Valve announces the Steam Machine

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CNET Editor

Nic Healey can usually be found on a couch muttering about aspect ratios and 7.1 channel sound - which is helpful given that he's the home entertainment guy at CNET.

Steam Box? Forget that! It turns out that Valve will be calling its hardware solution the Steam Machine, and there'll be quite a few hardware configuration options.

The shape of things to come? Valve hints at a wide range of designs for the Steam Machines.
(Screenshot by Nic Healey/CNET Australia)

In the second of three announcements, after Tuesday's SteamOS reveal, Valve has finally talked about the hardware it's been working on for Steam users.

First and foremost, Valve is attempting to make the Steam Machine a hardware category rather than a specific device. Saying that "entertainment is not a one-size-fits-all world", Valve has revealed that there will be a wide range of Steam Machines via multiple partners, letting users "choose the hardware that makes sense for [them]".

Although no actual partners or configurations were named, Valve is looking for 300 test users to trial the Steam Machines. You can sign up online before 25 October, and there are a number of criteria you must fulfil to be eligible.

One criterion is that applicants must "play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode", reiterating Valve's desire to take on the console market in the lounge-room battlefield with these devices.

While Valve didn't mention any component partners, Nvidia wasn't so shy. In a press release, the company touted its long relationship with Valve and its commitment to SteamOS.

Nvidia engineers embedded at Valve collaborated on improving driver performance for OpenGL, optimising performance on Nvidia GPUs, helping to port Valve's award-winning content library to SteamOS and tuning SteamOS to lower latency, or lag, between the controller and on-screen action.

Given that SteamOS can turn any existing PC into a Steam Machine, there may be some questions as to why Valve would want to look at hardware. According to Valve, it wants to provide as many options as possible for all kinds of users:

The specific machine we're testing is designed for users who want the most control possible over their hardware. Other boxes will optimise for size, price, quietness or other factors.

Steam Machines aren't slated for sale until sometime at the start of 2014.



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