When will the first Steam Machines arrive in the UK? Find out in our SteamOS, Steam Box UK release date feature, including the Steam Controller UK release date. PLUS: Alienware Alpha UK release date. Updated 27 January 2015, with news of the Alienware Alpha.
Valve's SteamOS is one of the biggest talking points in tech right now. SteamOS is an operating system dedicated to gaming. Valve hopes that SteamOS, when paired with hardcore hardware and the Steam games platform, will allow PC makers to create Steam Boxes (what Valve calls 'Steam Machines'): devices somewhere between games consoles and PCs, featuring the plus points of both. On this page we tell you about SteamOS, and the Steam Machines you can expect in the UK. We'll continue to update this page as we know more - and honestly, little detail is know right now. (See also: Valve's gaming-focused SteamOS available to download December 13.)
What is a Steam Machine, or Steam Box?
The idea is that Steam Boxes will be dedicated games machines. Consoles made by third parties but tied-in to Steam's gaming platform. This should make for a variety of powerful and versatile gaming boxes, at a variety of price points. But devices that are much more 'digital home device' than desktop PC, looking small and stylish. You'll also be able to customise Steam Machines, in a way that you can't upgrade a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. (See all Gaming PC reviews.)
Or, in Valve's own words: "As we've been working on bringing Steam to the living room, we've come to the conclusion that the environment best suited to delivering value to customers is an operating system built around Steam itself. SteamOS combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen. It will be available soon as a free stand-alone operating system for living room machines."
Initially it was thought that there would be a flagship Valve-made Steam Machine, but that now seems unlikely. There'll definitely be a number of licensed Steam Machines built by partners such as Alienware. These gaming PCs have been custom-made to run SteamOS and will work with Valve's own upcoming Steam Controller.
You'll also be able to buy client boxes. Much less highly specified hardware that run the SteamOS and speak to your existing gaming PC, streaming games from that PC. Thus you'll be able to play games in the front room while the PC lurks in the office room.
So when will UK gamers get their hands on Steam Boxes, and the Steam Controller? On this page we'll keep you updated with what we know. (see also: SteamOS will challenge Windows' dominance for PC gaming.)
Steam Box and Steam Controller UK release date, UK price, specs
UPDATE: Valve announced in late May 2014 that its Steam Controller and all upcoming Steam Machines are delayed until '2015', rather than releasing at the tail end of 2014. Now at the beginning of 2015 there is little further information.
"Obviously we're just as eager as you are to get a Steam Machine in your hands. But our number one priority is making sure that when you do, you'll be getting the best gaming experience possible. We hope you'll be patient with us while we get there," wrote Valve employee Eric Hope on the Steam Universe forum.
"Realistically, we're now looking at a release window of 2015, not 2014." (You can say that again.)
From Hope's post it sounds like the primary hold-up is Valve's proprietary Steam Controller, which is not a huge surprise--the controller's design has already had two major iterations, and Hope states that extensive playtesting is "generating a ton of useful feedback".
The Steam Controller is a vital aspect of Steam Machines, the bridge between keyboard-and-mouse and traditional console-style gamepads.
This is a blow because back in January 2014 a spokesperson for UK tech retailer Scan told PC Advisor that it is the official launch partner for SteamOS in the UK. "We'll have a number of systems available later in the year," Scan told us. At the moment there isn't a precise launch date, and Scan said it couldn't be any more specific than the second half of 2014. That stands to reason, incidentally, as retailers and manufacturers will be desparate to get Steam Machines on to shop shelves for the build up to Christmas, but not too long before - October to December is when most hardware purchases are made.
On the Valve stand at CES in January 2014 Scan showed off its debut Steam Machine, the Scan 3XS Steam NC10. This has a targeted a street price of £699 inc VAT, although Scan told us that with the SteamOS itself not launching till the second half of 2014 that the specs and price are likely to change. Presumably that late 2014 now becomes an early 2015.
Scan says the Scan 3XS Steam NC10 will be the UK's first official Steam Machine, powered by SteamOS. Developed by Scan Computers with NVIDIA it is intended to provide gamers with the smallest possible PC for their living room. It should be sufficiently small to fit under the TV, measuring just 202 x 369 x 45mm. The basic spec includes a powerful 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M graphics card, Intel Core i3 4000M CPU, 8GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600MHz and a 500GB Western Digital hard disk. The Steam NC10 will be fully customizable with different CPUs, RAM and storage devices available.
The official Valve Steam Controller will launch at the same time as the Scan 3XS Steam NC10. We have no word yet on UK pricing for the Steam Controller.
At CES our reporters found and photographed 13 SteamOS boxes, all of which should launch in 2015, although potentially in different iterations from the initial plans. It really has been that long. These included devices from Alienware, Cyberpower and Gigabyte, all of which may launch in the UK too. We'll bring you more as we have it, so stay tuned to this page. See also: SteamOS beta impressions: Well, Valve did warn you to wait.
Alienware Alpha UK release date: in-between Steam Machine
So we will have to wait until an undetermined point of this year to get hold of the first genuine Steam Machines. In the mean time, Dell's Alienware brand has come up with a compromise: the Alienware Alpha. This is a Windows-running console - sold without keyboard or mouse - that has a bespoke Steam Interface and uses an Xbox controller. It's a console that is also a PC (although mainly a console). High spec hardware, and the ability to use Windows apps, but principally a Steam console.
Amazon has the Alienware Alpha listed for the UK starting at £426 inc VAT, currently. It is also onsale in the US. But right now the Alpha isn't available in the UK, and Amazon says 'temporarily out of stock'. There's no word yet on when it will become available, but it should be soon. Watch this space.