Alienware’s Steam Machines Get an Update

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The magic of E3 has hit again. Among numerous useless press releases full of hype, there’s one worth noting for us Linux gamers. Dell and its subdivision Alienware have just announced that the Alienware Alpha and its Steam Machine equivalent are getting an upgrade (called the r2).

Here’s the take-aways:

  • Intel processor: from 4th generation to the 6th (Skylake), i5 and i7 only.
  • RAM: from 4Gb to 8 Gb.
  • GPU: from a 860M to a GTX960 equivalent.
  • For the more expensive models, hard drive go up to 1TB of storage.
  • Price: the new models start from 749 USD (ouch!) up to 899 USD. The previous Steam Machine with an i3 core remains available at 449 USD.

It is very strange to see the i3 model not being upgraded, since an i3 intel chip makes a lot of sense for gaming. Most games are pretty bad at using multiple cores currently, so there is not so much advantage in going for an i5 and i7.

This being said this is a welcome upgrade, while it’s still somewhat not near enough for the most demanding ports out there, if you want to play them at max details in fullHD.

ITWorld had apparently a few words with Chris Sutphen, senior marketing manager at Alienware, who declared:

  • “We expect the SteamOS catalog to strengthen at the end of year”
  • “Vulkan will speed up transition for SteamOS to AAA content”

Since Alienware keeps selling the Alienware Alpha new model with the very same specs, I’d say the risk is minimal on their part. It’s not like they are making new hardware JUST for the Steam Machines. Still, not giving up at this stage is a positive sign, as we assume sales have been far from stellar up until now. And they did update their shop page for that purpose, finally.

Now it would be nice if some of the other options out there (Syber, Zotac) did refresh their Steam Machines line-up. As the SteamOS library grows, things should start to make a little more sense down the road.


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7 Comments

  1. RE: “Now it would be nice if some of the other options out there (Syber, Zotac) did refresh their Steam Machines line-up.”

    _ZOTAC_
    ZOTAC has released a newer ZBOX model (the MAGNUS EN980, which is VR-ready) which includes the notebook form factor of the GeForce GTX 980 (http://www.geforce.com/whats-new/articles/introducing-the-geforce-gtx-980-notebooks), not to be confused with the GeForce GTX 980M, but I sort of doubt ZOTAC would release a new Steam Machine roughly based on the EN980, as the SN970, as it stands, is competitive enough with the new Alienware Steam Machine. Like the new Alienware Steam Machine (“Coral R2” revision), the SN970 has a Skylake CPU and a 900 series GeForce GTX GPU. I wouldn’t expect a new ZOTAC Steam Machine until at least the higher-end GeForce 10* series notebook graphics cards are released (August). That should also be approaching the release date of Intel’s Kaby Lake processors (sometime in Q3). But who’s to say? If ZOTAC does release a new Steam Machine before year’s end (or at all), I hope it can manage a form factor closer to the size of SN970 than that of the MAGNUS EN980, but that’s probably hoping for the impossible.

    *[I didn’t use the ‘M’ nomenclature because it is unclear if NVIDIA will have separate mobile GPUs for the GeForce 10 series, or if all 10 series notebook graphics cards will be like the notebook form factor of the GeForce GTX 980: http://techfrag.com/2016/06/08/nvidia-launch-pascal-based-gtx-10-series-laptops-august/.%5D

    In the interim, perhaps ZOTAC would consider a price reduction:
    When I go through the checkout process at Dell.com (up to the screen where you are prompted to verify and submit an order), the $749.99 Alienware Steam Machine Intel Core i5 model yields a total price (with tax) of $817.49. As of yesterday I hadn’t see the updated Alienware Intel Core i5 model on Amazon.com (or Gamestop.com, Game.co.uk, or Newegg.com), but I assume $749.99 (or monetary equivalent) will be the same price via third-party retailers.

    The ZOTAC NEN is currently $979.99 on Amazon.com (with free shipping) and $1,009.98 (with shipping) on Newegg.com. I have seen the SN970 on sale for $899.99 previously, so I wonder if ZOTAC is open to lowering the price of the SN970 in response to the release of the new Alienware Steam Machine. Although I doubt ZOTAC’s Steam Machine efforts could survive a race to the bottom in terms of price (i.e. selling at a loss).

    _Syber (and MAINGEAR)_
    Syber’s Steam Machine takes a modular approach like a traditional gaming PC (instead of a console-esque approach). MAINGEAR’s Drift also maintains the traditional gaming PC configurability paradigm. Rather than needing whole system revisions, individual parts options are updated as these parts reach the market. Syber’s Steam Machine already offers a range of Skylake processors (and with MAINGEAR’s Drift, you have a choice between Skylake and Broadwell-E processors), it can be configured with a number of graphics cards including the GeForce GTX 1080, and there are a number of RAM and HDD/SSD options. I dislike the AZZA-designed case of the Syber Steam Machine even more than I dislike the look of the Alienware Steam Machine. It’s also larger than the Alienware and ZOTAC Steam Machines, but with the advantage of accommodating more powerful components. MAINGEAR’s Drift uses SilverStone’s FTZ01 case, which is slightly larger still, although it looks nicer than the Syber Steam Machine case, IMO, and it affords the option of an internal ODD for those of us who still use them for various reasons. (Materiel.net’s Steam Machine uses Fractal Design’s Node 304 chassis, and Scan’s Steam Machines come in a number of chassis: Antec’s VSK2000-U3, Fractal Design’s Node 202, and SilverStone’s RVZ01 and RVZ02.)

    If Steam Machines are aimed at the console market (which by most accounts they are), I think ZOTAC came closest to nailing it (minus price); one hardware configuration that competes well against the established consoles (thus console gamers don’t even need to worry about sorting out “good”, “better, and “best” designations, not that Valve delivered on that talk anyway), and a chassis that could blend in reasonably well into just about any living room. By comparison, the Alienware Steam Machine looks like a Pimp My Ride reject, and there are multiple configurations which likely confuse console gamers who wouldn’t know which configuration to pick for the gaming they want to do; however, Dell can compete at price points I think other manufacturers would find difficult to match. Like the ZOTAC NEN, the Materiel.net Steam Machine comes in one stock configuration. Beyond these three (Alienware, Materiel.net, and ZOTAC), the other Steam Machines are more configurable and therefore more involved (like traditional gaming PCs), which is great for PC gamers who want and expect this, but which has shown in the past not to really appeal to console gamers.

    • > the $749.99 Alienware Steam Machine Intel Core i5 model yields a total price (with tax) of $817.49.

      Is the difference simply due to tax? Sounds like 15%+.

      > I think ZOTAC came closest to nailing it (minus price);

      Yeah, the price is the big issue with ZOTAC. It’s nowhere near affordable, and therefore completely alienates most the consoles market.

      > the Alienware Steam Machine looks like a Pimp My Ride reject

      Agree, the chassis is awful, but the form factor is pretty nice. And it’s quite light.

      > but which has shown in the past not to really appeal to console gamers.

      Console gamers dont want to tinker with anything (at least most of them). The typical console gamer wants to buy one box that will play all the games they want in the next x years.

  2. > Is the difference simply due to tax? Sounds like 15%+.

    Total sales tax of 9.0% (state + county + city). Everybody wants a piece.

    • Ouch. I thought the US had lower VAT than most other developed countries overall, seems like it’s not really the case.

      • That’s why America’s one of the wealthiest countries in the world 😉

  3. Love to see a Zen/Polaris APU similar to what the XB1 Scorpio should have. The Scorpio is looking to be an incredible value machine. It appears it will have:

    APU with: Zen CPU (8-core and probably 2x performance of current XBox One CPU) with Polaris GPU (6TFlops).

    It’s about 4.5X the power as the XB1 (the GPU). WOW! Hopefully they’ll enable 60FPS for most previous games which would be simple to do.

    The quality of future games on Scorpio is amazing. Look at Battlefront using Photogrammetry for approaching photo realism, 60FPS, 1080p, hopefully 90FPS VR HUD support (likely)

    I may buy that instead of a new PC graphics card and switch between the console and PC.

    STEAMOS interests me, but it has to get a lot better for me to bother, but at this point I may just stick with W10 PC + XB1 Scorpio for the next ten years.

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