The prototypes will be based on Nvidia GPUs and Intel CPUs.
The Steam Universe group page has been updated with the specs of Valve's prototypes being distributed to 300 testers later this month. Valve also explains the creation of its own hardware set given there will be plenty of partners on board offering complete Steam Machines solutions. Valve designer Greg "Gregori" Coomer says the company wanted to accomplish some specific design goals that in the past others weren't yet tackling.
"One of them was to combine high-end power with a living-room-friendly form factor," he writes. "Another was to help us test living-room scenarios on a box that's as open as possible. So for our own first prototype Steam Machine (the one we're shipping to 300 Steam users), we've chosen to build something special."
That something special will feature units with either a Nvidia Titan, GTX 780, GTX 760 or GTX 660 GPU. On the CPU front, some boxes will have Intel's Core i7-4770, some with the Core i5-4570, and some with Core i3 processors. Available RAM will be 16 GB DDR3-1600 (CPU) and 3 GB DDR5 (GPU), and storage will be provided by a hybrid SSHD with 1 TB for storage and 8 GB for cache. Power will be handled by an internal 450 watt 80 Plus Gold power supply.
As for the actual living-room friendly size, the prototype dimensions will be 12 x 12.4 x 2.9 inches. To put that into perspective, the upcoming Xbox One will supposedly measure 10.86 x 13.18 x 2.96, making this prototype roughly the same size.
"The prototype machine is a high-end, high-performance box, built out of off-the-shelf PC parts," Coomer writes. "It is also fully upgradable, allowing any user to swap out the GPU, hard drive, CPU, even the motherboard if you really want to. Apart from the custom enclosure, anyone can go and build exactly the same machine by shopping for components and assembling it themselves. And we expect that at least a few people will do just that. We'll also share the source CAD files for our enclosure, in case people want to replicate it as well."
"And to be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase - those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package," he adds. "Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions."
From a hardware perspective, the Steam ecosystem will change over time, he says, thus any upgrades will be at the owner's discretion. Later on the company will talk about how Steam will help customers understand the differences between the machines, the strengths and weaknesses of hardware, and upgrade decisions. The company also plans to release images of the prototypes before the units are shipped later on – they're currently not ready for showcasing.
"The prototype we're talking about here is not meant to replace [a customer's current performance PC]," he says. "Many of those users would like to have a way to bridge the gap into the living room without giving up their existing hardware and without spending lots of money. We think that's a great goal, and we're working on ways to use our in-home streaming technology to accomplish it - we'll talk more about that in the future."
Ouch! No AMD? Probably not given Nvidia's involvement with SteamOS and all this talk of "streaming" PC games to the Linux-based machine. Also, did you notice all the Shield-friendly Kepler GPUs?