Alienware Steam Machine Review: Dell's SteamOS Console Competitor

Alienware Steam Machine Introduction

Dell's Alienware Steam Machine is under the microscope today. In partnership with several leading PC makers, Valve has finally taken their often-talked about Steam Machine with custom SteamOS to market, promising the depth and precision of PC gaming driven by a purpose-built operating system, that offers a standardized platform similar to a tried and true "just push play" console gaming experience.

The Alienware Steam Machine seems like just the thing for PC gamers looking for a simpler way to game without a lot of fuss and configuration. What’s a Steam Machine, you ask? The Steam Machine is a PC-based set top box that functions as a dedicated portal into the Steam digital marketplace, where players can download or stream games and media just as you would using Steam on your desktop PC.
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Historically, software has been Valve's bread and butter. Rumblings of the company’s hardware aspirations began in 2012 with the launch of the Linux-supported version of Steam, followed by Steam Big Picture. The latter introduced a brand new controller and TV-friendly UI to the Steam platform on the PC, incorporating enlarged icons and a more Spartan look, very similar to Xbox Live at the time. It was a virtual testbed for what would become the user interface used in today’s Steam Machines. Moreover, Valve’s continued work on Steam for Linux birthed the SteamOS, the Linux-based operating system powering all currently available Steam Machines. Finally, the company created its own unique Steam controller and the Steam Link technology, which streams (via WiFi) PC games from an existing Steam account to a second screen, like a big screen HDTV. Each is sold separately for those uninterested in a full Steam Machine. However, the full Alienware Steam Machine we have today comes packaged with a single Steam Controller, and because the machine runs the Steam client, in-home streaming from other machines on the network running Steam is also possible.

The system was built from the ground up to be more suited for HDTVs and living rooms, than the sometimes stuffy and cramped desk spaces familiar to PC gamers. Alienware's Steam Machine saunters in to offer--quite possibly--the best of both gaming worlds; gameplay depth and complexity beyond conventional console standards made possible using a somewhat-standardized hardware platform (configurations may very) for prosaic ease-of use compared to PC gaming proper. Sounds like a gamer’s land of milk and honey, but is it?

Before we get into the nuts and bolts, let’s see what’s inside...

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