The Specs for Valve's High-End Steam Machine Prototype

By Norman Chan

Basically a high-end gaming PC in a custom case.

Valve released more details today about the hardware specs for its Steam Machines program, specifically detailing the specifications of the 300 prototypes its building to test its upcoming Linux-based Steam OS. In a post on the Steam Community forums, Valve reiterated that the hardware inside its prototype boxes would consist of all off-the-shelf parts that any gamer can buy today, with the only proprietary piece of hardware being the custom enclosure. And even for that chassis, Valve says that it'll share the CAD files for anyone who wants to replicate it on their own. Here's the rundown of the hardware.

  • 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 GDDR5 (GPU)
  • Storage: 1TB/8GB Hybrid SSHD
  • Power Supply: Internal 450w 80Plus Gold
  • Dimensions: approx. 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 in high

A couple interesting things we can take away from this. One is that Valve's Steam Machine prototype is a self-contained PC that is designed to run games locally, given its mid and high-end components (as a hardware beta test, it makes sense that the prototype won't be a single spec). This isn't the cheap box that you'll be able to buy next year from Valve's OEM partners for streaming games from a networked Windows gaming PC, but there's no reason that the prototypes can't stream as well--especially since that streaming could possibly use Nvidia's H.264-encoded streaming tech.

Valve also calls its prototype fully upgradable, though given the dimensions of its chassis that may be tough. 12x12x3" is not a lot of space--about the size of an Xbox 360--and a GeForce Titan graphics card would already take up a sizable bit of that volume, at 12x4x1.5". I'm assuming the use of a mini-ITX motherboard, which measures 6.7x6.7", and the use of a right-angle PCI-E riser/adapter to get the graphics card to fit. Compact gaming PCs like Alienware's X51 and Falcon's Tiki both used these video card adapters to get all the hardware to fit in a narrow console-like profile.

Valve also didn't specify whether the prototypes would be using air or water cooling for its CPU, but I assume the latter in the interest of quiet acoustics and avoiding airflow management in that compact space. And for these type of mini-ITX cases, the internal power supply is likely locked-in, which explains the relatively conservative 450W rating. Given those essential components, there may not be a whole lot of options for upgrading (definitely not adding additional drives) with this prototype design. A better option for someone looking to assemble a fast and quiet living room PC would be something like the Titan-based mini-ITX system we built earlier this year.