SteamOS – PC gaming in the living room?

By | November 14, 2015

SteamOS LogoAfter 3 years of development, Valve’s SteamOS has started shipping out on Alienware Steam Machines. ZOTAC, a Chinese computer hardware company, has a Machine of their own. Syberware is another partner in this release, offering their version of a Steam Machine. It has the following specs:

  • – CPU: Intel Core i3 3.6 GHz
  • – CPU Socket Type: LGA 1150
  • – Motherboard: Intel H81 Chipset
  • – Storage: 500GB SATA III HDD
  • – Memory: 4GB DDR3 1600 MHz

Which basically amounts to a budget gaming PC in terms of hardware, with the added nicety of a small custom case. Unfortunately, the controller is listed as “optional”. . . If you already have a desktop PC that can handle gaming, then maybe Steam Link is more your style. For $50 USD it acts like a Roku for PC gaming – it will allow you to access your steam games to whatever display it is hooked up to.Steam Link design

Although the battle between PC and console gaming has been going on forever, SteamOS isn’t taking over living room gaming quite yet: performance benchmarking (Geekbench 3) done by Arstechnica indicates that games running on SteamOS score 66% on performance metrics like FPS relative to games run on Windows 10. On the same hardware. On some games the performance gap was much smaller, around 10%. Still quite a big gap for the high demands of gamers. I should also note the testing was done with an Intel G3320 CPU and a GTX660 (2gb) GPU – a very modest setup which could skew the results.

steam controllerThe performance gap is speculated by some to be primarily due to the graphics drivers available to the Linux kernel, since SteamOS is based on Linux. If this is accurate, newer drivers released over time would improve SteamOS performance without any additional cost, closing the gap. And while Linux operating systems are free, Windows licenses still cost money. Perhaps SteamOS could be the forerunner of PC gaming in the living room, bringing the best of both PC and console worlds to the consumer. With next generation consoles continually rising in price, and PC components falling in price, this isn’t by any means a stretch of the imagination.

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