Its existence was news to us yesterday, and today Alienware’s Steam Machine is barely visible in the mind’s eye - an image built only on figures of its proportions and ports, devoid of any real idea of what’s inside. But Valve’s Greg Coomer says that Alienware’s new box is the Steam Machine more of us are going to come to know than any other.
“It's what we hoped would happen when we began this relationship about a year ago,” Coomer told The Verge. “This machine is the one that we think is actually going to serve the most customers and make the most Steam users happy.”
A squat three inches high and eight inches wide, Alienware’s Steam Machine would be on the small side for a games console. Its price will allow it to compete with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, while offering resolutions consistently higher. But that doesn’t make it their competitor, exactly.
“We consider this to be a PC gaming console,” said Alienware product manager Marc Diana. “We don't see this product as competing against a PlayStation 4 or competing against an Xbox One.”
Alienware have found room for four USB 3.0 ports, plus HDMI input and output, Gigabit Ethernet and optical audio out. Their Steam Machine a dedicated tool of entertainment, then, with just enough points of contact to be hooked into a living room entertainment system, and not much else. It’ll incorporate an Intel CPU and an Nvidia GPU - but their precise nature remains a mystery.
The Alienware machine offers “an incredibly small footprint, providing the best balance between size, performance and aesthetics for the living room gaming experience” - and its chassis is custom-built to protect against both overheating and intolerable whirring.
In a statement, Gabe Newell said the machine was “a console that encapsulates the full potential of what a Steam Machine should be”. But it's not necessarily its specs or form factor that'll make it so.
Perhaps most importantly, Alienware have access to the distribution channels of their parent company, Dell. Diana claims their Steam Machine will be available in over 60 countries as a result - hardly a given when the majority of its fellows are built by boutique games hardware manufacturers.
Alienware have also promised to introduce their existing X51 to SteamOS, and plan to release both machines late this year. Are one of these living room PCs the Steam Machine for you, do you think?