After a two-year wait, gamers excited to get their hands on Valve's much-hyped Steam Machines can finally do so. The company has started taking a limited amount of pre-orders for its line of SteamOS accessories, which are set to begin shipping Oct. 16 for those customers who make into the first rounds of orders.
Alienware's Steam Machine console has a prominent placement in the Steam store alongside the CyberPowerPC Syber console, the Steam Link streaming device and the visually compelling Steam controller. However, you can't pre-order the consoles directly from the Steam store -- instead, you're redirected to the Syber website or, for Alienware, to the GameStop site.
Aside from the new operating system, the Alienware Steam Machine will feature specs similar to the Alpha, the Windows 8 version of the gaming console that we reviewed last year. Alienware's console competitor has a starting price of $450, and the model at that price will feature an Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU with 2GB of VRAM, along with an included Steam Controller.
For $100 more, Alienware will double the RAM and hard-drive space, but you'll get the same CPU. At $650, the CPU gets bumped up to a Core i5 and the wireless card becomes MIMO-compatible, and $750 gets you a Core i7 processor. The GameStop and Alienware sites don't specify exactly which GeForce GTX graphics cards will be used, but all four models of the Alpha use the GeForce GTX 860M+.
CyberPowerPC's Steam Machine I is priced at $499, which gives you a 3.6-GHz Intel Core i3-4160 CPU mated with a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 GPU with 1GB of VRAM. Those looking for a bit more oomph should check out the middle-tiered Steam Machine P, which costs $729 and will feature a 3.4-GHz Intel Core i5-4460 CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an Nvidia GTX 960 GPU with 2GB of VRAM.
Finally, there's the Steam Machine X, which has a 4.0GHz Intel Core i7-4790K, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 with 4GB of VRAM. But at $1,419, it's nearly twice the cost of the top-of-the-line Alienware model.
If you'd rather just stream your PC games instead of investing in a whole new system, the Steam Link is available for preorder to the tune of a budget-friendly $50. Outfitted with a pair of USB ports, Ethernet and full HDMI, the Link will stream Grand Theft Auto V to your living room, where you can play from the relative comfort of your couch.
And at long last, the Steam controller is finally ready to be caressed by the eager hands of gamers. After going through a number of redesigns (some more awkward than others), Value settled on keeping the two circular mouse pads from the original version while adding an analog stick and some Xbox-style buttons. As an added bonus, Valve is bundling the Controller and the Link for $100.