Steiger CEO Discusses State Of HTPCs, Unveils LEET Workstation Models (UPDATED)

Last month, Steiger released a new lineup of HTPCs called ERA, which offered a variety of components for what the company believes to be the best all-in-one PC for your living room. While ERA covers all the bases for living room entertainment, Steiger also caters to those who require a little bit more power. This week, the company showed off its specialized HTPCs called the LEET Workstation for those who need more juice for intensive work.

Even with a wide variety of products available, the idea of using an HTPC instead of a regular PC isn't widely accepted. Most people choose a regular desktop computer for daily use, or a decent laptop, or some combination. We spoke to Steiger Dynamics CEO Martin Gossner about the current state and future of HTPCs, and how they can compete in the PC market.

High-End HTPCs

The biggest issue is cost. The LEET Workstation comes in two models: the Studio and the Pro. You can customize the components for each model, which starts at $1,999 for the Studio and $3,299 for the Pro model. If you don't know what you want, you can grab a stock Studio that starts at $3,399 or a stock Pro starting at $3,849.


LEET Workstation Studio (Stock)
Motherboard
ASUS X99-A
Processor
Intel Core i7-5820K, 6-Core, 3.3 GHz (3.6 Turbo), 15 MB cache, HyperThreading
Memory
16 GB (4 x 4 GB) DDR4-2666 MHz, large heatspreader
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 Superclocked (4 GB DDR5)
Audio
Integrated 7.1 channel lossless- 24bit, 192 KHz bitstreaming (HDMI/DVI), 5.1 (opt., S/PDIF, audio jacks)
Storage
250 GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD
Storage
2 TB Western Digital Red HDD
Optical Drive
12X Blu-ray disc combo (read BD, write DVD/CD, M-DISC)
Connections
-Front panel (2 USB 3.0, SDHC-Card reader, HD audio In/Out)
-Rear panel (up to 10 USB 3.0/2.0, optical S/PDIF, 8-channel audio jack out, audio jack in, Intel Gigabi Ethernet, HDMI/DVI, Displayport), integrated Bluetooth, integrated Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Power Supply
Seasonic 650 Watt X-Series Gold
Cooling
Corsair 120mm pre-sealed liquid cooling for CPU (one-inch single-radiator with GT fan)

LEET Workstation Pro (Stock)
Motherboard
ASUS X99-E WS
Processor
Intel Xeon E5-1620 3.5 GHz (3.6 Turbo), v3 4-core, 10 MB cache
Memory
32 GB (4 x 8 GB) DDR4-2133 MHz
Graphics
Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 SuperSuperclocked (2GB DDR5)
Audio
Integrated 7.1 channel lossless - 24bit, 192 KHz bitstreaming (HDMI/DVI), 5.1 (opt. S/PDIF, audio jacks)
Storage
256 GB Samsung 850 Pro SSD
Storage
2 TB Western Digital Red HDD
Optical Drive
12X Blu-ray disc combo (read BD, write DVD/CD, M-DISC)
Connections
-Front panel (2 x USB 3.0, SDHC-Card reader, HD audio In/Out)
-Rear panel (up to 10 x USB 3.0/2.0, optical S/PDIF, 8-channel audio jacks out, audio jack in, Intel Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI/DVI, Displayport)
Power Supply
Seasonic 650 Watt X-Series Gold
Cooling
Ultra-quiet 120mm pre-sealed liquid cooling for CPU (1.5-inch single-radiator, custom fan and decouplers)

Why An HTPC?

These are high prices for an entire setup, even for those who are comfortable spending over $1,000 on a high-productivity or gaming PC, but Gossner said the price is because the HTPC isn't a complimentary device to the other media or gaming products in the living room. It's meant to be the all-in-one device to replace most of your other devices.

"…a typical living room has a lot of single devices, like a Blu-ray player, cable box, NAS, Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, and gaming console. When you sum up the cost for all of those devices, the cost of an HTPC is redeemed really quickly. Furthermore, an HTPC does not only replace those devices, but does the same functions even better. This means fewer cables, fewer remotes, and no constant switching between TV and HDMI inputs."

Even with all its features, the hefty price tag is still a big concern. That's why people still buy Blu-ray and DVD players or gaming consoles to satisfy most, if not all, of their living room needs. However, Gossner pointed out that HTPCs, unlike other living room devices, can easily be upgraded.

"All of our Living Room PCs are fully ATX compatible and upgradable with standard PC components, at any point in time. We actually assemble our system and pre-route cables in a way that our customers can easily perform upgrades," he said. "We can either guide them through the process or they can just send the system back to us and we do it free of charge."

Another issue is the emerging field of 4K displays and devices. With a higher resolution and bigger bandwidth, companies are doubling down on their products and ensuring their devices are ready for the latest wave in display technology. However, Gossner claims that Steiger's products supported 4K resolutions since 2012. Since then, updates to existing hardware, such as HDMI 2.0, have improved Steiger's products to keep them up-to-date.

Although PC gaming has been mostly based in users' bedrooms or personal offices, companies like Steiger and Origin, as well as the whole array of Steam Machines, sparked the idea of bringing PC games out of the bedroom and into the living room. Again, the biggest issue is not necessarily cost, as many gamers have a budget in mind that does the job for a little less than the cost of an HTPC. Also, console gamers pay even less than PC gamers, but unlike PCs, consoles don't have the flexibility to upgrade components.

When asked if Steiger or any other HTPC company would make a gaming build below the $500 mark to compete with consoles, Gossner said that the feat is "impossible."

"First reason, in [Steiger's] case, is mainly the unmatched quality and consequently high cost of our chassis. We could produce cheaper cases, but we strongly believe that a system for the living room must look and feel stunning," he said. "Second is the hardware; even our base systems have specs superseding those of current consoles. Third is our manufacturing and support cost; all of our systems are hand-assembled, tested, and have up to a 3 year [sic] warranty with lifetime support. This is not often valued during the purchasing decision, but most highly appreciated in case that help is needed."

The challenge now is convincing people to ditch their home theater system or PC for an HTPC. Gossner believes that there many assumptions that go along with having an HTPC, such as TV latency issues for gaming. He also mentioned that companies must look at demographics to determine the advantage of using an HTPC versus owning a home theater system or desktop PC.

However, it seems that HTPCs are slowly being adopted for a wide range of uses.

"We have a lot of customers who completely gave up their desktop and do everything on their HTPC. We even have customers who work from home and want to use our system for all their creative tasks," he said. This is one of the reason [sic] why we launched the LEET Pro at this year's CES."

So where does that put HTPCs in the long run? At the moment, it's still uncertain, but early adopters, from Gossner's perspective, are very happy with Steiger's products and wouldn't want to go back to a regular desktop PC. There's a lot of work to be done on Steiger's end to convince diehard PC fans to switch to an HTPC, but as long as people are interested, Steiger, Origin, and the multitude of companies with their Steam Machines will continue to improve on HTPCs.

UPDATE (3/11, 10:20am PT): Steiger CEO Martin Gossner reached out to us to update and clarify on a few specs of the LEET Studio and Pro. For LEET Studio's stock model, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 970 was replaced by the Nvidia GeForce GTX 960. Additionally, the memory was also downgraded from a DDR4-2666 MHz to 2400 MHz. This brings the total amount of the stock LEET Studio down to $3,149 from $3,399. Also included for the price is CPU overclocking and Steiger's custom power supply and SATA cables. Both options can be deselected from the build.

For the LEET Pro, its memory only allows DDR4 ECC, which Gossner said helps in keeping rendering and decoding error-free. The reason why DDR4 ECC memory is required is because the LEET Pro runs on an Intel Xeon processor.

Gossner also wanted to point out that both models can be configured to include the full range of AMD FirePro and Nvidia Quadro graphics cards, which makes them stand out from the rest of Steiger's HTPC products.

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  • bit_user
    It does look great. I love the front panel display - I've always wanted something like that, but never quite satisfied with the drive-bay units.

    But the problem is that you're paying a lot for the fancy case and noise optimization. For most people, it's just not worth it. Plus, the Dell workstations I use at my job are already really quiet (although I'd guess SD uses better components and offers more flexibility).

    They found a good niche with HTPCs, but it won't be easy to break out of that. And that market is disappearing, as TVs now have built-in streaming and people can use "stick" devices to upgrade those that don't.
    1
  • nukemaster
    Well no shortage of power for video compression or realtime transcoding on that system.
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  • turkey3_scratch
    I absolutely love the temps on the front.
    0