Gamers disappointed by news of Steam controller and SteamOS operating system delays have something new to smile about. Alienware has unveiled the Alpha gaming console. Due to launch during the 2014 holiday season, the $549 device aims to bridge the gap between PC and gaming consoles.
Just don't call the Alpha a Steam Box...at least not yet. Since SteamOS is delayed until sometime in 2015, Alpha will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to Valve's operating system when it becomes available. For now, the device will rely on a custom Alienware Alpha Console-mode UI. The interface will enable gamers to interact with the console using only a controller, including launching Steam Big Picture Mode and accessing media.
Alienware also added the ability to change the system's LED lighting -- a company trademark. In place of the uniquely-designed Steam controller, the Alpha will ship with a Xbox 360 controller.
While the Alpha will primarily be used as a gaming console, it can also be used as a regular PC.
The Alpha's base model will feature a Haswell dual-core Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM an a 500GB hard drive. The system will employ a custom-built Nvidia “Maxwell” based GPU with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Consumers looking for more power can configure the Alpha with either Core i5 or Core i7 processors, with up to 8GB of RAM and up to a 2TB hard drive. Pricing has yet to be announced for the more powerful configurations.
Port-wise, gamers can expect a pair of USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, HDMI-out, HDMI-in, Gigabyte Ethernet and Optical Audio out. The Alpha also features Dual-band Wireless-AC 2x2 with Bluetooth 4.0.
Fancy specs are nice, but a gaming machine is only as good as its library of games. The Alpha will be relying on Steam's ever-growing catalog of titles to help it stand toe-to-toe with competitors. Alienware is betting that the sheer affordability of Steam games will make the Alpha that much more appealing to gamers.
At the time of this writing, there are more than 1,000 games featured in the Steam Store that are less than $10. And 470 of those titles are are gamepad-compatible, with 233 games featuring full co-op support.