Steam Box Beta units have shipped. and I like what i’m seeing.

steamboxAlright, I’m going to have to start RIGHT off the bat with three bright shiny disclaimers

1. this image is from Ifixit.com because it is simply beautifully laid out, I love their articles check them out.

2. I am not PERSONALLY one of the lucky 300 beta testers to receive a box, again i am using photos and info on HARDWARE from IFIXIT. I am currently running a live version of Steam OS however though so i can gladdy claim to have first hand experience there.

3. I am UTTERLY biased, here, any regular readers will know that i am HEAVILY biased in the direction of PC gaming, and furthermore could not be more in bed with Steam/ Valve. I’ve been playing their games and using their software since counterstrike, and am still quite happy to buy anything shiny they place in front of me and can show me that i want.

now that that’s all covered lets dig in.

 

Since this is a beta I’d like to focus primarily on 3  main areas, Hardware, Software, and Impact.

 

HARDWARE – 9.5 / 10

The picture above illustrates one of the beta units given to IFIXIT.com  fully disassembled, and i was almost GIDDY when i saw it. The outside box isn’t anything groundbreaking to write home about, but these guts are a thing of absolute beauty.

ifixit-steam-machine-teardown-linux-gaming-deskop-pc-610x462

Now Someone else might be looking at this right now and saying what’s so great about it, but compare it to this disassembled PS4 and perhaps you’ll see a bit better what i mean.

Y1cIvgG3uIhTQsYN.medium

If you’re looking at this and seeing just two indiscriminate piles of computer parts then let me expand.  Everything in the ps4 except the hard drive and arguably the disk drive are completely one off and unique, if something breaks you’re replacing everything, and upgrade ability is little more then a laughable topic in this device.

The steam box on the other hand (except for that marvelous little motherboard which i feel sure will be available for purchase elsewhere) is off the shelf, 100% consumer purchasable parts, standard pc parts to be precise. want to upgrade your processor a year later? rock on bro, that’s a 100% market standard LGA1155 processor slot. new graphics cards come out and you wanna be on the cutting edge with the PC elitists? That’s just a riser card with a PCI express 3.0 x16 slot bro, pick any one you like. The steambox has done amazingly to create a completely modular PC that fits under your tv, which is what i’ve been dreaming of for a decade now.

 

SOFTWARE – 7/10

as mentioned in the disclaimer above, I wasn’t chosen to be a hardware beta tester, however the beta operating system is available for free download in multiple locations and is completely open to the public to test, so I did. I’ve been using the software on a specialized machine i built for precisely this purpose ( CORE i3-4330, 8 GB DDR3, EVGA GTX 660) The software runs pretty well, and you’ll be pleased to note that it is essentially a mirror image of steam big picture mode, tit for tat i see no difference in the end user experience whatsoever.

if you want to see for yourself what it’s going to look like just download or open your steam client and click big picture mode on the top right, couldn’t be much simpler really.

Within the software you have a really neat display of all your steam games as well as access to the steam store to buy more games. a very well integrated friends and chat system, and the steam web browser which i can confirm supports streaming video from 3rd party sites such as youtube, Hulu, netflix, vimeo, and other sites.

It is worth nothing that many “free streaming” sites like funimation.com,. crunchyroll, and DAiyusuke work as well, in addition to the copyright skirting sites such as streetfire.net, veoh.com, animefreak.tv, etc. I found no instances where video would not play, though sites that incur pop ups or pop-out video are a tad tricky to address, because of the way the steam browser handles tabs.

Right now I believe the OS is worthy of a 7/10 rating because of its wide compatibility, ease of use, and its open source code which always scores big points by me, as well as it’s openness to the public regarding its features and willingness to recieve consumer feedback. Once AMD support is added i feel confident giving the OS an 8/10, it is still in beta of course, so i don’t expect amd driver support to be far behind, but i can’t consciously give it an 8 without those features, or some sort of software manager like the one actually housed in the parent OS Ubuntu, or a way to reach  full linux desktop.

The Biggest risk right now is the need for linux support for the games, which will only come with sufficient interest. very few games are working with this new OS yet, and hopefully this continues to grow, but this is again a concern.

 

IMPACT – tough at this point

It will have to be seen that the same build methods shown in the beta units are what actually hit your living room.

it will have to be seen if the Steam OS is considered by developers when creating the game given that all consoles still run on xx6 architecture

it will have to be seen the final price and performance of these machines

most importantly, if the console market can be struck by these boxes.

 

The biggest question can only be answered with releases and there are tons of possible answers, but what do YOU think will come of the steambox.

 

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