Honestly when I first heard of the Steam Machines I thought to myself who would really want something like that? I think that most PC gamers feel that way. But after having the Alienware Steam Machine for a few weeks now I can say that it does have a place, even in the hardcore PC gamers house!
Now if you have a PC already how does the Steam Machine compliment that? Well first it gives you the ability to play your games on the big screen. For me my PC not only is where I play games but it is where I work, get news, watch YouTube etc. Because of this I spend many hours in the office and it is nice to escape this from time to time. For me at least it is much more relaxing to kick back on the couch and play some games. Also being on the big screen in your living room means that it is easier to play multiplayer games with friends. Not everyone wants to be crowded in front of a monitor.
If you are a console gamer or someone looking into PC games, but might not want to build their own PC the Alienware Steam Machine is a great choice. For one it is extremely easy to set up and of course the entire setup can be done using the controller, you don’t need a keyboard or mouse. On top of that you do have access to the Steam Store, which as we said has over 1500 titles that are SteamOS compatible. Many of these games are under $5 and Steam always has great sales so you can always pick up games for a low cost. The Steam Controller is quite easy to use and while it might take a little bit to get used to, I feel it is the perfect mesh between the true PC gaming world and the controller world.
When it comes to performance we can tell you that every game that we played looked great and played quite well on the system. Our version of the Alienware Steam Machine (model: ASM100-2980BLK) is powered by an Intel Core i3 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU with 2GB of memory (NVIDIA GTX 860M), 8GB of DDR3 memory, and a 1 TB hard drive. You should no problem getting your games to run on the system. Another thing that I want to point out about the system is that for what it does it is extremely small and compact. On top of that it is very quiet.
Of course the Steam Machine can not only be used for gaming. Steam offers quite a lot of different video titles that you can purchase or watch for free. Built into Steam is a browser so you can easily browse and watch Netflix, YouTube and Twitch. Being built on Linux you can also access the Linux desktop if you feel so inclined to. This gives you the ability to have a true desktop experience and install Linux software.
Now there are some issues and concerns with the system that I would like to point out and these are mainly to do with SteamOS and not Alienware. Game selection is one of the biggest issues with getting a true Steam Machine. In order to run games (without streaming from another PC) the games need to be able to run on SteamOS. While there is a large library of games (1500+) that are SteamOS compatible, that does not include all titles. For example Fallout 4 just came out and while you can play it on PC if you wanted to play it on this Steam Machine without streaming it from your PC you couldn’t. That would be a bummer to someone who solely has a Steam Machine only.
Another big part of the gaming community is streaming, game recording and game communication. On a PC I can easily stream and record my gameplay by using applications like Xsplit, OBS, or NVIDIA’s game broadcaster. On the Steam Machine technically you could install an application like this if it is Linux-compatible, but if you are not versed in Linux it is not the easiest thing to do. And Linux versions of software are not always up to date or stable. We managed to get OBS installed on the Steam Machine, but it would not load. This can be frustrating for someone who wants to stream. Yes I know you can stream using an external capture card, but that of course is an extra cost to you. This is the same thing with applications like Teamspeak and Ventrilo, if there is a Linux version you’ll have to figure out how to install it.
So what sets Alienware’s Steam Machine apart from other Steam Machine’s out there? Besides looks and hardware which you can match up with on many other Steam Machines, Alienware is giving users a pretty nice content bundle that will come with the Steam Machine. This includes games PAYDAY 2 2015 GOTY edition, Screencheat, and Robot Roller-Derby Disco Dodgeball. And then you also will get Branded skin and 200 Mammoth Coins in Brawlhalla, M18 Black Cat Tank and XP-38G Lighting plane in Warthunder, and exclusive demos of Coffin Dodgers.
At the end of the day I really do like the Steam Machine and it has a lot of promise. I really hope that Valve works with game developers to get more titles available as well as add more features to make the Steam Machines more than just a gaming machine. And as SteamOS becomes more popular hopefully we will see Linux versions of some of the gaming-related software we use on Windows, and of course guides on how to install this software for use Linux newbies!
Alienware has really done a great job on their Steam Machine, it is very small, powerful, quiet and looks great! It brings PC gaming to the living room in a big way, and more importantly in an easy to use way! The model which we reviewed (ASM100-2980BLK) sells directly from Alienware for $549. Overall ThinkComputers gives the Alienware Steam Machine a 9 out of 10 score!
– Small and compact
– Quiet operation
– Powerful enough to play all recent games
– Included content bundle
– Ability to stream games from your PC if they are not compatible with SteamOS
– HDMI-in port
– Community of Steam Controller configurations
– Not as many titles as Windows (SteamOS issue)
– Is Linux based so it’s harder to find compatible software for streaming and other tasks (SteamOS issue)
– Steam Controller runs on batteries and is not rechargeable