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SteamOS beta impressions: Well, Valve did warn you to wait

Hayden Dingman | Dec. 20, 2013
Valve released a public beta of its new SteamOS operating system last week, but it's not going to replace your Windows installation anytime soon.

But navigating the actual Desktop Mode with a controller is a huge pain. Perhaps this is alleviated somewhat by Valve's upcoming gamepad, which is said to be more like a laptop trackpad than a set of analog sticks, but right now the whole system falls in this weird in-between zone.

Valve managing director Gabe Newell talks about how much he hates Windows 8, but between the dueling interfaces and the Metro-style tiles, SteamOS really takes a lot of the worst design cues from Redmond's operating system.

Now admittedly, SteamOS is built for a very specific purpose: providing access to games in your living room. On a dedicated Steam Machine, with Valve's new controller, maybe SteamOS is perfect. But this is not a Windows replacement for your desktop machine. Nor is it really a replacement, at least right now, for just running Big Picture Mode on a Windows machine in your living room.

As for playing an actual game--after all, that's the entire point of SteamOS--it works fine. Steam user lou silver put together a partial list of working and nonworking games. On our machine, I installed and played a bit of Hotline Miami and Metro: Last Light. Both games ran as expected. I have no evidence yet whether the operating system's proprietary Nvidia drivers actually boosted my frame rate or not, but I also didn't run into any problems.

Bottom line
Valve isn't lying: SteamOS is as beta as they come. The biggest features--family sharing and streaming games over your home network--aren't even implemented yet. In fact, even simple features like "ability to dual-boot" and "ability to use my AMD graphics card" aren't implemented.

And that's fine. This is a beta. It's not supposed to be finished. Or, at least, that's how things would work in an ideal world.

In the real world, of course, once it's publicly available on the Internet, people are going to access it. Let this article serve as fair warning: SteamOS is not worth the hassle of installation unless you're actually interested in participating in the beta. By that I mean finding bugs, providing feedback to Valve, and doing work.

You're not going to replace your current operating system with SteamOS yet. Don't throw out your copy of Windows. Don't even bother switching from Ubuntu or whatever other flavor of Linux you're running. SteamOS as it stands is a mere proof of concept--a sign of what's to come.

What's to come is interesting, sure, but we're barely a step closer to functional Steam Machines now than we were prior to the SteamOS release. There's a long way to go before Gabe Newell can gaze down upon a Linux-based world and say, "I did this."

 

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