This week, the Republic of Gamers arm of Asus released a new gaming PC called the GR8, which implies that this machine will be great for PC gamers wanting a high-performance solution in a compact form factor. The unique chassis seems to speak "Steam Machine" thanks to its console-style appearance. Even the company says that the GR8 is inspired by consoles.
So what's inside this thing? That depends on the configuration. There's an Intel Core i7-4510U processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 750Ti GPU with 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM. There are also two SO-DIMM slots that support up to 16 GB of 1600 MHz DDR3L memory; how much is installed depends on the configuration.
Also under the hood is one 2.5-inch 1 TB 7200 RPM hard drive or a 2.5-inch 256 GB SSD. There's also a 2.5-inch extension bay for a hard drive or an SSD, and 100 GB of free web storage for an entire year thanks to Asus WebStorage. Gigabit Ethernet and Wireless AC round out the PC's network connectivity.
As for ports, there is a headphone jack, a microphone jack and two USB 2.0 ports on the front. On the back, customers will find three audio jacks, one S/PDIF optical out, support for Ultra HD 4K thanks to an HDMI output port and a DisplayPort jack, four USB 3.0 ports, and a Kensington lock. The entire package weighs around 2.82 pounds.
Asus indicated that the GR8 was engineered with online play in mind. The PC "console" comes packed with GameFirst III, which prioritizes game packets and sets aside more bandwidth to reduce lag. There are four pre-set modes as well as manual settings, and there's a built-in Network Monitor tool for testing connection speeds and managing network traffic.
According to the company, the GR8 innards stay cool thanks to a dedicated large-scale fan and copper heat sinks. For those who will want to upgrade, the console-like chassis features removable sides that slide off, providing access to the extra hard drive bay and memory slots. Asus indicated that these will be the only two features that can be quickly upgraded.
Surprisingly, Asus isn't bundling this desktop/console with a gamepad. Instead, it will have the ROG Gladius mouse and the M801 mechanical keyboard as optional peripherals. Unfortunately, Asus did not provide pricing or availability.
News of this unofficial Steam Machine arrived after iBUYPOWER released its own SBX Entertainment System for the living room. There are three variants of this machine: the SBX Plus, which includes an AMD Athlon 740 CPU; an AMD Radeon R7 250X video card with 1 GB of GDDR5 VRAM and 8 GB of DDR3-1600 MHz memory; and the iBUYPOWER FM2A78M+ ITX motherboard. There's also a 1 TB 2.5-inch hard drive, Wireless N and Bluetooth connectivity.
Given that iBUYPOWER's SBX Entertainment System starts at $399, there's no reason to doubt that Asus is seeking the same starting price point. Unfortunately, both machines have the makings of an awesome "console" experience, so it may be hard to choose between the two.