Alienware's Steam Machine: Our Opinions & The Wrap-Up
The Alienware Steam Machine is great for existing PC gamers who want to easily extend the Steam experience across the rest of their home or dorm room (which could be a great use environment for a machine like this), without merely streaming titles from another PC. It’s also ideal for console gamers looking for a simpler and somewhat familiar way to get into PC gaming to see what the fuss is about.
The SteamOS UI is mostly clean with limited clutter and is easy to navigate once you get used to it. It feels very snappy, smoothly transitioning from in game to the Store to the web browser and back again.
Our main concerns right now are game library volume and that controller. There are nearly 5000 titles available on Steam of which nearly 1400 are compatible for download to a Steam Machine. There are even fewer big, juicy AAA game titles and franchises offered that support the SteamOS. You can, however, always stream any Steam title from a PC to the Steam Machine and that does work fairly well, albeit with the occasional dropped packet. Yet, existing PC Steam users are not really the target audience; it’s new Steam users and primarily those looking for in-the-living-room convenience for PC-quality gaming. So a strong library of downloadable titles is essential.
Also noteworthy, the browser is somewhat limited as well. General web browsing is fine. Even the occasional Neflix movie runs without a hitch. But the browser is without a Flash plugin so Hulu and the like will not run. This will get better as Flash slowly dies off and the web continues to migrate to HTML5, but the limitation currently exists. Regardless, this is where the Steam Machine could use a bit more functionality, like we see in many of the Android set top boxes. We would like to see Linux-friendly app variants for Crackle, Hulu, Spotify and more, similar to what NVIDIA has done with their SHIELD set top box. It would breathe a bit more life into the system as more of the kinks are worked out and more developers come onboard to expand the SteamOS library of titles. Luckily the SteamOS is an open platform so the sky is really the limit for mods and more.The Alienware Steam Machine is an interesting and sometimes compelling new system with promise. For $449, the cost of entry is much higher than say NVIDIA's SHIELD console, but then again, SHIELD only offers Android gaming, not a full PC gaming experience, unless of course you stream your games there too. All Steam Machines need is more support from developers and a few kinks ironed out. Right now, there is nothing quite like it.
Alienware Steam Machine