SAN FRANCISCO -- 2015 is shaping up as the year of the Steam Box. After two years of silence from Valve, I finally saw my first Steam Box in the wild -- sort of. The mini-PC maker, Zotac, was on hand at the Valve booth during GDC 2015 to show off a prototype of the SN970, a compact device set to launch sometime this November. With a tentative price of $999, the device offers an enticing mix of high-end specs, attractive design and a variety of ports that makes this box perfect for nearly any room in the home.
Unlike most Zotac Mini PCs that feature a black chassis, the SN970 is going two-tone with a pair of white plastic panels on the top and bottom. The sides will be composed of black aluminum for a minimalist design that blends in with a living room setup. The top panel is emblazoned with the company's glossy black emblem.
The mockup I saw looked rather stately and I had no problems envisioning the product resting unassumingly under my TV stand. When it launches, Zotac estimates it will weigh somewhere between 3 and 5 pounds.
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You want ports? The SNC970 is jam-packed with them, enough to handle multiple display and any other peripheral you can think to plug in. Along the back of the box, you'll find a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, four HDMI slots to handle multiple 4K displays, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, a coaxial cable port, a power cable and a mini DisplayPort. I was informed that the lone DisplayPort will be swapped out for yet another HDMI port, enabling the device to act as a DVR.
The front of the SNC970 features two additional ports, jacks for mic-in, stereo out, a 3-in-1 card reader and a large power button.
Designed for your living room, powerful enough for your desktop. Zotac found a way to cram quite a bit of power into the SNC970's compact frame. The Steam Box will ship with a 6th-generation Intel Skylake processor, 8GB of RAM, a 64GB M.2 SSD with a 1TB hard drive and a Nvidia GeForce 970M GPU with 3GB of VRAM. In addition, the device will feature Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. As a true Steam Box, the SNC970 will come pre-loaded with SteamOS for easy access to Steam's TV-friendly Big Picture Mode.
In the interest of futureproofing, Zotac has ensured that can swap out several components, including storage. The company will bundle a Steam Controller with the SNC970 to sweeten the deal.
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After seemingly laying dormant for the last two years, Steam is finally ready to make its case on why it should have a place on your living room space. If the Zotac SNC970 with its powerful specs and compact is any indication, Steam is on to something. The device should have the ability to act as a media player/game console with plenty of power to spare if you want to crank out a paper or two on a big screen. The $999 price tag might give some consumers sticker shock, but I won't be surprised if the price changes before the November launch.