On Wednesday Zotac International introduced its upcoming Steam Machine, the SN970, slated to be released in November, which is Valve's target for the final release of Steam OS and the Steam Controller. The company's Steam Machine design is based on its popular ZBOX form factor, but has been fashioned to be friendlier in the living room scenario, sporting rounded edges and a slightly elevated base for greater airflow. At GDC 2015, the prototype Zotac was seen sporting a Steam logo on top. It's bigger than the company's Mini PC -- about 21 cm square (a little over eight inches).
Unfortunately, the initial announcement was void of any set hardware details. However, the company said during GDC 2015 that the console will be powered by Intel's sixth-generation Skylake (the Core i-5 with four cores) processor and Nvidia's discrete GeForce GTX 970M GPU. The latter will enable the console to connect to as many as four displays simultaneously.
Since Skylake hasn't been officially unveiled, the exact configuration details are unknown. Jacky Huang, director of Zotac products, said that he expects the CPU to consume between 35 - 45 W, while the GTX 970 will take on about 50 W, for a total TDP of about 100 W. Huang said the unit would be actively cooled, likely using two larger fans at lower speeds to keep things quiet.
"Nvidia Surround and Steam Big Picture bring the immersive experience to users on the big screen," Zotac said in a press release. "All the next generation technologies are fully employed - including VXGI, MFAA and DSR - and take full advantage of the beautifully designed in-game scenarios."
In addition to those specs, the upcoming Steam Machine will include an M.2 SSD providing 64 GB of internal storage and an additional 2.5-inch hard drive providing 1 TB of storage. Other hardware goodies lined up include Wireless AC connectivity that will provide both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and Valve's highly-anticipated Steam Controller. There are two USB 2.0, and four USB 3.0 connections, and Huang said that between now and November, some of those might be USB 3.1. The four HDMI ports are version 2.0, and Huang said that the Mini-DP port would become an HDMI In port.
Zotac also revealed on Wednesday that the upcoming Steam Machine will have Valve Software's SteamOS operating system pre-installed. That should cut down on the overall price tag of Zotac's console given that SteamOS is offered for free. However, that's some beefy hardware. Huang was hesitant to speculate about pricing, but he also said the margins on the product would be pretty slim; we wouldn't be surprised to see it tickle the $999 range, but there's a lot of time between now and November.
"The unit will boot up the OS when it is powered on for the first time, saving precious gaming time," Zotac added in its press release. "Some of the innovations brought by the SteamOS are in-home streaming, multimedia playback, and library sharing capabilities; making the unit living room-friendly for the entire family."
We asked Huang about the guidance Valve was giving on minimum Steam OS requirements, but he couldn't share those with us, and it sounds as if they are a bit of a moving target. He did say that some content was already pushing dual-core CPU configurations, so it would surprise us if Valve were pushing requirements to the Skylake/GTX side of the equation.