By some stroke of godlike luck, we managed to acquire a Steam Machine—one of only 300 beta kits that Valve released into the wild. How, you might ask? Well, equal measures of diligence and skill. (Read: we sacrificed a coder on a steam altar.) The Steam Machine is essentially a highly customized desktop PC and shares many of the same hallmarks of repairability: parts that are easy to access and upgrade, modular design, and even room (and a pre-routed SATA cable) for a second hard drive. Curious as to what this particular Steam Machine was worth in terms of hardware, we specced out the components and came up with a rough value of $1,300.
We've seen plenty of desktops before, so (for us) the controller was a more interesting test of Valve's hardware design prowess. Valve knows that dragging PC gamers into the living room and away from their mouse would require an adequate substitute. Valve’s take on adequate: more buttons. The controller is essentially a handheld keyboard—and an easy to disassemble one, at that.
While Steam Machine components vary between units, construction is presumed to be the same across the board. This caveat in mind, Valve’s Steam Machine scored a stellar repairability score of 9 out of 10.
• Regardless of content, Valve wins the award for best packaging. Ever. Is that a companion cube we spy?
• Individually configurable touchpads, and loads of buttons make this controller a sort of hybrid of everyone's favorite input devices.
• The Steam Machine Controller is wired only, and connects to the Machine with an included extra-long USB cable. Reading all of those inputs and sending them back to the mothership is a tough job. But the NXP LPC11U37F microcontroller handles the task well.
• Wild SATA data and power connectors have appeared. iFixit is impressed with Valve. If you were worried about storage capacity, worry no more. This particular Steam Machine has a 1 TB SeagateST1000LM014 laptop SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive).
• Tucked away inside this unit is a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 780 3 GB GDDR5 graphics card.
• The inner cowling is one complex bit of custom-fitted craftsmanship. Its two parts were a little tough to wrangle out of their homes.
• Out comes the entire off-the-shelf Mini-ITX motherboard. This Steam Machine is equipped with two sticks of Crucial Ballistix Sport 8 GB DDR3 (PC3 12800) RAM. At 16 GB total, it's the maximum this motherboard will support.
• Behind the "Big Button" on the front of the Machine lies a board containing 12 LEDs—for illuminating the circumference of the power switch—plus the clicky button itself. The board is wrangled by an NXP LCP11U24F 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller.
• We found a SilverStone SST-ST45SF-G 450W SFX12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply in our Steam Machine.