A First Look At the Smach Zero SteamOS Portable Console

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Following the announcement at E3, we have learnt that the previous project known as the SteamBoy has now been renamed as Smach Zero. And it’s still planned to be the first SteamOS portable device to be marketed in 2016. Anyone interested in Civilization 5 on the go ? πŸ™‚

This time I bring you a few more details about the device, including pictures so that you can have a look at what it is supposed to be like. Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering why it’s called SMACH, well it’s a shorter version of “Steam MACHine”.

First, specs wise (source):

  • AMD embedded G-Series SoC “Steppe Eagle” with Jaguar-based CPU and GCN-based Radeon graphics
  • 4 GB RAM memory
  • 32GB internal memory and SD Card Slot
  • USB OTG
  • 5-inch Touch screen with 720p resolution
  • Configurable tactile gamepads
  • HDMI video output connection
  • Wi-Fi conectivity
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • 4G mobile network connectivity (PRO model only)

A couple of comments on these specs:

  • AMD: this may sound disappointing at first, but let’s not forget that AMD is the only one in the mobile space who can currently provide a x86 SoC with intergrated GPU (on top of Intel, of course). If you were thinking about nVidia, you should know that nVidia has a different strategy and focuses on ARM+Tegra for their mobile SOCs – and most Steam Games only run on x86 architecture. After checking a little more info about the Steppe Eagle, it looks like the CPU is either a dual or quad core (from AMD, so single-thread performance should not be stellar…). As for the GPU performance, I’m not sure if any benchmark is available for this kind of SoC – but it has been used in some Mini-ITX PC configurations.
  • 4Gb RAM: good choice, most games should be able to run, even some of the more demanding ones.
  • 32Gb internal memory: That’s a little limited – not sure whether the OS is also supposed to be on it, but some games on Steam can be pretty big and take easily dozens of gigabytes. Having a SD port is nice but that should be much slower than SSD-like tech.
  • USB OTG: always nice to have.
  • HDMI output: nice, you could us this together with a large screen and display much high resolutions.
  • Wi-Fi, Blutooth: expected.
  • 4G: nice to have, but certainly not for downloading the largest games – you’ll want to do that at home instead.
  • 5-inch touchscreen at 720p: a good choice, it should remain readable. But some games have small text and may not be adapted to 5” screen however.
  • Tactile gamepads: they are replicating the Steam Controller design which is a safe bet for compatibility. However, will they be just as good as the Valve ones?

Now let’s look at the machine itself. From the front it looks like this. Yeah, it’s certainly a little bulky, and makes me think of the old Lynx console from Atari, where the controls where pretty big compared to the screen itself. Right now I’m not sure if this will really be POCKETABLE, for example πŸ™‚

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From the back, we should assume a large battery positioned there, and you can see that the two triggers seem so make things easier for FPS like Half Life 2.

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They have a glowing logo on the back as well.

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From the side you can see that the machine is going to be pretty large. So I guess you can forget about putting it in your pockets πŸ™‚

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The front shows the haptic controls as well as the… D-pad, as separate buttons ? This is a major disappointment, as having an actual D-pad or analog stick would have been way more practical on this kind of device.

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The front action buttons seem nice enough, at least on their rendered model :

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Overall I am quite excited about the fact that the SteamBoy project is moving forward. Not because I think this is the best designed mobile device ever (it’s probably not) – rather because it should show people the potential of SteamOS on mobile devices as well. Mobile x86 SOC are now decent enough to be considered for gaming, and the number of games available on SteamOS is pretty large already to make this a viable proposition. You may want to play AAA games in your living room, but on the go, a bunch of cool indie games would be pretty cool as well. And let’s not forget this can be seen as a portable Minecraft machine, which may be very appealing to a certain crowd.

They will be at the Gamescom 2015 in August, so if you are going there I’d recommend you pay them a visit. If not, you can always come back on Boiling Steam and we will certainly have more news and reports for you on this.

PS: for now there is close to no information I could find about who is behind Smach Zero (their website is apparently registered in Spain) and who is backing them. You can’t really make hardware without significant investment these days – so are they going to go Kickstarter or is a larger company helping them out ?


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Ekianjo

18 Comments

  1. You didn’t link to a source, come on don’t steal others news without giving credit that’s a real dickish thing to do.

      • Yeah, the PR announcement, if that where you got the info. Journalism 101.

        • So I have to link to the email I got or something? You can find the info anywhere anyway, it’s nothing confidential.

          • I added the link. Note that the link was already shared yesterday in another article on BoilingSteam.

          • You link to every source in every article, or else it’s a good way to piss everyone off.

          • Alright, so you guys prefer to have no article instead of an article without a link to the source? I mean, if everything that was written inside there was dumb lies, I could get a little bit of why people are so pissed off here, but it’s not like it’s the case.

          • This is what journalism is, citing sources and giving credit where it is due. Don’t be a dick and leave out sources for your visitors to verify your information. The fact that you can’t understand that with your comment of “Alright, so you guys prefer to have no article instead of an article without a link to the source?” Makes me think you’re either very young, or pig ignorant to how to be a good editor.

          • Your comment makes me think you either have a lot of free time for this crap or just like to get in fights with random people wherever you go. Comments about the actual contents would be more interesting that 10 posts about a missing link, don’t you think ? If you get mad at this kind of this, Oh God I hope you call Newspapers and random websites every single day of your life to tell them they forgot to get a source for you, and adding insults to the mix. I hope this works well for you.

          • Yet another comment showing you’re unable to suck it up and grow as a webmaster. I really hope Linux gamers have better sources of gaming news than you. I’m trying to make you better at what you do, by teaching you something as fucking basic as giving sources.

  2. I think Ubuntu should rather get their act together and put out a nice Intel or AMD powered tablet with the great Ubuntu Touch, put Steam on it and have a nice steam-controller like screen overlay on a 8″ screen.

    • lol seriously. it is basic journalism. really, you are supposed to provide sources with any written document in which information is retrieved from another source so that it is possible to verify that information.

      in journalism it makes things convenient for the consumer, in most other things it just tells people the full story.

      and honestly, if you have to argue back when someone suggests you add sources, you have no idea what you are doing as a journalist.

      it isnt something “just anyone” can do with little to no effort, even though the internet has been making it seem like that lately.

    • Ubuntu is the Linux community working on an operating system, not a company with money working on an OS.

    • Ekianjo,

      When you are writing a story – expecially when it contains other peoples’ content (images and such) – it is expected that you cite your sources. This respectfully provides the people that originally created the content that you based your work off of to get the credit that they deserve.

      This also makes it quick and easy for readers to check that your article isn’t a hoax and helps reinforce a sense of trust in your content from your users.

      Not providing sources in every article leaves some users unsure of your content, burns bridges with potential partners, and leaves the article looking rather amateur.

      I am not saying this as an insult, but only to express that Bob is giving you some helpful info here and it feels like the feedback is being unreasonably disregarded.

      Lots of users want to see a source while reading the comment. Users probably won’t read your other articles just because they’ve stumbled on the first one, so the argument that a previous article links to it is a bit moot. We’re not reading that article. We’re reading this one.

      If this one cites it’s sources, contains valuable information, and provides some interesting insight then we may run into another one later. After running into a bunch of great articles here, you may find users that value and respect the site as a whole. That is how you create a good media site.

      Right now, you are losing plenty of potential regular users because you don’t want to write valuable content. This is why I firmly believe that Bob’s feedback here should be more important to you than any discussion about the article’s content.

      Also, most games do a lot of floating-point operations. This means that Intel doesn’t gain many benefits from hyper-threading while playing them. So, saying “from AMD, so single-thread performance should not be stellar” is a bit of a pointless and uninformed jab at AMD.

      I don’t like AMD, but it doesn’t seem very smart to be rude to all of your AMD-supporting readers like that. They probably closed the article immediately after, and rightfully so.

      This article is perfect documentation for how to *not* write a tech article. It is a mistake to be learned from, surely.

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