The Steam Boxes are rising. Valve has pulled back the curtain on 14 new devices that will run the company’s Linux-based gaming platform. SteamOS promises to deliver the power of PC gaming in the compact design of a game console. In addition to souped-up graphics, Steam Boxes will also ship with Steam’s innovative controller that uses a pair of touchpads instead of the typical dual analog sticks. Although Valve has yet to release the details on its own Steam Box, we have all the juicy details on the ones that have been announced thus far.
This wee Steam Box has the distinction of being the smallest of the bunch. Measuring 4.5 x 2.34 x 4.34 inches and weighing a dainty 0.89 pounds, the Maingear Spark is smaller and lighter than your average bread box. When it launches, the red-and-black dynamo will feature a number of ports, including four USB 3.0 ports, a mini-DisplayPort, an HDMI port, an Ethernet port and a Kensington Lock, with jacks for headphones and power. Running on AMD's A8-5575M processor and Radeon R9 M275X GPU, the Spark won't be the most powerful Steam Box on the block, but it will definitely be the most portable one, able to fit in most bags.
Starting at $499, CyberPowerPC's Steam Machine is one of the most affordable options for gamers looking to bring Steam into their living rooms. The price tag puts CyberPowerPC in direct competition with the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, which cost $499 and $399, respectively. The company hasn't instituted any radical changes on the design front, retaining the boxy segments seen in many of its notebooks. The $499 version of the Steam Box will feature a 3.9-GHz AMD A6-6400K CPU and AMD Radeon R9 270 GPU. The company is also offering a $699 model with a 3.5-GHz Intel Core i3-4330 processor with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 GPU.
Digital Storm Bolt II
The Bolt II is a small-form-factor PC with a big surprise. When it launches, Digital Storm's diminutive desktop will be the only Steam Machine that can dual-boot between Windows and SteamOS, thus allowing users to play games on either platform. By packing a 240-mm liquid cooling system and perforated vents into the Bolt II, Digital Storm hopes to double the cooling power while keeping the gaming nice and hot.
iBuyPower is another company looking to go after the next-gen market's bottom line. In the right lighting, this $499 SBX could pass for a modded-out PS4. However, iBuyPower's rig will pack a little more punch, with either the Intel or AMD quad-core processor that's available with the Radeon GNC Graphics.
Next is one of the lesser-known OEMs to offer up a Steam Machine. Besides the half-lime-green X featured on the front, the Spa comes in a rather unassuming black box. But as the adage states, it's what's inside that counts. The Spa boasts an Intel Core i5 processor with 8GB of RAM, 1TB of storage and an Nvidia GT 760 video card. No word on pricing or availability, but hopefully, this Steam Box will be as invigorating as its namesake.
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Origin PC Chronos
Time favors no man or woman, but hopefully, Origin PC's Chronos will be a bit kinder. The system offers a host of high-powered specs, such as a 3.9-GHz Intel Core i7 4770K CPU, up to 32GB of RAM and up to a whopping 14TB of storage. But the Chronos' claim to fame is that it is currently the only Steam Box to come with dual Nvidia GeForce Titan GPUs.
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Considering its antennas, we wouldn't blame you for mistaking the Zotac for a fancy router. But make no mistake that with its yet-to-be-announced Intel processor and Nvidia GPU, the $599 Zotac is all Steam Machine.
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Webhallen's Steam Machine looks more like a mini fridge than a gaming machine. It might not keep your food chilled, but Webhallen is delivering some cool specs, such as a 3.5-GHz Intel Core i7 4771 CPU and an Nvidia GTX 780 GPU.
Falcon Northwest Tiki
Meet the $6,000 PC with Steam Box ambitions. Starting at $1,799, the tower will likely support a high level of customization. Early reports show that the device will have a powerful Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan video card. Falcon's Tiki is sure to stand out in the crowd, thanks to the telltale emblem on the front and the neon-blue and purple design along the side. Another quirky design note is the shiny marble base.
The Materiel Steam Machine has a plain, monolithic motif that's handsome and imposing, yet nondescript enough to blend into the background. Keeping with its unassuming design, the rig is outfitted with mid-level specs, including a Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM, an 8GB/1TB hybrid drive and Nvidia GTX graphics. Priced at $1,098, Materiel's box will appeal to gamers that want powerful specs, without breaking the bank.
Gigabyte Brix Pro
Gigabyte is out to prove that it's not the size of the box that matters, but how you use it. Like the Maingear Spark, the Brix Pro can be tossed into a bag or purse for easy transport. However, the Pro will pack more of a punch, thanks to its Core i7 CPU and Intel Iris Pro graphics. We're just hoping its price tag will be as small as its dimensions.
Whereas other Steam machines went big and boxy, Scan went long and wide. The NC10's slim, silvery, aluminum chassis is captivating. But for the $1,090 price, we're hoping that Scan will offer better components than the Intel Core i3 processor and Nvidia GTX 765M with which it's slated to debut.
Alternate is another OEM that decided to go with the nondescript black-box look with middle-of-the-road specs. The exterior is slathered in black, brushed aluminum, and with a small, red logo along the front for a much-needed touch of color. We wouldn't blame you for mistaking it for a large subwoofer. The specs are ho-hum, with a 3.2-GHz Intel Core i5-4570 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSHD and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 GPU.
The company best known for its attention-grabbing design is being surprisingly coy with the details of its nascent Steam Machine. Alienware has not yet revealed any specs or pricing for this machine. However, fans of the brand can rest assured that the company's trademark flashing lights will be present and accounted for at launch. File this one under Stay Tuned.