“A Steam Machine is a PC with components that meet Valve’s minimal performance requirements to run Steam OS – Valve’s open source Linux-based operating system that’s designed and optimised for gaming.
In essence, there’s nothing separating a Steam Machine from a regular PC; you could install Windows on it if you wanted to and still access Valve’s packed games library on the excellent Steam store. Valve has already released an update which optimises Steam for the big screen, and Steam OS will take this experience much further.
The only thing that makes a Steam Machine a Steam Machine, then, is the sticker of approval that Valve slaps on it – indicating that it meets their minimum requirements.
While those exact requirements remain a mystery, Valve has released the specs of various low, mid and high-range Steam Machines, which it will send out to 300 lucky beta testers.
The full specs below feature processors and graphics cards which vary in power, and the price and performance differences between them can be massive.
The least powerful graphics card – the GTX 660 – will set you back £160 and is a close equivalent to the graphics cards found within the next-gen consoles.
Compare that to the Nvidia GTX Titan with its £770 price tag and ability to play games at above-full HD resolutions on multiple monitors, and you begin to get an idea of the degree of variation and power that PC gaming (and therefore, Steam Machines) have to offer.
The Verge spent some time with Valve’s own Steam Machine prototype, and despite it being only slightly larger than an Xbox 360, it still manages to cram in a massive Nvidia GTX Titan graphics card – an impressive feat indeed. Not only that, but the components are seperated into seperate compartments for improved cooling and air flow.
Unlike the PS4 and Xbox One, Steam Machines will vary in appearance, as manufacturers will naturally imbue their machines with their own design preferences.
Valve’s own reference Steam Machine lacks an optical drive, for example, but there’s nothing stopping another manufacturer from installing an optical drive into its own Steam Machine, or swapping out a hard drive for a faster SSD.
Valve will even release CAD files for its Steam Machine cases, just in case you want to make your own from scratch.
Source article: http://www.stuff.tv/steam-box/valve-steam-machine-preview/review