For those who don’t follow the gaming industry, let me provide some background. The video game console industry is currently in the 8th generation. To quote wikipedia,

“All three of the eighth generation home consoles use AMD GPUs, and two of them use AMD CPUs. […] Both AMD and Nvidia are optimistic for the PC market, as the unified CPU/GPU processors in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One use the same x86 programming architecture found in PCs, with AMD planning to introduce similar processors to desktop and laptop PCs in the near future. Nvidia claims that game consoles will no longer be able to compete with PC graphics due to massive R&D funding by Nvidia and AMD, and stricter size and power requirements of consoles.”

For a long time, PC Gamers have insisted on the superiority of PCs over consoles. PCs have the advantages of being upgradeable, capable of much more than gaming, and high-performance. The gaming industry has driven innovation in computer graphics card hardware. As the market for gaming consoles diminishes, PCs have stood the test of time.

A corporation called Valve has jumped on the idea of bringing the PC gaming experience to the living room.

Valve is notable for having a near monopoly on the market of PC gaming software distribution platforms. Think iTunes, but for gaming.

The fine folks at Valve have taken a number of steps to bring their platform to the living room, first of which (not necessarily chronological order) being introducing “Big Picture Mode” in Steam, which is optimized for use on television displays, as can be seen below:

Next, they’ve introduced support for Linux, much to the rejoicing of Linux aficionados, such as myself. Thanks to Valve’s investment and support of Linux, it is now becoming standard for games to be released on Linux. Take a look at the available Linux games on Steam to see for yourself!

Not only that, but Steam announced its own Debian-based Linux distribution called SteamOS.

More importantly, Valve has partnered with vendors to produce pre-built PCs tailored specifically for gaming. They are calling these PCs Steam Machines, and they will come preloaded with SteamOS. With SteamOS and Big Picture Mode, these machines are intended to act as PC-based gaming consoles.

The last key element to bringing PC gaming to the living room is the controller. As you might have guessed, Valve has got that covered too. Their controller is an innovative piece of hardware designed to replicate the level of control provided by the traditional keyboard and mouse. Being compatible with games that don’t support controllers is critical.

There is also the Steam Link, which allows you to stream games from your PC to your tv. This is useful if you have multiple TVs or want to keep your PC/Steam Machine somewhere else.

When the controller, Link, and Steam Machines were added to the Steam Store, I looked over the specs & price for all of the Steam Machines. The one I had my eye on was the Webhallen S15-01, but that is a mark-up of around 300 USD.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to build my own Steam Machine, and based the specs off of the S15-01.

The parts I’ve ordered include:

  • EVGA GeForce GTX 960 (02G-P4-2966-KR)
    • Came with a free backplate
    • Came with free Batman: Arkham Knight
      • will raffle this off, heard PC version sucks and not interested regardless
  • Rosewill Micro ATX Case (R363-M-BK) which has a 400W PSU mounted in it
  • Intel Core i5-4460 64-bit quad-core 3.2GHz (BX80646I54460)
  • Western Digital 1TB SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5” Bare Drive (WD10EZEX)
  • ASRock Micro ATX Intel Motherboard (H97M Anniversary)
  • G.SKILL 8GB (2x4GB) DDR3 1600 PC3 12800 RAM (Ripjaws X Series)
  • Kingston 120GB 2.5” SSD (SV300S37A/120G)

I think it would be fun to do some case modding/decals for this build. I’ll maybe get a wireless card for it, or just hook it up in the basement and use Steam Link… not sure yet :)

The next post will be documenting the build! In future posts I will also be documenting all of the software configuration (I plan to use Arch Linux rather than SteamOS), and any modifications I make.