Alienware jumps into SteamOS with its new Steam Machine

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January 6, 2014 6:02 PM PST / Updated: January 6, 2014 10:11 PM PST

LAS VEGAS -- With the 2013 introduction of both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, you'd think the living-room gaming category would be pretty tied up. Veteran PC gaming company Valve, the force behind classic games such as Half-Life and the massive Steam online PC game store and app, thinks differently. With its new Steambox initiative, and the SteamOS that runs a living-room-friendly version of the Steam app, the company hopes to usher in a new generation of small form factor PCs specifically designed to hook up to a big screen television.

While many of the early Steambox systems are coming from smaller custom PC makers, one of the handful of early hardware partners for Valve is Dell, through its Alienware gaming PC brand. That's a bit of a surprise, as Alienware is known for big-budget gaming desktops and laptops, not console-priced small-form-factor PCs that run operating systems other than Windows.
CNET/Sarah Tew

Dell calls this unit the Alienware Steam Machine, and it shares a basic boxy look and feel with the other Steambox hardware we've seen to date. Exact specs and price details are not available yet, but we're told the system will sell for a price comparable to current-gen living-room game consoles, and will include one of Valve's inventive new wireless game controllers.

We expect this system, which will likely run a system-on-chip CPU/GPU combo and play some native Steam games while streaming others from a compatible PC on the same network, to be available sometime in late 2014. Alienware also plans to make a Steam OS version of its X51 desktop available, most likely with a Windows/Steam OS dual-boot option.

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Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal.