys me for some reason. can’t put my finger on it though.

 

kinkykel:
To be honest, this steambox really doesn’t do anything for me.

Also this line here: “Make no mistake: Steam Machines are PCs posing as game consoles, which comes with both positives and negatives.”
It annoys me for some reason. can’t put my finger on it though.

its cos we are part of the PC master race, why would anyone want to disguise their pc as a filthy console hehe ;)

 

I take it the intended market for these is really console people that want to try out PC gaming? I can’t see many people with a good computer and who do most of their gaming with kb+m hoping over to this.

I think the one thing it could do well is a couple f2p or mmo games that the console crowd really lacks. Warthunder/WoT/Rift maybe? It would be awesome if you could get a Dota/LoL game working but I just don’t see that ever happening with a controller.

 

caitsith01:
So to summarise those articles, at the moment it’s high end HTPC hardware with a very limited/non-functional OS running on top of it.

The lack of even a basic file browser doesn’t inspire confidence that this isn’t just an attempt by Valve to lock down the PC platform in a whole new way.

I’ll be much more interested when I read about someone being able to successfully hack the OS to do something other than what Valve commands.

Nothing’s stopping you from putting Windows or your favourite flavour of Linux or your preferred Linux desktop environment on there, the whole point of the Steam Machine platform is to offer a range of prebuilt gaming PC’s that aren’t shit and/or prohibitively expensive, from Valve’s own FAQ:

Can I hack this box? Run another OS? Change the hardware? Install my own software? Use it to build a robot?
Sure.

 

One thing to consider is that the lack of PC like features is intended. It’s to reduce the overhead for the hardware to the gaming. Something that is the opposite of OSx or Windows.

It’s more like getting the game straight from the dev’s and avoiding the Publisher’s altogether ;)

 

SteamOS is made on Linux right? and it’s free? Not ringing bells for anyone? Of course it’s going to get hacked to bits, I’m fairly sure they’ve even stated that they’re fine with people doing what they want with the SteamOS. As has been said, this is aimed at the consolers looking at getting into PC games, They couldn’t care less about a file manager, ability to view images etc. They’re going to use it as a console.

Not to mention, it WILL get hacked up, and those functions will probably be added by modders/linux gurus. Considering Valve are saying that games run better in the Linux environment, apart from these few little things that will be added by the community, why WOULDN’T you use SteamOS? Can always Dual-boot if you wanted as well.

 

Yes, it’s based on Linux and in theory should be hackable.

That’s why I specifically said “I’ll be much more interested when I read about someone being able to successfully hack the OS” – it should be possible, but I’d like to know it has actually been done (and that Steam games still work on a hacked version).

 

I really like the idea of these, I’d use it for streaming my PC’s Steam library to the lounge TV or HD projector, plus throw XBMC on & It would be a nice little device. Keen to see what their pricing will be like on the entry level boxes.

 

I just hope this goes a long way to gaining mainstream support for linux. I dont like where windows is going just waiting to see if win8 is another vista aborration or not. But want linux as viable asap

 
James Pinnell

That case sounds exactly like my BitFenix – all of the card, cpu and power placement are next to vents for natural flow.

 

ball0fire,

Well Said.

 

caitsith01,

you can install windows on it

 

Having gotten off the continual churn of upgrading PCs myself, I am looking forward to seeing how these Steam Boxes are kitted and priced. I think alot of the die hard PC’ers fail to realise that not everyone wants to or can afford the upgrade churn.

Besides, gaming on the couch with a 42in+ tele is a much more comfy venue to come home to especially after sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours.

 

caitsith01,

You won’t have to “hack it”, all you’ll need to do is figure out what package manager it uses, and then install the file manager of your choice. “sudo apt-get install nautilus”, for example, and boom, file manager. Or a different desktop environment, like plain old gnome2/3, or KDE.

(edit) Now that I’ve read the Engadget review, and read that the SteamOS is a custom-built linux, I can’t be completely sure of this. It might still use a standard package manager (deb or rpm), but it might also have it’s own software repositories that may or may not have all that one needs, like file managers, media codecs, etc. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

 

massamo,

But they won’t sell it with Windows though. If you have to go through the business of installing Windows on it instead of using pre-installed SteamOS, you may as well just build your own rig with hand-picked hardware and stick it under your TV (unless you really want the case with the special air-baffles.)

 

downloadacc,

I really don’t want the special case at the moment. But as for Windows, the real steam machines will be made mostly by third parties. These will include machines with windows installed, though I’d be much more interested in the linux versions, and I’m very interested to dig deeper into SteamOS, and to see what this will do for linux gaming in general.

 

redshirt,

Wait – has Valve said they’ll allow third-parties to sell machines with SteamOS installed? I know the OS will be freely available for end users to play around with, but that doesn’t mean Valve will be happy if companies sell machines with it installed if it causes confusion about what is actually the “official”, Valve-created Steam box, as opposed to something else.

 

downloadacc,

SteamOS is apparently open source, which means people are free to take it and modify as they see fit, so long as they include source code and allow others the same freedom. It’s the most common linux software license. GPL v2, usually. For instance, Debian linux is open source, and forms the core of a number of linux distros like Ubuntu, in its early days. The same way Ubuntu was the core of Linux Mint.

For clarification, just read the articles that are linked above. In one, it’s stated that the machine featured here is simply a reference design, and that Valve intends for most Steam machines to be built by third parties. That kind of closes the issue for me.

 
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