One of iFixit’s staff members was among the lucky few to get one of Valve’s Steam Machine prototypes, so, of course, he let his co-workers completely dismantle it and post photos of the process on the internet.
The result is that we now know that Valve has packed a lot of power into its prototypes, including a 1 terabyte Seagate hybrid SSD, a 3.2 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 16 GB of RAM and a Zotac GeForce 780 graphics card, with 3 GB of VRAM. The hard drive and GPU seem easily replaceable, and it’s possible to get at the RAM and processor after taking off a cowling covering the motherboard.
If anyone was looking for proof that Valve isn’t messing around when it comes to building a gaming machine, this is it. The tech specifications on Valve’s box are better than either the PS4 or Xbox One, which will probably be the Steam Box’s closest competitors.
There’s still the outstanding question of how this prototype will translate into a finished Steam Machine. While the prototype is made mostly of off-the-shelf parts, it’s also huge, which could be a problem for people without tons of room next to their televisions or monitors.
It’s also expensive. iFixit clocked the total cost of all the included parts at $1,300. While game console makers have frequently sold their hardware at a loss and made up for it with game sales, it doesn’t seem like Valve could cost this beast at or below $500, which is the current price ceiling for gaming consoles.
Valve said earlier this year that it is working with a number of manufacturers to produce Steam Machines with varying form factors, specifications and price points, so it’s entirely possible this prototype could just be the precursor to a high-end flagship product, and other devices will fill in the middle- and low-end of the Steam Machine lineup.
The company says that it’ll be revealing more information about its plans for the console at CES in January. Meanwhile, impatient and skilled gamers can take a crack at installing Valve’s Steam OS on their own hardware while we wait for production-grade units.