Steam hardware: looking for opinions/reviews

Continuing the discussion from Oculus cuts Rift price for second time this year, now $399 with Touch:


I would be interested in this too.


It sounds like Steam Machines are not very promising:

So I’d be looking at a Link/controller setup, maybe with a VR headset in the future. Hm.


Steam machines seem pretty overpriced imo. I just got a new PC for USD 300 or so (second hand) and it’s rather lovely. There’s really no disadvantage to buying second hand when it comes to PCs; as long as you format the hard drive and wipe everything, it’s essentially the same thing as having a brand new one.

I’m going to buy a new GPU but even if I slap a completely top of the line video card in there, it’s still going to bring the total price for the rig to less than a thousand dollars. If I don’t go completely bleeding edge, it’s possible to find a GTX 1070 for 3-400 bucks, which is still less than the price of a new console and it would still be capable of 4k gaming at 60 frames a second, which consoles are a long way off being able to achieve.


Hmmmm… my situation is I’ve got a perfectly good laptop, but it’s four-going-on-five years old and it’s a bit slow for games. Usually I play pretty low-intensity games, but Firewatch is nigh-unplayable, and that got me thinking. I’d love to link/cast/whatever games like that to my TV set.

If the Stream machine thing isn’t going to work – and I totally agree with you about the prices – it’s time to look at another config.


I have no experience with the rest, but the Steam Controller is pretty nice – I use it for racing games mostly, since I don’t want a wheel taking up lots of space.

The one thing I don’t like is the batteries are a very tight fit and the little buttons that are supposed to lever them out don’t go quite far enough. But a charge lasts a pretty good while. If the batteries get low, it will pause the game to give you the chance to switch them.


A Steam machine is basically just a box configured to run SteamOS, which is a version of Ubuntu. The only advantage to getting a pre-made one is that one would be paying essentially for a prettified living room computer/appliance.

What I would do is just set up a decent computer with a reliable board, hefty PSU, lots of RAM, and a quality supported GPU to run Steam. You can even switch the GUI into its living room “console mode” (whatever it’s called) to navigate with a game pad. The box I am on now is ancient - a Nehelem-based i7 from 2009, with a GTX260 GPU, running Linux Mint. It has only been starting to show its age for gaming recently. I can play stuff of like the Portal, Arkham Asylum, Just Cause 2 era at full settings with no problem. Recent stuff I would need to lose some detail, but I play mostly older games anyway. The graphics drivers and OpenGL situation is quite good on Linux these days.


I have a Steam Link and 2 controllers. It’s a pretty convenient way to get content onto the TV, but you still have to have a PC that is up to the task of running the game, so a Steam Link by itself doesn’t seem like a good solution for you. Also, it’s not necessarily something you want to do over WiFi, so keep that in mind. I’ve got the Steam Link box connected via Ethernet, but my laptop is still on WiFi, and although it works OK most of the time, I’ve definitely seen some hiccups that probably wouldn’t be present if I they were both using a wired connection.

As for a PC to run this, either directly connected to the TV, or via a Steam Link, I would absolutely recommend checking out PC Part Picker if you are comfortable building the PC from scratch. I skimmed the site just now, and this looks like a pretty good starting point:

Entry Level Gaming Build

I wouldn’t necessarily build this as-is, but it provides a decent baseline where you can start swapping out pieces to customize it for your intended purpose. For example, I’d probably opt for an SSD. A 500GiB Samsung can be had for ~$150, which would only $60 if you’re willing to live with those space limitations. If you can afford it, using an SSD as your primary drive with a secondary hard drive can be the best of both worlds.

It has a lot of interesting ideas going for it:

  • The shape is somewhat inverted compared to Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo’s traditional controllers.
  • There’s no right stick. It uses a capacitive touch pad instead, similar to a laptop.
  • This works as both a right stick alternative and a mouse alternative, but it isn’t great at either.
  • It uses a pair of paddles instead of shoulder buttons (it still has triggers.)

It’s fine, but I’d probably prefer my Xbox One Elite Controller, or a standard Xbox One controller over it.
It’s worth noting that the newer model Xbox One controllers are Bluetooth capable. I haven’t verified it yet, but I have read that it is possible to pair them with the Steam Link, and it should be possible to do the same with a Windows or Linux box.

You can get an Xbox One S for ~$200 without too much trouble. It can’t do 4K gaming, and 60FPS is going to depend on the game, but it’s a fantastic entry point if you aren’t already tied into another ecosystem.

It’s called Steam Big Picture Mode.


It has shoulder buttons, along with the triggers and paddles.

If you use a right stick regularly and are used to that, I could definitely see it as a downside. Like I said, I play racing games with it, so typically the right pad is just a momentary “glance” camera control.


I knew that it was something ironic! (I haven’t had a television in decades)


You caught me. I was too lazy to get up and look at one.

I also imagine there are pictures of them on the internet.



Stem machines are overpriced, mostly because they can only play a fraction of the games on steam.
You would get more bang for your buck by buying a used computer and sticking in a cheap video card.
You could then stream your games from the computer anywhere on the house to your laptop.


The Nvidia Shield is worth a mention here I think; you can stream games over the network to your TV from your laptop if it has an Nvidia GPU but it also has a remarkably decent remote streaming option that lets you stream a game in 1080p from Nvidia’s servers, which do all the grunt work for the (still quite powerful) Shield.

The games selection could do with being a bit wider and the nearest server to me is 5000+ km away in Japan, so the input latency is a bit high for twitch gaming but I completed the most recent Batman game without too much trouble, and if you’re based in the US or Europe then I’m sure it would be totally fine.

The box itself runs Android and it does 4k HDR Netflix, Plex and whatever else you want to sideload into it. It’s about the size of a DVD case and looks great under the TV. At $200, it’s probably the cheapest way to get decent PC gaming performance…


Decent pre-built systems can sometimes be sniped for as low as CAD $650. I sold an i7 build with a capable graphics card at that price one shift, so, yeah, that’s a thing.


This is what I built last year. It’s a bit overkill, but I had my reasons (I want it to last 5-10 years and handle heavy dev/database work as well as gaming). Cutting the RAM and drive space could bring it down a good bit from the $1000 budget. (Word of warning, you have to have other smaller RAM to update the BIOS on the motherboard before it will work with these big RAM cards.) Also, if you do get a mini-ITX, definitely get dust filters. It’s crowded in there, once it’s working you don’t want to have to go back in routinely to clean it.

It was the first time I built a PC from scratch and was surprisingly easy with the exception of figuring out the RAM/BIOS compatibility issue.


Nice…maybe would have pick an 8th or 9th gen GPU but that’s a pretty easy upgrade at any point.

32GB of RAM though, jeez :slight_smile:


The RAM is an interesting point, though. I did look into just buying a new laptop, since the games which are too slow to be fun to play aren’t that far off the mark – they still work, just the scrolling is slow enough to be annoying. And usually I get a new computer every 3-4 years or so anyhow.

But the ones in my usual price range are virtually the same as the one I have now. Definitely the same RAM and hard drive capacity, probably a slightly updated processor (haven’t bothered to compare), and Win 10 instead of 7, which I don’t care about since I’m going to be loading Ubuntu, or Steam OS if I’m going to have a second machine.

Hardware just doesn’t seem to move that quickly anymore. Probably a good thing overall.


Another thing that is worth considering if you are looking at buying a new rig is that there is a worldwide shortage of high end GPUs at the moment. Apparently (I only just found this out), there’s a cryptocurrency called Ethereum that is just at the end of a value spike and people have been buying GPUs by the dozen to put into farming rigs because they give the most bang for your buck when it comes to currency mining.

A new GPU right now will cost about 150-200% what it did last year, if you can find somewhere that even has stock. The good news is that the cost of mining in kwh will exceed the profit from mining soon, so as soon as it costs $1.01 to mine $1 of currency, you’ll see a bunch of cheap second hand GPUs flood the market as people cut their losses.

Given the strain that the GPUs will have been under (100% load for months at a time), it’s probably not worth buying one that was previously in a mining rig but at least the supply of new ones should return to something like normal in a couple of months.

I’m going to hold off upgrading mine until nearer the end of the year. PSVR can be my new toy until then…


:stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: 7th gen was announced about 2 weeks after I had ordered the parts last year and 8th gen isn’t coming out until later this month. 9th gen would require waiting until next year. (if you want the latest CPU, build in a September, but it’ll be obsolete by next year.) It’s been many years since I’ve seen the CPU be a bottleneck though. For me it’s usually IO or the RAM - not enough RAM and it’s constantly swapping and paging to/from disk.

Yeah. Possible to allocate 16GB or more as a RAMdisk (which is as near as you can get to instant IO) and still have plenty for general usage. 32GB is more than most people need now, but in some years it may take that much just to run an OS and use a web browser.

Open world games like Fallout 4? If you play on 4GB of RAM, every time you take a few steps you have to wait while it loads everything that you’ll be able to see, but if you turn around then you have to wait while it reloads the things behind you. More RAM does have a major effect on that. An SSD also makes a big difference - when it does need to load from disk it’s a lot faster than a hard drive.

People have been running 32 bit software on 64 bit hardware for a long time now. And software that can only use a single core of a multi-core processor. The software is only gradually catching up. Meanwhile the hardware improvements are mostly pricing per capacity (of RAM and storage), power consumption, and under-the hood stuff.


Ah, my bad, I was meaning the version 8**/9** GeForce cards. You can probably guess I don’t tend to upgrade mine :grin: