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Alienware Steam Machine hands-on: Valve's vanguard for PC gaming in the living room

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 16, 2015
The first Steam Machines are finally here, and made by Alienware. We go hands-on.

Next month, something like a dozen Steam Machines will go on sale, from Origin, from Asus, from Falcon Northwest and Gigabyte and Syber. But you’d be forgiven for not knowing that, because like it or not one machine has become the unofficial face of the Valve’s ambitious endeavor to migrate PC gaming to the living room: The Alienware Steam Machine. Valve even referred to it at one point as “the full potential of what a Steam Machine should be.”

Of course, that was nearly two years ago. And while Alienware’s machine hasn’t changed much in the intervening years, literally everything else has. Let’s dig into what the flagship Steam Machine has to offer.

Alienware Steam Machine
Alienware’s Steam Machine.

Design

In terms of aesthetics, it’s easy to see why Valve is pushing the Alienware Steam Machine so hard. Regardless of the hardware inside and the SteamOS experience—we’ll get to those aspects later—the Alienware Steam Machine looks console-esque.

Actually, it looks better than either of the two current-gen consoles. Alienware’s machine is very safe, very conservative, all glossy-black planes adorned only with illuminated (with the option to disable) Alienware and Steam logos. I liked it when I first saw it, and I like it now sitting underneath my TV. It’s an understated, no-frills approach to the living room PC.

And it’s damn small. Here, I took a picture of the Alienware Steam Machine resting on top of my Xbox One for comparison:

Alienware Steam Machine
Take a picture of a black box on top of a black box on top of a black counter. That makes sense.

Measuring 8 inches square and 2.5 inches high, the Alienware Steam Machine has about half the footprint of the comically-oversized Xbox One, but packs more performance. The power brick is also much more reasonable, sporting the slim profile that most high-end gaming laptops use nowadays.

In other words, the Alienware Steam Machine fits into an entertainment center even better than its “competitors.” It’s still a PC, but aren’t consoles just highly specialized PCs nowadays too?

The front of the Alienware box features two USB 2.0 slots, while the back features two USB 3.0 ports, the power connection, HDMI In and Out, Optical Audio Out, and a Gigabit ethernet port.

Oh, and don’t forget the USB port in the bottom of the machine. That’s where Alienware hides the Steam Controller’s connection dongle. It’s a great idea—most people probably won’t even realize at first that the Steam Controller has a dongle, unless they bought a second one separately.

Alienware Steam Machine
Ready to unpack.

 

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