Valve has partnered with several PC makers who all offer their own take on the Steam Machine using different components, yet unified by the SteamOS. Manufacturer pricing varies dramatically. However the Alienware Steam Machine we're looking at here today is configured with some previous generation hardware and frankly, likely in need of a refresh.
|Alienware Steam Machine Configuration Tested
|Intel Core i3 Powered
||4th Generation Intel Core i3-4170T Processor Dual-Core (3MB Cache, up to 3.2 GHz)
||1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s
||4th 4GB Dual Channel DDR3L 1600MHz
||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5
Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 1x1 + Bluetooth 4.0
|Ports And Connectivity
USB 2.0 (Front), 2x USB 3.0 (Back), 1x RJ45 GbE, 1x HDMI-Out 1.4a, 1x
1x optical audio out (Toslink), 1x DC in and a single internal USB 2.0 –
Tool-less access via bottom door
|Pricing: $449 As Tested|
The Alienware Steam Machine has all the makings of a gaming capable Mini PC, although one aspect is very different…
The Steam Controller
We have included a picture of two other game controllers for reference. As you can see the Steam Controller has a very different look and layout than the other two (an Xbox 360 and an NVIDIA SHIELD console
controller). It’s noticeably larger than the older Xbox 360 controller and about as large as NVIDIA’s SHIELD Controller. The new Steam gamepad works wirelessly using an included USB dongle and two AA batteries or tethered with the included mini-USB cable.
The four main face buttons are positioned lower, toward the middle of the controller. These are found to the upper right on other game controllers. Beyond that, it wields some truly unique functionality. The Steam Controller is a bit of a mash-up between mouse and keyboard control and conventional console controller functionality.
Navigating through the system UI and web browser is rather instinctive with a small learning curve. The two touch pads pull double and triple duty working as button inputs, a D-Pad and mouse cursor. They each offer slight vibration feedback across the pads, which changes in speed depending on how fast you move your thumb across them.
The system’s virtual keyboard is split in two, like an ergonomic keyboard. The left touch pad handles the left half of the keyboard inputs, while the right handles its corresponding side of the virtual keyboard. It’s very similar to how we type in the real world and helps smooth out the drudgery of typing on a controller, much more so than conventional controllers. It's a nice touch to be sure.
Now let’s check out some titles and see what it’s like to game on the Alienware Steam Machine.