Subject: General Tech | September 2, 2014 - 10:50 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: steam os, steam, htpc
In a recent Steam Beta update, Valve added a few new entries to its EAppType structure. Previously, the options were invalid, game, application, tool, demo, media, DLC, guide, driver, config, shortcut, and "depotonly". The recent update adds five new ones: film, TV series, video, plugin, and music.
These additions could mean that Steam is intending to distribute film, TV, video, plugins, and music; alternatively, it could just allow users to integrate existing catalogs into the same interface. Of course, this is coming from someone with just about zero knowledge of Steam's internal structure. Someone who is more familiar with Steam might be able to say that I am stupid and this specific enum structure is only used the interface with the catalog or the store. I do not know.
What I am confident in saying is that Valve is serious about making Steam a full home theater PC platform. At LinuxCon, prior to the announcement of SteamOS, Gabe Newell discussed the family ownership (and sharing) of music and movie libraries right alongside his discussion of video games. Whether they want to deal with media company relations is a different story, however.
But let's not get too caught up in media for a second. What is a "plugin"?
This entry was what really caught my eye. Could Valve be designing a plugin architecture for the Steam client? Its built in web browser (or third-party browsers if Valve allows)? Or could it be a method of delivering user content for other apps on their system (similar to how DLC has its own type). If it is a Steam Client or SteamOS plugin, what would that even entail? I am definitely curious.
Subject: Graphics Cards | March 2, 2014 - 12:14 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sapphire, R7 240, htpc, SFF, low profile, steam os
Sapphire is preparing a new low profile Radeon R7 240 graphics card for home theater PCs and small form factor desktop builds. The new graphics card is a single slot design that uses a small heatsink with fan cooler that is shorter than the low profile PCI bracket for assured compatibility with even extremely cramped cases.
The Sapphire R7 240 card pairs a 28nm AMD GCN-based GPU with 2GB of DDR3 memory. There are two HDMI 1.4a display outputs that each support 4K 4096 x 2160 resolutions. Specifically, this particular iteration of the Radeon R7 240 has 320 stream processors clocked at 730 MHz base and 780 MHz boost along with 2GB DDR3 memory clocked at 900 MHz on a 128-bit bus. The card further has 20 TMUs and 8 ROPs. The card has a power sipping 30W TDP.
This low profile R7 240 is a sub-$100 part that can easily power a home theater PC or Steam OS streaming endpoint. Actually, the R7 240 itself can deliver playable gaming frame rates with low quality settings and lowered resolutions delivering at least 30 average FPS in modern titles like Bioshock Infinite and BF4 according to this review. Another use case would be to add the card to an existing AMD APU-based system in Hybrid CrossFire (which has seen Frame Pacing fixes!) for a bit more gaming horsepower under a strict budget.
The card occupies a tight space where it is only viable in specific situations constrained by a tight budget, physical size, and the requirement to buy a card new and not an older (single and faster, not Hybrid CrossFire) generation card on the used market. Still, it is nice to have options and this will be one such new budget alternative. Exact pricing is not yet available, but it should be hitting store shelves soon. For an idea on pricing, the full height Sapphire R7 240 retails for around $70, so expect the new low profile variant to be around that price if at a slight premium.
Subject: Systems | January 7, 2014 - 02:08 AM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: CES, steam os, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, small form factor, dual boot, Digital Storm, CES 2014, Bolt 2
Today Digital Storm has announced the Bolt 2 small form factor computer. This little number is marketed as a “Steam machine”, and for very good reasons. This particular number packs in quite a punch in a very small space.
The custom designed case has a very effective and logical layout. It really is quite small, but it is very strong and robust. It can handle a micro-ITX board, multiple drives, and a dual slot graphics card. The system I saw was decked out with a GTX 780 Ti along with the Intel i7 4770K. It includes Digital Storm’s proprietary lighting and cooling module which of course controls the lighting… and cooling fan speed for the system.
Cooling is primarily based on the Corsair H100i dual fan unit. This portion takes air from one side/top of the case (depending on orientation) and then vents it through the rest of the chassis. The graphics card takes air from the other side of the case and routes it out the back. This cooling solution allows a fair amount of overclocking to be attempted by the end user, but it does have limitations as compared to a larger system with more airflow.
The design utilizes a 700 watt power supply, which is pretty impressive considering the space constraints that Digital Storm has to deal with. A lot of work with partners has allowed them to include this very small unit with a pair of 30 mm fans at either end. One would expect such fans to produce a LOT of noise. This is happily not the case. The design is good enough, and efficient enough, that at higher loads (including overclocking) it stays very quiet.
The system is very accessible, far more than most would expect. Anyone that has worked on an older small form factor case will testify as to how annoying and contorted setting up hardware (or swapping it out) can be. Digital Storm again took their time with the design to make sure that installation and the changing of components is as simple as possible. A person armed with a screwdriver can get to any major component in a few seconds. Swapping out the video card would take the amount of time of removing four screws, unplugging the power, and making sure not to rip out the PCI-E 16X ribbon connecting the card to the board.
Prices for the unit start at $1500 and go above $2500, depending on component choices. When Valve finalizes the Steam OS and has it ready for prime time, Digital Storm will be including the Steam controller with the build.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 6, 2014 - 08:53 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: steambox, steam os, Steam Machine, Cyberpower, CES 2014, CES
Today, CyberPowerPC announced its series of SteamOS-powered Steam Machines. Set to be available in the second half of this year, the Steam Machine series will come in several customizable models ranging in price from $499 to $699.
All models share a custom Steam Machine gaming case, a 500GB 7200RPM mechanical hard drive, 8GB of DDR3 memory clocked at 1600MHz, Valve's Steam OS, and a bundled Steam Controller. From there, the systems differ by processor, graphics, and networking hardware.
On the low end, the $499 CyberPowerPC Steambox is powered by a dual core AMD A6-6400K Richland APU clocked at 3.9GHz, a Radeon R9 270 graphics card with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, and a Mini-ITX motherboard with 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support.
Stepping up to the $699 mark gets you Intel and NVIDIA hardware in the form of a dual core/quad threaded Intel Core i3-4330 CPU clocked at 3.5GHz and a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. The networking is also upgraded to 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
The chassis is a white case with black front panel and green LEDs. A Valve logo is on the top of the case. It certainly has a gaming console look that should sit well in your entertainment center. The front of the case has three USB 3.0 ports and two audio jacks. Personally, I look at the case and am reminded of classic cartridge-loading game consoles due to the cutout/depressed gray accent.
As always, stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information as it becomes available!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
A not-so-simple set of instructions
Valve released to the world the first beta of SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built specifically for PC gaming, on Friday evening. We have spent quite a lot of time discussing and debating the merits of SteamOS, but this weekend we wanted to do an installation of the new OS on a system and see how it all worked.
Our full video tutorial of installing and configuring SteamOS
First up was selecting the hardware for the build. As is usually the case, we had a nearly-complete system sitting around that needed some tweaks. Here is a quick list of the hardware we used, with a discussion about WHY just below.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-4670K - $222|
|Motherboard||EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX Motherboard - $257|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $109|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GeForce GTX TITAN 6GB - $999
EVGA GeForce GTX 770 2GB SuperClocked - $349
|Storage||Samsung 840 EVO Series 250GB SSD - $168|
|Case||EVGA Hadron Mini ITX Case - $189|
|Power Supply||Included with Case|
|Optical Drive||Slot loading DVD Burnder - $36|
|Peak Compute||4,494 GFLOPS (TITAN), 3,213 GFLOPS (GTX 770)|
|Total Price||$1947 (GTX TITAN) $1297 (GTX 770)|
We definitely weren't targeting a low cost build with this system, but I think we did create a very powerful system to test SteamOS on. First up was the case, the new EVGA Hadron Mini ITX chassis. It's small, which is great for integration into your living room, yet can still hold a full power, full-size graphics card.
The motherboard we used was the EVGA Z87 Stinger Mini ITX - an offering that Morry just recently reviewed and recommended. Supporting the latest Intel Haswell processors, the Stinger includes great overclocking options and a great feature set that won't leave enthusiasts longing for a larger motherboard.
Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2013 - 03:59 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: valve, steam os, Gabe Newell
Well it is December 13th and as promised you can get your hands on Steam OS, more or less. We've tried starting the download a few times here at PC Perspective and are running into a few difficulties but maybe you will have better luck. Click onto this link to head to the SteamDB site and you just might be able to get your hands on Valve's new operating system. We have been lead to believe it will bear a lot of resemblance to the already familiar Steam Big Picture though as we have yet to get a working image to install on a machine that is hard to verify. There is a secondary repository you can try as well.
And a new magnet link torrrent just popped up which should help you a lot! Magnet link for torrent download.
As they state on the page "Valve is having server issues (no wonder), download will probably fail." but you probably expected that anyways. Of course you will not be able to download a Steam Machine, unless you are one of those lucky so-and-so's who got in on the beta. Once we have succeeded in installing Gabe's new plaything on a machine you can expect an update but until then why not try it on your own. No word on if this will support badgers or not.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | November 4, 2013 - 12:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Machine, steam os, CES 2014
I guess The Verge, with its Steam Machine photos, prove all three next-gen consoles (trollolol) are designed to look like home theater devices. Of course you will never be able to purchase a Steam Machine from Valve but, since they are releasing their CAD files, I am sure at least one Steam Machine will be exactly to reference spec.
Image Source: The Verge
And, for the record, I think the reference enclosure is classy. Living room appliances suit a lot better than kitchen ones.
On a serious note: pictures of the internals. The beta Steam Machines will contain full desktop components aligned in such a way that each has its own sector to breathe from. The hottest parts intake and exhaust as far away from one another as possible. This makes the chassis relatively wide and short: a video card's length, in depth; about 3 expansion slots, tall; and about 3 PCIe cards height, wide. The actual measurements are 12" x 12" x 3" (W x D x H).
Photo Credit: The Verge
This is mostly possible because the GeForce Titan GPU is mounted upside-down and parallel with the motherboard. I have never experienced a 90-degree PCIe extension slot but, according to Josh Walrath, this is a common accessory in servers (especially 1U and 2U racks). The Titan intakes downward into a relatively unoccupied section of the case and exhausts out the back.
The Verge also had some things to say about the Steam Controller. The design motivations are interesting but I will leave that discussion to the original article (this news post will be long enough when I'm done with it). There are two points that I would like to bring up, though:
The first is a clarification of the original Steam Controller announcement: Valve will produce and sell Steam Controller on its own. This was originally a big question mark as it could water down how "reference" Valve's controller actually is. With Valve taking all-the-reins, the hardware looks more set in stone.
Will Valve still allow OEMs to learn from their design? Who knows.
The second is also interesting.
What Valve left out of the Steam Controller is almost as intriguing as what went in. Though Valve co-founder Gabe Newell told us that the company wanted to put biometric sensors into game controllers, the team discovered that hands weren't a good source of biofeedback since they were always moving around. However, the team hinted to me — strongly — that an unannounced future VR headset might measure your body's reaction to games at the earlobe. Such a device could know when you’re scared or excited, for instance, and adjust the experience to match.
Seeing Google, Valve, and possibly Apple all approach content delivery, mobile, home theater, and wearable computing... simultaneously... felt like there was a heavy link between them. This only supports that gut feeling. I believe this is the first step in a long portfolio integrating each of these seemingly unrelated technologies together. We should really watch how these companies develop these technologies: especially in relation to their other products.
Stay tuned for CES 2014 in early January. This will be the stage for Valve's hardware and software partners to unbutton their lips and spill their guts. I'm sure Josh and Ryan will have no problems cleaning it all up.
Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2013 - 11:32 AM | Ken Addison
Tagged: Z87 XPower, z87, video, steam os, Steam Controller, Steam Box, steam, podcast, nuc, msi, haswell
PC Perspective Podcast #271 - 10/03/2013
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