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Emtec Play Cube Steambox Hands-on: Capable but Pricey

LAS VEGAS –While devices that run on the SteamOS platform remain elusive, other companies have adopted the Steambox mantle for living room PCs with a special emphasis on Valve's digital download platform. Emtec's Play Cube PC Games Box is not a Steambox in the truest sense of the word, but for PC gamers looking to bring the experience to the big screen, it's a good place to start.

I played with the PC Games Box (also called the Play Cube Steambox) at CES 2015. The device itself is a small box with a Steam logo on it that plugs into your TV via an HDMI cable. From there, hook up a controller or mouse and keyboard, and you're ready to go. The device is optimized for wireless peripherals (either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi dongles), but also supports wired ones.

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The Play Cube Steambox runs Windows 8.1, but has a specialized Emtec overlay to make navigation easier. When you first boot the device, it will take you to a menu that lets you choose games, music, moves or other applications. Selecting games will bring up your Steam library, and the Play Cube Steambox can run just about anything in the platform's library.

I played through a level in action-brawler Ryse: Son of Rome on the system. While the Play Cube Steambox could not run it with the settings turned all the way up, it looked as good and played as well as the Xbox One version of the game. I did not encounter any lag or screen tearing, and both the combat and movement felt extremely smooth.

Emtec representatives admitted that the platform cannot run every single title on Steam. The box's innards, while powerful, are not quite state-of-the-art. The Steambox uses an Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 graphics card, an Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB RAM, with a 1 TB hard drive to store games.

At the $899 asking price, you could build a much more powerful system yourself, but Emtec hopes to sell the device based on its small size (115.4 x 59.6 x 128.0 mm), its convenient overlay and the fact that you don't have to hunt down parts and construct it yourself.

The Emtec Steambox is unlikely to be of much interest to hardcore PC enthusiasts, but users who are ready to make the jump from console to PC gaming and don't want to sacrifice their favorite spot on the couch might want to keep an eye on it.

Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.