Valve's First Steam Machine Prototype Is Crazy Powerful

Illustration for article titled Valve's First Steam Machine Prototype Is Crazy Powerful

Valve's first Steam Machine—the one they'll be sending out to 300 beta users later this year—will be a super-high-end machine. And the specs are crazy impressive.


This afternoon, Valve spilled a whole bunch of details on the first-ever Steam Machine, which the company officially announced last week. This one is a high-end, totally upgradeable box that Valve says won't be for everyone. No word on price yet—and the final high-end Steam Machine might wind up looking a lot different—but this prototype will be pretty damn powerful.

Here's Valve with the breakdown:

So for our own first prototype Steam Machine ( the one we're shipping to 300 Steam users ), we've chosen to build something special. The prototype machine is a high-end, high-performance box, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts. It is also fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, even the motherboard if you really want to. Apart from the custom enclosure, anyone can go and build exactly the same machine by shopping for components and assembling it themselves. And we expect that at least a few people will do just that. (We'll also share the source CAD files for our enclosure, in case people want to replicate it as well.)

And to be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase - those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package. Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions.

Here are the specifications for Valve's 300 prototypes.

The 300 prototype units will ship with the following components:
GPU: some units with NVidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760, and some GTX660
CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

For some context on those dimensions: the Xbox Slim is 10.6 x 10.39 x 2.95 inches. The PS3 Slim is 11.4 x 11.4 x 2.55 inches. This Steam Machine is, within a few inches, comparable to both of those consoles.

Fun with pricing: To get some idea of how much these babies will cost, we've put together some sample PCs using PCPartPicker. These are just rough estimates, of course, and they don't account for costs of the controller and whatever other mark-ups are in place here. We don't know what kind of motherboards the Steam Machines will use, so we picked appropriate options for each processor. We used 1TB 5400RPM drives here, though it's possible that some (or all) of the highest-end Steam Machines will use 7200RPM drives. These are also mid-sized (cheap) cases—the Steam Machines will be smaller and prettier.

The highest end possibility here, with a Titan and an i7 CPU, clocks in at around $1,850.

One mid-range option, with a GTX-780 and an i5 CPU, would run you close to $1,350.


The lowest-end (of these high-end machines), using a GTX660 and an i3 CPU, could go for something like $880.

These beta prototypes will be free, of course.

Valve wants to be clear, here: this is going to be pricey. Not everyone will be able to afford one of the highest-end Steam Machines. Not to worry—there will be other options.


"So high-powered SteamOS living room machines are nice, and fun to play with, and will make many Steam customers happy," Valve writes. "But there are a lot of other Steam customers who already have perfectly great gaming hardware at home in the form of a powerful PC. The prototype we're talking about here is not meant to replace that. Many of those users would like to have a way to bridge the gap into the living room without giving up their existing hardware and without spending lots of money. We think that's a great goal, and we're working on ways to use our in-home streaming technology to accomplish it - we'll talk more about that in the future. "

This machine, like all of Valve's official Steam Machines, will run SteamOS, the company's proprietary, Linux-based operating system. If you want to enter the beta, and you haven't signed up yet, you can find full instructions here.


Whitson Gordon

Is it just me, or does this seem really overpowered?

An i7 and 16GB of RAM are not necessary for good gaming, especially on a 1080p TV, which is what these steam machines are designed for. 8GB and an i5 are more than enough. Heck, even a Titan seems comically overpowered for single-monitor 1080p gaming.