If you're used to the teardowns of most Apple products by iFixit, which usually detail how difficult is it to put a MacBook or an iPad back together again, then you may be pleasantly surprised to hear about how the website's encounter with one of the Steam Machine beta units went.
Somehow iFixit managed to snag one of the 300 test systems that Valve sent out of its forthcoming gaming PC to the chosen few, then proceeded to gut it. But first, it noted the unique "steamer trunk" (get it?) style box the Steam Machine comes in, saying it "wins the award for best packaging. Ever."
The Steam Machine comes with off-the-shelf PC parts, which iFixit calculates costing about $1,300 on the open market. It also includes a gaming controller with a large number of buttons, though no thumbsticks, as well as a USB recovery drive. The controller is easy enough to disassemble, even if it's unclear how you'd obtain parts to replace anything faulty. iFixit points out that it is a wired controller, which deviates from current console gaming practice and tethers you to the Steam Machine while playing.
You won't be tethered to most of the components inside the Steam Machine, however, as the case is held closed by just one screw and items like the graphics card (an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 from Zotac) and hard drive (a Seagate 1TB laptop drive paired with 8GB of solid-state storage) are easily removed and swapped. As a result, iFixit gives the Steam Machine a 9 out of 10 on its Repairability Score, with a score of 10 meaning easiest to repair.
The beta system gets dinged a bit because the RAM is tricky to access to replace (though, in this configuration, the 16GB included is the maximum the mini-ITX motherboard can handle). Proper cable placement when you're reassembling the Steam Machine is also a bit difficult, according to iFixit.
Of course, easy repairability doesn't automatically mean that the Steam Machine will be a success at bringing Linux-based gaming into the living room, especially if it will cost over $1,000 (or twice as much as the new PlayStation 4 or Xbox One). But if you do plan on joining the Steam Machine gaming revolution, you should be comforted to know that it will be relatively painless to upgrade if you desire or fix if you need to, thanks to the lack of proprietary hardware (save for the controller and the large power button on the front of the Steam Machine).