When it comes to the gaming duel of PC vs console gaming, PC gaming has always been played on a desk with a small display controlled by a mouse and keyboard, while gaming consoles have controllers and are played on the television in your living room. Well, Valve’s Steam Machine is changing all that.
The Steam Machine is a PC / console hybrid gaming platform where you can play all your PC games on a big screen and its revolutionary controller. In a nutshell, it’s an exciting gaming console that’ll be the center of entertainment for your living room very soon. Here’s everything you need to know about the Steam Machine: what it’s made of, how it functions and when you can own one.
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What Is A Steam Machine?
Stripped down, a Steam Machine is a very tiny but powerful computer. A teardown of the prototype Steam Machine Valve gave to 300 lucky souls revealed that the components within the Machine were things you could buy from a PC store and build on your own.
It uses a Mini-ITX motherboard, the only motherboard with a size that will fit into a casing slightly larger than an XBox 360. Other than that, it has all the things a standard PC has: processor, RAM, hard drive, with one of the top graphics cards from NVIDIA.
(Image Source: iFixit)
With the secret out, many custom PC building companies are already in talks to build their own version of the Steam Machine. What they don’t have, however, is the Steam Operating System.
About Steam OS
Since the Steam Machine is basically a small-sized desktop PC, what makes it unique is the Steam OS. Steam OS is Linux-based and open source and its the thing that is powering all the hulabaloo about Steam. Currently, you can use Steam’s Big Picture feature to play Steam games on your living room TV, but it can go a lot further.
Steam OS wants to include wireless streaming of PC and Mac games from the powerful desktop in your room to the basic Steam Machine in your living room with little compromise of the controls and graphics. It’ll also have family sharing features where multiple members can unlock game achievements at their own pace without interfering with each other’s saved games.
Users can also control what game titles are seen by whom – this creates a secure, non-violent gaming environment for the young ones. Steam is also working with online media services so you’ll be able to enjoy music and TV content through the Steam Machine without another dedicated streaming device.
Steam OS is currently still in beta mode but if reviews you see everyone online is anything to go by, it may amount to something that rivals the latest gaming consoles.
Revolutionary Steam Controller
Games made for PC differ from those made on consoles, even if they’re the same title from the same developer. This is especially true for first person shooter (FPS) games as there are slight ‘auto-aim’ features on console games to compensate for the lack of accuracy achieve on a controller compared to a mouse and keyboard.
Since Steam is targeting PC gamers, they have to tend to this issue by creating a controller that can replace the mouse and keyboard. The Steam machine also needs a controller setup that allows up to 8 players to bring their own controllers and hook it up with the console for a good game. There are PC controllers on the market but plug and play has always been easier on a PlayStation or XBox.
(Image Source: The Verge)
To find the perfect mouse and keyboard replacement, they prototyped many designs that included traditional thumbsticks and old-school trackballs but ended up with clickable trackpads for aim and movement. The controller that will be released in 2014 will also feature a touch panel in the center and buttons at the back.
How Can I Own A Steam Machine?
Right now, the Steam Machines you can find online are 1 of 300 that Valve has sent out to beta participants. For everyone else, you can try out Steam OS by building your own computer and following these directions — be warned, it’s a bit complicated.
It won’t be long before other companies release their own rendition of the Machine, so it’s really a matter of waiting for Steam to finalize the OS and get their controller into production. Companies like iBuyPower and Digital Storm have already released their own Steam Machines at CES 2014.
(Image Source: iBuyPower)
These Machines will be available in a variety of designs, letting gamers choose how they want to decorate their living rooms slash gaming centers. Prices will also vary based on the installed hardware.
Unlike the PS4 or XBox One, games on the Steam Machine can run at different graphics settings just like on the PC, allowing for some compromise on visuals but relief on your pockets.
Final Verdict: Getting A Steam Machine
The Steam Machine could replace current generation gaming consoles and can also be the only entertainment system your living room needs. Gamers also won’t have to pay for any additional subscription or membership fees like the PlayStation Network (PSN) or XBox Live service. A basic Steam Machine can also be cheaper than a PS4 or XBox One but still give you an enjoyable gaming experience.
(Image Source: Colbehr)
PC gamers will be able to enjoy all their games even if their main machine is a Mac as they’ll be able to stream it to the big screen. This may extend to stream media content from your desktop in your bedroom or online content streamed through in-built media services.