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E3 2014: Alienware's Alpha Steam Machine Costs $550, Comes With Xbox 360 Controller
Valve announced that their Steam controller would be delayed to 2015 (just like all the other big exclusives, apparently). With the Steam Machines due to ship this fall, Alienware came up with a contingency to include an Xbox 360 controller in their upcoming Steam Machine.
Not only did Alienware swap out the Steam controller with an Xbox 360 controller, but their $550 Steam Machine will come packed with a lite version of Windows 8.1 and a modified, built-in version of Steam's Big Picture Mode. That's right, no SteamOS just yet.
Ultimately this isn't a true desktop and it's not quite a Steam Machine, it's some sort of software cyborg hybrid like the not-quite-human, not-quite-robots from American Cyborg: Steel Warrior.
According to PC World, Alienware's Alpha Steam Machine will enable users to easily and conveniently play all of their games from the modified Steam Big Picture mode that will be dedicated for playing games and navigating the menus with a controller. Of course, there will still be some problems for third-party games that only support a keyboard and mouse (USB peripherals to the rescue?).
Alienware general manager Frank Azor commented about their contingent replacement of the expected Steam Controller and SteamOS with something a little more rara avis, saying...
"Steam Big Picture mode is a great solution already," ... "It's been shipping for over a year, so it's a mature solution."
The GPU is soldered to the board and is running on “Maxwell”-based specs with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM.
According to the PC World article, Azor commented that the performance of the GPU is comparable to the Xbox One and PS4, which shouldn't be too surprising given that they're running mid-ranged GPUs (according to 2013's standards).
There will be HMI-out for easy plug-n-play with your HDTV, as well as an HDMI-in pass-through, just like the Xbox One. This means if you have the proper apps, you can use the Alienware Alpha to watch TV on your TV.
Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports are also included, along with an optical audio out.
The Alpha will come with a 500GB standard HDD but with the option to upgrade to a 1TB or 2TB HDD.
The i3 Haswell that powers the unit might be seen by some as weak, but you're getting a dual-core 3.4ghz machine, which will be enough to run most non-CPU intensive open-world games. Personally I think a quad-core at 3.4ghz would have been enough and would easily match and outperform the new-gen twins. But shucks, that i3 is only going to be good for the short term.
As for RAM? Well, out of the box you have 4GB of 1600mhz memory with the option to upgrade to 8GB. That's not too bad and you won't really see 8GB get put to use for AAA PC-centric games until maybe late 2015 or 2016. Keep in mind that the overhead on Steam Machines will be a lot lower than other systems – including consoles, which reserve 3GB of their 8GB for OS purposes – given that SteamOS reserves all system resources for games. So 4GB isn't a bad solution for a living room gaming PC.
So how does it look? Does Alienware's Alpha interest you? It's definitely not my cup of tea and the iBuyPower SBX Steam Machine and the Cyberpower Steam Machine still have my fancy, but if you're interested in learning more, feel free to visit the official Alienware website.
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