Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 7, 2014 - 02:25 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, steambox, opinion, Gabe Newell, CES 2014, CES
Valve Co-Founder Gabe Newell took the stage at a press conference in Las Vegas last night to introduce SteamOS powered Steam Machines and the company's hardware partners for the initial 2014 launch. And it has been quite the launch thus far, with as many as 13 companies launching at least one Steambox PC.
The majority of Steam Machines are living room friendly Mini-ITX (or smaller) form factors, but that has not stopped other vendors from going all out with full-tower builds. The 13 hardware partners have all put their own spin on a SteamOS-powered PC, and by the second half of 2014, users will be able to choose from $500 SFF cubes to ~$1000 Mini-ITX builds with dedicated graphics, to powerhouse desktop PCs that have MSRPs up to $6,000 and multiple GPUs. In fact, aside from SteamOS and support for the Steam Controller, the systems do not share much else, offering up unique options–which is a great thing.
For the curious, the 13 Steam Machine hardware vendors are listed below.
- Digital Storm
- Falcon Northwest
- Origin PC
- Scan Computers
As luck would have it for those eager to compare all of the available options, the crew over at Ars Technica have put together a handy table of the currently-known specifications and pricing of each company's Steam Machines! Some interesting takeaways from the chart include the almost even division between AMD and NVIDIA dedicated graphics while Intel has a single hardware win with it's Iris Pro 5200 (Gigabyte BRIX Pro). On the other hand, on the CPU side of things, Intel has the most design wins with AMD having as many as 3 design wins versus Intel's 10 (in the best case scenario). The pricing is also interesting. While there are outliers that offer up very expensive and affordable models, the majority of Steam Machines tend to be closer to the $1000 mark than either the $500 or $2000+ price points. In other words, about the same amount of money for a mid-range DIY PC. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as users are getting decent hardware for their money, a free OS, and OEM warranty/support (and there is nothing stopping the DIYers from making their own Steamboxes).
A SFF Steambox (left) from Zotac and a full-tower SteamOS gaming desktop from Falcon Nothwest (right).
So far, I have to say that I'm more impressed than not with the Steam Machine launch which has gone off better than I had expected. Here's hoping the hardware vendors are able to come through at the announced price points and Valve is able to continue wrangling developer support (and to improve the planned game streaming functionality from a Windows box). If so, I think Valve and it's partners will have a hit on their hands that will help bring PC gaming into the living room and (hopefully) on par (at least) in the mainstream perspective with the ever-popular game consoles (which are now using x86 PC architectures).
What do you think about the upcoming crop of Steam Machines? Does SteamOS have a future? Let us know your thoughts and predictions in the comments below!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | December 19, 2013 - 03:42 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Controller
The Steam Controller is a gamepad where touch replaces analog joysticks. Developed internally at Valve, its design focused on being a comfortable gaming accessory which did not compromise on the accuracy allowed by an absolute position-based input device (ie: a mouse). Velocity-based inputs, such as thumbsticks, have the hand-eye and/or timing problem where we need feedback to know when to cease giving input to actually stop. It is a lot easier to make a good estimate of how far to move your hand (or finger, or eye) and perform that action without further feedback necessary.
It is just how we behave.
Valve is very confident in their design and believes that it is accurate enough to emulate a mouse. In fact, most games (if and until the Steam Controller gains traction) will be operating in "Legacy Mode" which emulates a mouse and keyboard. They are requesting that the community develop many shared profiles, on a game-by-game basis, to give a large catalog of known configurations by the time the device ships publicly.
But what about the not "Legacy Mode"? The main announcement is that Valve has shipped the controller's Steamworks API to allow developers direct access to its hardware. In other words, rather than emulate a mouse and keyboard, the developer can use the hardware in the way they see fit. Of course this will be most useful for the touchscreen (if a blank 4-quadrant button is insufficient) and the haptic feedback but can also mean new methods of emulating the velocity-based input of a gamepad.
Remember, I said velocity input is less accurate for things like rapid rotation between randomly oriented targets. Flight games often prefer long continuous input which are great for joysticks and thumbsticks. Simply put, traditional gamepads are "better" at certain things (driving games, flight games, third-person games where accuracy is not important but quickly pressing one of four-or-so commands is, etc.). Many developers will want this controller to solve those problems, too.
Keep an eye out at Steam Universe for more updates like these; they occur rapidly as of late.
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 - 06:59 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 | December 5, 2013 - 03:03 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: linux, valve, SteamOS, hsa foundation, hsa
Valve may very well produce one of the near future's most popular non-mobile, consumer, Linux distributions. SteamOS will be marketed for gaming PCs (some very compelling ones at that) starting next year. CES will definitely be interesting. With such a popular distribution, and as an existing member of the Khronos Group, it makes sense for Valve to join the Linux Foundation... and they just did.
It is still unknown to what extent Valve joined Linux (members are classified by level of contribution from Platinum to Silver) and we likely will not know until their list is updated. While they probably will not be hanging out with Intel and others in the platinum category, Silver is not the most noteworthy of statuses... alongside Barnes and Noble (likely because of the Nook) and Twitter.
Another addition is the HSA Foundation. AMD is already a Gold member (y'know... HSA's faja) and ARM is Silver so I cannot see HSA being much more than that. Still, Linux will be an important focus for the heterogeneous computing architectures to endorse: both in terms of back-end server optimization and customer-facing devices.
Of course I am not belittling any contribution. Still, there is that desire to see Valve lead the pack. Ultimately, though, it is not the size of the badge: it is how you wear it.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | November 4, 2013 - 03:36 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, Systems | October 11, 2013 - 06:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Machine, Steam Controller
Jeff Bellinghausen, former Chief Technology Officer at Sixense, currently works for Valve with their hardware initiative. He will be provide the voice over for today's controller walkthrough video. Four very different games are shown with very input configurations.
As a little background, Sixense partnered with Valve and Razer to develop the Hydra motion controller. I had a strong feeling that this technology would form the basis of the Steam hardware experience when first rumors of "The Steam Box" circulated. Clearly, either I was wrong or Valve dumped the prototype for their current (slightly more standard) gamepad.
Yet at least one of the engineering minds behind it kept with Steam OS.
The first and third games shown are Portal 2 and CounterStrike: Global Offensive, respectively. Portal 2 is operating in keyboard and mouse "legacy mode" where sliding your right thumb emulates the movement of a mouse and the left thumb activates a virtual D-Pad. This input method seems to have some sort of throw velocity when you quickly swipe your thumb across the pad and release although I obviously have not directly experienced it.
On the other hand, CounterStrike does not require auto aim.
Civilization V has the left thumb pad bound to map scroll and the right thumb pad controlling mouse movement. While precise, I could see speed being a problem for a game such as Starcraft 2. It seems to be slightly slower than a mouse. I would like to see someone learn the controller and attempt to ladder for a relevant amount of time.
Speaking of speed to complement precision: Papers, Please blends both thumbs into a single mouse movement. This highlights what, at least I guess, is the entire point of the new controller: allow new schemes to be tested.
Certainly, there are a bunch of possibilities even before the design leaves Valve's hands.
Subject: General Tech | October 11, 2013 - 03:19 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, Mantle, gaming, valve
The Tech Report has been thinking on the upcoming release of SteamOS and AMD's Mantle and they see some problems that could come about because of them. Fragmentation has always been a problem for PCs, be it that the hardware between systems never matches or the wide variety of APIs and game engines on the software side. It can de daunting to begin developing a game and determining if optimizing for AMD, NVIDIA or Intel is worth considering as well as the choice between Direct3D or OpenGL or trying to make them both work. Mantle is now a choice, BF4 will actually be releasing a version that is natively Mantle shortly after they launch the first version of the game. Valve has also hinted that several AAA titles will be released on SteamOS, not necessarily Windows or Linux. What effect could this have on PC gaming as these new choices arrive at the same time the next generation consoles are released? Read on and see.
"Valve's SteamOS and AMD's Mantle API have the potential to do great things for PC gaming. However, they also threaten to fragment the platform at a critical time, when next-gen consoles are about to reduce the PC's performance and image quality lead by a long shot."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Windows 8.1 won't save Windows 8 @ The Inquirer
- The legacy IE survivor's guide: Firefox, Chrome... more IE? @ The Register
- Microsoft wants to 'move beyond' the Cookie Monster @ The Register
- Will BlackBerry be cherrypicked, or bought by its daddies? @ The Register
- Technology Before Its Time: 9 Products That Were Too Early to Market @ TechSpot
- D-Link DIR-868L Wireless AC1750 Dual-Band Cloud Router Review @ Legit Reviews
- Happy 10th b-day, Patch Tuesday: TWO critical IE 0-day bugs, did you say? @ The Register
- ASUS AOOC 2013 Finals Moscow Report @ techPowerUp
- Beginners Guides: Repairing a Cracked / Broken Notebook LCD Screen @ PCSTATS
- ASUS RT-AC66U AC1750 Wireless 802.11AC Router Review @MissingRemote
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Cases and Cooling, Systems | October 4, 2013 - 07:19 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, Steam Machine
Well, that did not take long.
Valve announced the Steam Machines barely over a week ago and could not provide hardware specifications. While none of these will be available for purchase, the honor of taking money reserved for system builders and OEMs, Valve has announced hardware specifications for their beta device.
The raw specifications, or range of them, are:
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce Titan through GeForce GTX660 (780 and 760 possible)
- CPU: Intel i7-4770 or i5-4570, or i3-something
- RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB GDDR5 (GPU)
- Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
- Power Supply: 450W
- Dimensions: approx. 12" x 12.4" x 2.9"
Really the only reason I could see for the spread of performance is to not pressure developers into targeting a single reference design. This is odd, since every reference design contains an NVIDIA GPU which (you would expect) a company who wants to encourage an open mind would not have such a glaring omission. I could speculate about driver compatibility with SteamOS and media streaming but even that feels far-fetched.
On the geeky side of things: the potential for a GeForce Titan is fairly awesome and, along with the minimum GeForce 660, is the first sign that I might be wrong about this whole media center extender thing. My expectation was that Valve would acknowledge some developers might want a streaming-focused device.
Above all, I somewhat hope Valve is a bit more clear to consumers with their intent... especially if their intent is to be unclear with OEMs for some reason.
Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2013 - 02:41 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, valve, SteamOS, Steam Box, steam, razer, R9 290X, R9, R7, podcast, Naga, corsair, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #270 - 09/26/2013
Join us this week as we discuss AMDs new GPU lineup, SteamOS, the Steam Box, and more!
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