Dell recently announced that their version of the Alienware Steam Machine will not have the option to upgrade its internal hardware. Which essentially meant that it is effectively an open source console that is not open source. Thankfully, there are other options for getting your hands on this intriguing concept device, which was first unveiled in September last year alongside the Linux-based operating system powering these machines called Steam OS.
Before you attempt this, you should be asking if you even need to have a Steam Machine. The answer is quite likely to be no. However, you probably want one anyway. So how do you get your hands on a Steam Machine in Malaysia?
Valve announced a ridiculous number of manufacturers for the Steam Machine during CES 2014. These 13 companies are offering a Steam Machine for every budget; however, none of them will cost less than a next generation console. More importantly, most of these companies do not have a presence in Malaysia, which limits our local access to the Steam Machine, unless we are prepared to deal with expensive international shipping for a more expensive electronic device.
With that being said, local retailers Tech Armory has announced that it intends to build and sell Steam Machines, and is working to acquire a licence from Valve to manufacture its own Steam Machine, potentially making them the first local Steam Machine manufacturers in the country. However, at this point there’s no real information about what the specifications are, or how much it will cost, but it does give you an extra option.
Turn your PC into a Steam Machine
As long as you aren’t running something this old.
Yes, you could technically install Steam on your PC and call it a Steam Machine. Especially if you just run Steam in Big Picture mode all the time. But that is not quite in the spirit of the Steam Machine. Fortunately, the newest version of SteamOS now properly supports dual-booting without completely wiping the hard disk it’s installed on.
This is the cheapest method to obtain a Steam Machine, because you already own the machine and SteamOS is completely free to download. If your games are already downloaded to your PC, then it makes it easier to play your games on your new Steam Machine.
If you don’t want to dual boot the Steam Machine, you can install SteamOS to a virtual machine. This method doesn’t always work, and some modders believe that Valve didn’t plan for this to happen. The process is quite complicated, but if you are interested in trying it you can find out how on the Steam Community.
The point of the Steam Machine is that anyone can build their own, in case they don’t feel like buying a pre-made version. Building a Steam Machine is exactly the same as building a regular PC, with the only difference being you saving a sizeable amount of money by using SteamOS instead of buying Windows.
The most important part of this method is making sure that you build a system that is either capable of playing the latest games or, at least, better than the specifications found in the next generation consoles. Otherwise, you might as well buy a PlayStation 4.
First of all, you will need to know what the SteamOS hardware requirements.:
- Processor: Intel or AMD 64-bit capable processor
- Memory: 4GB or more RAM
- Hard Drive: 500GB or larger disk
The initial build of SteamOS only allowed it to be installed on newer motherboards that used UEFI instead of BIOS. It also only worked with NVIDIA graphics cards. Thankfully, a recent update has removed the need for UEFI and also included AMD graphics card compatibility. That being said, SteamOS is still full of bugs and will require a decent amount of familiarity with Debian Linux.
To at least match the next generation consoles in performance you will need at least an AMD A8 APU and 8GB of RAM, which should be easy enough on your wallet, but won’t get the most out of the games you are used to on the PC.
Building on a budget is more than possible, and since you won’t be spending money on a monitor the savings can be transferred to either getting a nicer graphics card or more RAM (or both). If anything, it is still possible to get a decent gaming rig for a reasonable price.
Obtaining a Steam Controller
The last ingredient for a Steam Machine is the Steam Controller. While it is possible to live without the odd-looking controller, it just wouldn’t be the same. However, these are not yet in production, and Valve themselves are yet to finalise the design. While waiting, SteamOS is fully compatible with the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Controller for Windows. And to be fair, you will probably be happier with the Xbox version.
Your course of action will depend greatly on your level of technical ability with technology. Building a Steam Machine should only be attempted by those who know what they are doing, or it might be easier to build a regular gaming rig. On the other hand, patience is required when buying a Steam Machine, because they are not yet on the market and with no official release date either.
Knowing Valve, it could be a very long time before the final versions arrive anywhere in the world.