Steam Machines are part of Valve’s three-pronged assault on the Microsoft-dominated world of PC gaming. Along with the Steam Controller, which will let you play mouse and keyboard optimized games with a controller and the dedicated SteamOS operating system later this year Valve will be bidding to move PC gaming from the bedroom to the living room.
I’ve prepared a range of guides on building your own Steam Machine – click the below links for more details.
- The $300 budget option
- The $750 mid-range option
- The $1000 high-end option
- The $5,000 ‘money is no object’ option
For a list of games that work great on Valve’s own operating system, SteamOS, check this list.
Steam Machine recap
Software giant Valve has been teasing us for months and months now (since 2013 in fact) about its coming Steam hardware, its potential, and how it will move the traditional PC gaming experience from the bedroom to the living room, and transform gaming as we know it.
Been living in a cave?
If you’ve been living in an internet-free cave for the past 24 months let’s recap: Steam Machines are part of an assault by Valve on the Windows-dominated world of PC gaming (along with SteamOS and the Steam Controller).
Steam Machines will utilise a specially-designed operating system, SteamOS, which is based on the open-source Linux operating system, to bypass Microsoft and allow gamers to boot directly into their Steam library through Steam’s ‘Big Picture’ mode and play games from the comfort of their sofas, including traditional mouse and keyboard games using the Steam Controller.
Best Steam Machine – pre-built models?
As you’d expect hardware manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon with a number of pre-built Steam Machines available on the market. These notably include Alienware’s Alpha and Asus’s GR8. Rather than wait to use SteamOS these offerings have opted to use their own versions of Windows 8.1 instead.
These are great pieces of kit – if you’re lazy – but we’re all about building things ourselves here, and for a similar or cheaper price you can build your own Steam Machine that will match or surpass Alienware’s and Asus’s systems.
As I’ve said in my previous post building a gaming PC (or Steam Machine) is easier than you might expect, and if you can put together a Lego kit and own a crosshead screwdriver, chances are you can build the best Steam Machine that meets your budget and your exact hardware requirements. Why compromise or waste money when you can do it yourself?
The components you’ll need
You know what a Steam Machine is? It’s a PC with a flash name. As such to build one all you need are the regular parts you’d use when building a normal gaming PC. Obviously there’s a few extra questions to ask, such as “Does the case look good in my living room?” and “How loud will the fan be?”, but essentially we’re building a compact gaming PC.
I outlined the components you need to build a gaming a PC in an earlier post, but here they are below. I will assume you have a controller (not a Steam Controller if you’re reading this pre-November 10, 2015!), and a TV to game on.
- Power supply unit (PSU)
- Processor (CPU)
- Memory (RAM)
- Hard drive(s)
- Graphics card
- Cables for the above
SteamOS – Stephenson’s Rocket
SteamOS is readily available on the internet. I used the ‘Stephenson’s Rocket’ version that can be installed on a USB stick that is then used to boot into from your new Steam Machine to install the SteamOS.
Stephenson’s Rocket supports a wider range of graphics cards and hardware. Instructions on how to download it and install it are available here: http://stephensonsrocket.horse/
The Mighty Mini
It’s definitely bargain basement but it offers some degree of flexibility if you want to upgrade in the future. It comes in at just $340 less than half the price of the $700 entry-level Alienware Alpha.
- CPU: Intel Core i3-4150 3.5GHz Dual-Core Processor $120 (includes fan)
- Graphics card: No dedicated GPU. Uses integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400
- Motherboard: ASRock H97M PRO4 Micro ATX LGA1150 Motherboard $80
- Hard drive: Toshiba 500GB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive $45
- Memory: G.Skill Value 4GB (1 x 4GB) DDR3-1600 Memory $30
- Case: Coolermaster Elite 342with 400W Psu M-atx/atx $55
- PSU: 400w built in, $0
- WiFi adapter: TP-Link TL-WN725N 802.11b/g/n USB 2.0 Wi-Fi Adapter $10
The Mighty Mini is a quick and easy build that will have you gaming in your living room at a fraction of the cost of pre-built Steam Machines.
Although it has no dedicated graphics card Intel’s integrated graphics have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but the real beauty of this build is its flexibility.
For a further small investment you could add a budget graphics card, while the motherboard allows for up to 32GB of DDR3 memory, and as this board uses the popular LGA1150 socket you could upgrade to a more powerful i5 processor.
To conclude, yes it’s cheap but it’s a starter build for someone with a minimal budget, and with a little more investment could be upgraded substantially.
I welcome all feedback so if you have any questions about this build, or would like recommendations on other components or hardware you could use, drop me a line on Twitter, send me a picture on Instagram, or join my community on Facebook.
The next part of this guide the $750 mid-range Steam Machine is available here, and if you want to build a $1000 high-end Steam Machine have a look at this post, if you’re rich and have $5,000 to spend have a look at this post.
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If you’re interested in other PC gaming components and builds head to the blog.
There’s so many different PC systems you can build. Check out a few ideas below.
So have you built one yet?
Have you managed to put together your own Steam Machine? Got any questions on building one? Let me know in the comments or send me a message.