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If you can remember months ago, Steam Machines were being developed and tested. Dell and Alienware were slated to develop a SteamOS-based console, but decided to also make a standalone console as well. The Alienware Alpha is said console, but it is closer related to a small form factor PC than the PS4 and Xbox One. It was announced earlier that pre-ordered Alphas are landing in living rooms today. 

There are 4 models of Alpha, each in their own price bracket with varying degrees of parts. Starting from $550, the Alpha comes with an i3-4130T, a dual core processor clocked at 2.9Ghz, a custom Nvidia 2GB GTX 860M GPU, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 500GB HDD. In the next price bracket of $699, you get double the RAM to 8GB, and double the storage to 1TB, but the CPU and GPU don’t change.

At $799, the Alpha comes with an i5-4590T, which has a base clock of 2.0Ghz and boost clock to 3.0Ghz, but keeps the same components as the $699 model. The highest priced SKU, $899, packs in an i7-4765T, a which has the same base and boost clock as the i5, as well as a 2TB HDD, and 2GB of DDR5 RAM, in addition to the 8GB of DDR3 RAM.

All models have wireless AC, Bluetooth. 4 USB ports (2 in front, 2 in back), and connections for HDMI, Ethernet, and optical cables.

Dell did something interesting, and made the CPU and RAM upgradeable, but not the GPU, which stays at an 860M for all SKUs. Dell says the 2GB modified 860M will be able to play games at 1080p. At what settings, we have no idea. The 860M has been surpassed by the 970M and 980M, but is significantly cheaper to work with the the latest Maxwell GPUs. This is rather unfortunate, since upgrading to a 970M or 980M would be a very interesting way to keep the console up to par with games.

The machine boots to a custom Alpha-UI to be used in hand with a controller (the console ships with an Xbox 360 wired controller), but the ability to open the console with Steam Big Picture or to the Windows desktop is also available. This allows the Alpha to be used as a console, desktop, or combination of both.

Ben Kuyt

Gamer, Computer geek, Musician, Writer. Favourite series are Star Fox, Halo, Battlefield, and Forza. My last name is pronounced kite. Or kout, for the European Football fans.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    Ok, I get that the SteamBox is going to be customizable and upgradable after the purchase.
    But rather than spending money on parts we don’t want, can we customize the parts before the purchase?

  • Ben Kuyt

    I don’t believe so. You can’t get the DDR5 RAM with the i5 or i3 or something like that. Personally, I don’t really like Alienware. And I’ll be talking about that tomorrow!

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    At this price point, why not buy a PC?

  • Ben Kuyt

    Well, it is a PC. It’s more designed to be a plug and play PC. I agree, building your own PC would be better. And I’ll go over that tomorrow.

  • ZURATAMA1324

    I think talking about this would be important since a big part of buying a SteamBox in the first place is customization.

    I hope Valve makes a pro-consumer decision or at least provide a solid explanation as to why customization cannot be fulfilled.

  • Ben Kuyt

    Oh, this isn’t a SteamBox. It was originally going to be a Steam Machine, but this version is not. It uses Windows and runs an Alienware interface, but you can change it for a different OS, like Linux or SteamOS.

    And if you really want a Steam Machine, I highly recommend building yourself one. A small ITX rig would be perfect.

  • Fenrir007

    The market for Steam machines is the one for people that want plug-and-play solutions in sleek form factors (like console owners). They are the kind of people that don’t mind paying extra for the added convenience. Most likely, these are the people that buy pre-built and rely on Geeksquad to solve their computer woes.

    I think the whole point of this is to add options to what we already have. Valve is not looking to push Steam machines as some sort of console, but just expand the reach of its Steam OS with this extra option for the extra lazy. To them, it’s irrelevante if you keep using steam normally, install Steam OS in your pre-existent PC or buys one of these. They will continue making money on software sales, and they hope to make their storefront reach a wider audience with this move.

    Besides, some Steam machines may be appropriatelly priced. We all know how absurd the pricing is on alienware branded hardware.

  • Mark Andrew Edwards

    I’ll buy the convenience factor but are there really enough deep-pocketed consumers willing to shell out this much for a gimped PC?

    I think they’d move more units if they at least came down to PS4 or XBO prices.

  • Fenrir007

    The very fact that Alienware is a thriving business temps me to say there are enough lazy people out there with more cash than sense to waste.

  • RockstarRepublic

    Dont forget, the perk of these devices is two fold…

    1) Space/size: Building or buying pc rigs can get pricey but also take up a lot of unnecessary space. The alternative is a laptop, but those run at even higher prices, rarely geared towards games and include the cost of a screen which is unnecessary.
    2) Utility cost. These units do not require a lot of power to run, especially compared to desktop PCs. Electricity cost can get quite high depending on location, so you can easily save a few hundred dollars a year by being smart with the kind of hardware used.

    The only downside I see at the moment is that the GPU is hardwired into the unit itself, everything else though seems to be exchangeable (CPU, RAM).

  • RockstarRepublic

    Eventually, but the first wave of units are not expected to have any major impact. Long term, absolutely, but short term not so much. I wouldnt be surprised if they found a way to subsidize some of the hardware cost through software purchases or royalties.

  • RockstarRepublic

    I would hardly call it lazy. There is a lot you an do with a PC in the living room, whether its browsing the net, watching movies on demand, music playlist, any number of applications that can run on a traditional PC.

    So its not just gaming thats involved. Toss in the low energy consumption and already a home owner will be saving some serious $$ for using a smaller device compared to the power hungry desktop PCs.

    If they can make it so gpus can be swapped out, then it would be the perfect device with many uses.

  • Brad Sherard

    Still not seeing the value proposition for steam machines yet. Maybe when they start selling to early adopters it will become more apparent. SteamOS however really looks interesting to me. It certainly gives me hope for the future of PC gaming and provides a hedge to betting on microsoft to continue maintaining windows/directX for gaming support.

  • Ben Kuyt

    While you most definitely are right for the second point, these won’t suck a lot of power, the first point is right and wrong. While a lot of people love the small form factor PCs Alienware is making available, you can find PC cases for just as small and offer full size GPUs, such as the Silverstone Raven and Cooler Master Elite series.

  • Ben Kuyt

    You’re forgetting how many people think Alienware is the super high quality computing machines.

  • Ben Kuyt

    I actually think there are a lot better alternatives than buying/building a living room HTPC. Chromecast and Roku come to mind for what you listed, except the traditional PC applications, like work apps.

    I think it’d probably be better just to build a computer for $500 that outperforms this in games, and then spend $35 on a Chromecast for your TV.

    I think that if they were to make it so you can fit small form factor GPUs, like the R9 285 ITX or GTX 970 ITX, it’d be an excellent machine for newb builders.

  • Fenrir007

    There are already pre-builts out there in the market that you can buy to do those things, and you can always build one yourself (or commission someone to do it according to your specifications). Buying Alienware means you pay a lot of extra for the brand, not the components. Actually, you can do all you listed even with a laptop.

  • RockstarRepublic

    Of course there are, but its not quite the same thing. Theres power in marketing it as made for living room, but additionally from a software and hardware standpoint, its far more optimized for that usage. The price point they are charging for also isnt even nearly that bad. Not all that much “extra” for the brand. In fact its quite competitive price wise.

    Dont forget that not everyone, especially the wider market, is going to be nerds who know their way around PC hardware. I think some of those being critical of this are having trouble thinking outside of the desktop pc space. It has nothing to do with having too much money or being lazy.

  • Fenrir007

    “made for the living room” doesn’t mean much beyond “this is a PC in a small form factor”, and you can still buy those outside of Alienware.

    As far as the price goes, maybe it is good where you live, but where I live alienware stuff is grossly overpriced for what they are.