Valve has been very clear that there will be a number of manufacturers making a number of living room-centric boxes running the recently announced SteamOS. Still, there's a lot of attention being paid to the prototype box Valve is creating and distributing free to 300 lucky beta testers this year (before the boxes get a wider launch next year).
Thus, our ears perked up a little bit today when Valve revealed what kind of hardware will be in those prototype boxes. Here's the list, straight from Valve:
- GPU: some units with Nvidia Titan, some GTX780, some GTX760, and some GTX660
- CPU: some boxes with Intel : i7-4770, some i5-4570, and some i3
- RAM: 16GB DDR3-1600 (CPU), 3GB DDR5 (GPU)
- Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
- Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
- Dimensions: approx. 12" × 12.4" × 2.9"
The dimensions are particularly interesting here, since Valve's stated goal with the prototype is to "combine high-end power with a living room friendly form factor." With a total volume of 431.52 cubic inches, Valve's prototype is just a tad smaller than an Xbox One (449.28 cubic inches; 13.5" × 10.4" × 3.2") but a decent bit bigger than a PlayStation 4 (259.2 cubic inches; 10.8" × 12" × 2"). It's also worth noting that Valve seems to be sticking with Nvidia GPUs for its prototypes, while Sony and Microsoft are both using AMD processors exclusively.
Between all the CPUs and GPUs listed and the healthy chunk of RAM included in each box, the prototypes will range somewhere from "impressive" to "insane" as far as processing power goes. Even at the low end of the range, these prototypes should be more than capable of exceeding the raw horsepower of Sony and Microsoft's upcoming console efforts.
The final cost of all that power is a bit unclear at this point, though, since the prototypes will be provided to beta testers for free. The lowest end of the hardware Valve lists would probably run around $600 to $700 if you bought the parts individually from online retailers (and that's before you bought one of Valve's fancy new Steam Controllers). At the top end, building your own prototype could easily run over $1,500.
Indeed, Valve is quite clear that "aside from the custom enclosure, anyone can go and build exactly the same machine by shopping for components and assembling it themselves." Regardless, Valve wants it to be clear that "this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users." Some users will be interested in lower-cost boxes, or tinier, quieter machines, the company points out.
That being said, many hardware makers and customers will no doubt be looking to Valve's prototype hardware as a reference point for where their own SteamOS machines should sit on the price/power scale.