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, Systems | December 8, 2013 - 11:14 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows xp, Windows 7
Users of Windows 7, current and planned, have a few dates to remember. First, as of October 30th, Microsoft has stopped selling retail (boxed) packages of that operating system. Second, OEMs can continue to sell systems with Windows 7 preloaded for a year after that date (October 30th, 2014). Third, the operating system will receive typical updates until January 13th, 2015. Fourth, security fixes will be provided until January 14th, 2020. Oddly, Microsoft's website disagrees with Mary Jo Foley's timeline; I expect it might just be out of date.
Windows XP is creeping towards the oblivion as April slowly arrives. The 8th of that month marks the end of security updates and other forms of utter chaos for machines with a vibrant green Start button. With Microsoft essentially turning a blind eye to unpatched exploits, it will become progressively more unsafe to use XP except in well controlled (virtualized, firewalled, etc.) instances.
But, according to Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet, Microsoft will not sell them a retail copy of the Windows 7 any more (as of October 30th, 2013). The official Windows Product Lifecycle guide, however, still lists this date as "To be determined". Either Microsoft is very slow (updating their warning website after the date passes) or it was a much softer deadline than the editorial claims. Most of the Amazon product pages are for third party resellers, except for Windows 7 Pro Full, so it might just be clearing stock. Who knows.
OEMs will have a much easier time, however. Microsoft will continue allowing them to sell Windows 7 with new PCs for another year, until October 30th 2014. Again, this date is unlisted from the Windows Product Lifecycle guide.
It will all need to come to an end at some point though. Windows XP lost mainstream support back in April 14th, 2009; the same will come of Windows 7 in a little over a year: January 13th, 2015. That said, beyond new versions of Internet Explorer, Windows 7 has not been receiving too many updates as it stands. With DirectX now considered a core feature of Windows, the last couple of revisions are exclusive to the latest release. We still have Firefox and Chrome when they pull IE from our cold dead hands. I feel weird writing this...
The most devastating date, which XP users are about to face, is the end of extended support. Come January 14th, 2020, Microsoft will not longer provide security updates. Users of Windows 7 will need to be extra cautious and only deploy it in well controlled environments.
Like for me, if Microsoft continues going down the Windows Store path, a VM on a Linux machine.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 7, 2013 - 04:04 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: SteamOS, PiixL Jetpack
This is what an open ecosystem does best.
The Jetpack, by British PC developer Piixl, is a computer that can attach to the back of a TV. If your TV stands on its own, the Jetpack clings to the television's unused wall mount point. If you were intending to mount your TV on the wall, the PC can reside between the two. These are the user needs that can only be addressed by allowing organizations (large companies, small businesses, hobbyist groups, and individuals) to explore in the niches either to "scratch their own itch"or differentiate their product.
The computer is branded mostly for SteamOS but can also be installed with a full version of Windows or Linux (which you can then install a Steam Client on). It is looking more and more like Valve is successful in herding OEMs.
The internals of this computer are quite interesting. It looks like they are attaching a 2-wide videocard 90-degrees to a mini-ITX motherboard with the other components spaced out around those two parts. Their official media claims that they will support any GPU (I assume they are not considering ones with extra- thick coolers) which should make future upgrades easy.
I may never purchase a Steam machine but I am excited that they exist. The purpose for the PC ecosystem is that every user with any need can find or create a solution. That is why general purpose computation devices exist: perform whatever information storage or manipulation the user desires. I do not have many of the needs that these boxes satisfy... but some people do and there should be systems available for them.
The Verge claims that the Jetpack will be available in January. I can sense a theme for CES 2014.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | December 5, 2013 - 02:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WQHD+, msi, 3K
High resolution displays are very nice to have especially when you are looking at text and symbols (or edges of 3D geometry). WQHD+ is one of the resolutions classified under the 3K moniker with dimensions of 2880 x 1620. It has slightly more pixels than 1440p.
MSI has launched two notebooks with a 15.6" display in this resolution: one gaming and one workstation. Both laptops are remarkably similar except for a few key differences.
Both laptops include:
- Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU (2.4 GHz w/ 3.4 GHz Turbo)
- 16 GB RAM
- 15.6" 2880x1620 (16:9) display
- 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
- Killer E2200 networking (yes, the workstation too)
- Killer N1202 a/b/g/n wireless (yes, workstation too)
- SDXC card reader
- HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 3.0, etc.
- Backlit Keyboard from SteelSeries
The GT60 2OD-261US (Gaming) also includes:
- Windows 8
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M GPU (4GB)
- Blu-ray reader
The GT60 2OKWS-278US (Workstation) instead includes:
- Windows 7 Professional
- NVIDIA Quadro K3100M (4GB)
- Blu-ray recorder
These laptops are currently available at two price points: $2200 for the gaming version and $2800 for the workstation. Press release after the break!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | December 5, 2013 - 02:38 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: amd, r9 270, Steam Machine, SteamOS
I cannot see how they will be making any money at this but, next year, iBuyPower will launch their first Steam Machine. At the price of $499, the same as an Xbox One, you will get an AMD CPU bundled with a discrete Radeon R9 270 graphics card.
Image Credit: The Verge
Oh, and Valve's controller will be included in that price.
Sure, they can save money on the free operating system, but that still looks pretty awesome. In terms of actual dimensions, the case is said to be between the size of the PS4 and the Xbox one. Frankly, if you like the look of home theater appliances, this could be a nice twist on that aesthetic. It will also come with a 500GB hard drive. Don't worry, though: it is a PC. If there is a USB 3.0 port anywhere on it, you can attach a giant drive for your games.
And the power supply is internal, too!
iBuyPower is expected to ship this device at some point in 2014 along with a wave of other Steam Machines. Prepare for many of these innovations to come out of CES.
Subject: Systems | November 28, 2013 - 02:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: htpc, fanless, nuc, Logic Supply, LGX ML300
Logic Supply's LGX ML300 lineup offers you choices from an empty case to a pre-built system costing over $1000, allowing to pick and choose the HTPC system you want. The case is completely fanless and the system sent to Silent PC Review consisted of a Core i5-3427U, 8GB DDR3-1333 and a 128GB mSATA SSD. The outputs offer enough choice for most users, a pair of USB 2.0 ports, two mini DisplayPort a mini-HDMI and gigabit LAN. Thermal performance was great with this case compared to some previous NUCs and SPCR had no issues with overheating during their tests.
"A slim, silent, fanless case for an Intel NUC with room enough for a 2.5" drive is Logic Supply's latest passively cooled project. With the right NUC innards, it becomes a perfect ultra-mini media PC with both zippy performance and enough storage space."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Shuttle XPC Barebone SH87R6 w/ Core i5-4570T @ techPowerUp
- Tranquil PC D33217GKE NUC Case @ techPowerUp
- Silverstone ML05 mini-ITX HTPC case @ SPCR
- Building an HTPC: Planning, Part Picking & Building @ Techgage
- Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex TV HD Media Player Review @ PCSTATS
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 27, 2013 - 12:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox one, ps4, IHS
Parts and labor costs have surfaced for the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Last time around, both Microsoft and Sony were bleeding over a hundred dollars each time a console was produced and sold before you even consider research, development, support, and so forth. This time, both are fluttering around the break-even point.
Console fans commonly say, "You cannot build an equivalent gaming PC for what I can get a console for." My response has been, "Correct and neither can Sony or Microsoft; they are bleeding to gouge you later. Add up those license fees and PC gaming is often cheaper." That may change.
Easier for developers... and their CFO.
While it has not changed that PC gaming can still be cheaper, because it has less middlemen demanding license fees, the consoles might not be losing as much money. Last week, IHS iSuppli inventoried the Playstation 4 and determined that it costs Sony around $381 USD for every $399 console they sell. The Xbox One has also had its turn: $471 USD for the $499 device.
This may seem a lot, but the $499 launch PS3 (20GB) cost Sony $805.85 in parts and labor. The Xbox 360 was less devastating for Microsoft at a cost of $525 for their $399 console. None of these fees include research, development, support, store markup (if they are allowed any), etc.
The last generation of consoles, despite its length, may or may not have delivered any profit for either party. The recent several quarters of profits are easily offset by many more of losses. I expect that neither company is interested in repeating the last generation. It hurt.
But the consoles, despite being cheaper than last time, could still have a reasonable lifespan. A large chunk of the original PS3 bill of materials was the hardware "Emotion Engine" (most links are broken by now but I believe it was about as much per chip as the Cell processor). The consoles are now based upon commodity PC hardware. They can finally take advantage of the competition between other companies to focus their research and development costs on the platform itself.
Subject: Systems | November 25, 2013 - 03:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: DIY, system build
It is once again time for The Tech Report to refresh their recommended system builds. This is a perfect time to do it as we have recently seen the new generation of GPUs from both AMD and NVIDIA. Gamers looking to build a machine from scratch or to complete a partial upgrade can utilize these recommendations in addition to our HWLB. Make sure to also check out the new mobile sidekicks section to get an idea of other hardware you might want to pick up as well.
"We've updated our four staple builds to account for all of the latest hardware releases, including the arrival of new graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia."
Here are some more Systems articles from around the web:
- Asrock M8 Mini-ITX Gaming PC @ Techspot
- ASRock M8 @ Hardawre.info
- Mesh Elite 4770K Gamer System @ Kitguru
- Overclockers UK ‘Ultima 460i Scimitar’ Watercooled Gaming System @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 25, 2013 - 01:35 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: xbox one, video, r9 270x, ps4, playstation 4, fx 6300, amd, 200r
Over the past week or so, we have been slowly putting together a guide to help interested readers select, build and now install everything necessary to build the perfect PC to compete against the new console generation.
In the first part, Josh and I discussed the new console architectures and how they were similar, and different, from modern PC gaming systems. We also discussed a couple of specific build outs that we thought were price competitive with the Xbox One and the PS4 while also offering quite a bit more performance and flexibility for the user.
|Gaming Build||PlayStation 4||Xbox One|
|Processor||AMD FX-6300 6-core CPU - $109||8-core Jaguar APU||8-core Jaguar APU|
|Motherboard||MSI 970A-G43 AM3+ - $59||Custom||Custom|
|Memory||Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1866 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $80||8GB GDDR5||8GB DDR3|
|Graphics Card||Gigabyte Radeon R9 270X 2GB - $199||1152 Stream Unit APU||768 Stream Unit APU|
|Storage||Seagate Barracuda 1TB 7200 RPM HDD - $64||500GB 5400 RPM||500GB|
|Case||Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $59||Custom||Custom|
|Power Supply||Corsair CX 600 watt 80+ Bronze - $69||Internal||External|
|Optical Drive||Pioneer Blu-ray Reader - $49||Blu-ray||Blu-ray|
|OS||Windows 8.1 OEM - $98||Custom, FreeBSD||Custom, Windows|
|Peak Compute||2,690 GFLOPS||1,840 GFLOPS||1,270 GFLOPS|
|Total Price||$780 - Amazon||$399 - Amazon||$499 - Amazon|
In part 2, we recorded a video of me actually assembling the parts (or nearly the same parts) in the build to show users that might be intimidated by the process exactly how easy it is to build a PC from scratch.
Today, we finalize our journey with the installation of the operating system, setup of the Steam gaming platform and even how easy it is to run the PC when attached to a TV.
After briefly discussing the BIOS and UEFI on the motherboard, installing Windows 8.1 and then running the latest Steam client on the new PC, a brief demonstration of Metro: Last Light running in Big Picture Mode takes place. With that we can demonstrate the power of the PC and the flexibility it truly offers over even the latest consoles.
I hope this set of videos has been useful for our readers that might have been interested in the idea of a gaming PC but were worried or unsure of their own ability to get the job done. I think we have demonstrated that the entire process is easy, fun and rewarding - and can be done in a single afternoon as long as you order the right parts.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or feedback - and happy building!!
Subject: General Tech, Systems | November 22, 2013 - 08:02 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, teardown, xbox one, APU, amd, xbox, xb1
Last week we brought a teardown of the new Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) console and this week we do the same for Microsoft's new Xbox One console.
In this video, which is a recording of our live stream that started last night at 12:30am EST, you'll see us unbox the Xbox One, turn it on, play with the new Kinect, take it apart and put it back together. And this time we didn't even break anything - though removing the plastic clips on the Xbox One are particularly more annoying and time consuming than the screws on the PS4.
Though they are out of stock, Amazon.com appears to be getting additional Xbox One consoles in stock pretty regularly, so keep an eye out.