Alienware unveils $549 Alpha Steam Machine gaming PC at E3

Summary:The living room system will ship with Windows 8.1 installed and include an Xbox 360 controller, but will also feature Steam Big Picture mode when it's expected during the 2014 holiday season.

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) video game convention is routinely dominated by Sony and Microsoft (and, to a lesser and lesser degree, Nintendo) and their popular gaming consoles, leaving little room for PC gaming news. But Alienware managed to squeeze in a sneak peek at its forthcoming first foray into the Steam Machine realm.

Dubbed the Alpha, Alienware's debut contribution to Valve's living room strategy hedges its bets a bit. It will ship with Windows 8.1 and include an Xbox 360 controller that works with an interface customized by Valve. Nonetheless, it still qualifies (eventually) as a Steam Machine, making use of Steam Big Picture mode to optimally display on an HDTV and ready to handle the Steam Controller . The SteamOS, designed specifically for living room use, can be downloaded once it finally graduates from beta status.  

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Part of this hedging owes to the fact that Valve won't have the necessary Steam components ready by the end of the year , despite promising at CES that Steam Machines will begin shipping by then. Technically, the Alpha will fulfill that goal, as Alienware claims it will be ready for the holiday shopping season. Ironically, however, it will begin its life as a small-form-factor Windows PC.

The base configuration of the Alpha will cost $549 and will be built with the following parts: Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, 500GB hard drive, integrated wi-fi, and a customized Nvidia graphics card. This being Alienware, the Alpha can of course be customized with faster Intel CPUs (either Core i5 or i7), bigger hard drives (up to 2TB) and up to 8GB of RAM. One item that can't be upgraded is the GPU, not completely surprising given the Alpha's small footprint. 

While Alienware has been a longtime supporter of the Steam Machine concept, there is plenty of skepticism surrounding the ability of Valve's SteamOS to succeed in the living room against next-generation gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Would you have an interest in buying the Alpha when it becomes available later this year? Let us know your thoughts in the Talkback section below. 

Topics: PCs

About

Sean Portnoy started his tech writing career at ZDNet nearly a decade ago. He then spent several years as an editor at Computer Shopper magazine, most recently serving as online executive editor. He received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the University of Southern California.

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