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Valve's Steam Box Release Date Specs and Price: Console Killer or Glorified Gaming PC?

First Posted: Jan 14, 2014 12:56 PM EST
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What is a Steam Box? Or a Steam Machine? Are they gaming consoles or innovative spa treatments? Let's clear up some of the confusion... It's a new type of gaming PC that looks like a console. Simply put, a Steam Box is a Steam Machine. The Steam Box moniker was coined by tech industry journalists sometime in 2012. For simplicity's sake, let's call it a Steam Box. Where the Steam Box differs from conventional gaming PCs is that it doesn't run Windows natively. Rather each "box" ships with SteamOS, a Linux based operating system that looks really easy to use.

To fully understand what the Steam Box is you need to know a bit about it's creator, Valve Corporation. Valve created Steam, a digital distribution and multiplayer gaming platform for the PC, from the ground up. Steam became a massive success and really ushered in the era of downloadable video games. It's been around since 2003 and is still going strong. Valve's also created some of best games of all time in Portal and Half-Life 2. They also helped bring the smash hit zombie game Left 4 Dead to market. Basically, Valve is innovative, successful and important to the gaming community.

In order to expand Steam's scope, Valve started toying with the idea of building their own operating system to run its Steam software on. By creating an OS that perfectly coexisted with the Steam platform, users will have an easy and reliable gaming platform. The Steam Box won't fall by the wayside like OnLive and Ouya did. Valve has the capital to make the Steam Box not only a reality, but a sustained success.

Do you think the Steam Box sounds a lot like a PS4 or Xbox One gaming consoles? Well, in a way you'd be right. Unlike the console makers, you aren't locked into buying a console from Sony or Microsoft. Valve won't be making any Steam Boxes themselves apart from their proof of concept, beta-tester model. Instead, they've farmed out the SteamOS to reputable third party vendors much like Microsoft does with Windows. Something like 13 Steam Boxes exist, though none are for sale yet. They were all announced at CES 2014. The Steam Controller also differs from the DualShock 4 and Xbox One gamepad. It combines the best of the traditional keyboard-and-mouse gaming setup into a single controller.

You'll soon be able to buy and customize your own Steam Box to suit your specific gaming needs. The cheapest Steam Box from CyberPower will cost $500 and shoot all the way up to the $6,000 Falcon Northwest Tiki. The cheaper models will square off against the PS4 and Xbox One and deliver better performance. The lower cost configurations will be able to play graphically demanding games such as Metro: Last Light in 1080p at 30fps.

If you're a gearhead you can build a Steam Box on your own as Valve is making the SteamOS software available free of charge. You can also customize boxes you bought from one of the hardware partners in order to get better graphics down the road.

Will you call yourself a steamer one day? Let us know if you plan on getting one of these bad boys by commenting below. 

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