The Alienware Steam Machine has officially been released. It’s one of several major Steam Machines on the market today.
But is it actually a replacement for your gaming PC? Is it an effective solution to your gaming needs? Today, we’re going to review the Alienware Steam Machine and tell you whether or not it’s worth the money.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Alienware Steam Machine is that it’s got an incredibly attractive exterior. The chassis is sleek and stylish and lights up with both a Steam logo as well as an Alienware logo.
Better yet, the whole unit is portable. You can easily take it to a friend’s house, or to a LAN party, or even on vacation in your suitcase.
In case you missed the memo, the biggest difference between a Steam Machine and a traditional gaming PC is that the Steam Machine uses Steam OS, which is a Linux-based operating system.
By default, that system uses Steam’s Big Picture Mode overlay on top. So you don’t boot into the Windows desktop or get to control the machine like a normal PC: you instead interact with your PC exclusively through Steam’s Big Picture Mode.
The Steam Controller has a steep learning curve and it’s certainly unique. Some people will love it, while others will hate it. For everyone, it takes some getting used to.
The controller lets you navigate through the Steam UI while also playing every single game. Since the controller is specifically designed for use with PC games, you’ll find features that you wouldn’t normally see on a gamepad – like a touch-sensitive trackpad.
The Alienware Steam Machine is customizable to feature different tech specs. However, here’s what the standard version of the Steam Machine comes with:
-Nvidia 860M GPU
-Intel Core i5-4950 quad-core CPU at 3GHz
-7200rpm HDD with 1TB storage space
-HDMI (out and in), S/PDIF, 3x USB 2.0, 2x USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac
One of the biggest restrictions with the Steam Machine is that you can’t actually play the full library of Steam games.
That’s an enormous problem for those who, you know, wanted to use their Steam Machines to play Steam games.
Currently, approximately one fifth of the entire Steam library is supported by Linux and Steam OS. That’s still an enormous number of games, but you’ll find that many titles are lacking.
Popular games supported by Steam OS include Bioshock Infinite, The Talos Principle, Shadow of Mordor, Ark: Survival Evolved, and Half Life 2.
What you won’t find is flagship games like Fallout 4, GTA V, or Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Making matters worse is that many of the games that are supported aren’t optimized to run on Linux, which means you’ll run into performance problems.
There’s also another problem: there are some games that aren’t sold on Steam. That means you won’t be able to play games from Origin or Battle.net on your Steam Machine, for example.
As MaximumPC mentioned in their review, even MacOS has a greater library of games available on Steam (5,602 titles). Meanwhile, Linux support has only been extended to 3,389 games.
Alienware does sell a Windows version of their Steam Machine. Some people say that this defeats the purpose of the Steam Machine, while others say that it solves all of the problems of the Steam Machine.
The fact is: the Alienware equivalent with Windows costs $100 more – which isn’t much of a price to pay considering the expanded functionality.
Steam comes with a browser built in, so you can access anything you would normally access over your internet browser – including Netflix.
You won’t, however, find native video streaming apps or other things that let you expand the functionality of your Steam Machine – which is annoying if you plan on using it as your only living room console.
Steam Machines start at $449.99 USD (for the i3 version) while the Core i5 version is priced at $599.99 and the Core i7 version at $699.99.
Ultimately, the Steam Machine is a niche device for a niche audience. If you don’t like Windows, exclusively play Steam games, and are looking for a PC that suits your living room perfectly, then the Steam Machine might meet your needs. For everyone else, a traditional Alienware Windows PC will offer vastly improved functionality without a huge added cost.