CES 2014: A quick look at Alienware’s Steam Machine

Alienware has long been a major player in the desktop PC gaming business, and now the company plans to throw its hat in the SteamOS ring with its own Alienware Steam Machine. It's set to debut later in the year, but we got an early look.

According to Alienware, it has been working on the device for the last four years in conjunction with Valve. The prototype Alienware showed off measured approximately 200 x 200 x 75mm, comparable in size to the newest-generation gaming consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4.

The ultra-compact form factor means Alienware's box would fit easily enough into a living room setup. The prototype's chassis was a matte black, with three lines bisecting the top. The front of the chassis sports the Alienware logo, and what looks like two USB ports as well. On the lower left side of the chassis is the Steam Box logo which will light up when the system is powered up and project the logo on the surface in front of it.

The underside of the chassis features what Alienware calls a unique intake system. The vents on three sides of the chassis pull in cold air, while the vent on the rear acts as an exhaust, though Alienware didn't elaborate any further than this.

In addition to the Alienware Steam Machine PC gaming console, the company also announced that the Alienware X51 desktop will be available as a Steam Machine this year.

Steam Controller

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The Steam Controller accompanying the box sports two round trackpads on either side, which brought to mind the scroll wheels on early-gen Apple iPods. The trackpads are also clickable, and between the two trackpads lies a high-resolution touchscreen. Players can touch the screen during the game, browse available actions that come up, and then click on the one they want to use.

The controller has two buttons on the inside of each trackpad – one at the top and one at the bottom – and a button on the left and right at the top, and two on the back. There are also three buttons at the bottom of the screen. The middle button, which resembles the spacebar on a keyboard, apparently brings up a legend of what each button controls on any given game. According to the Valve spokesperson, the controller is compatible with all the games that are in the Steam library.

The Valve Controller felt comfortable in my hands. Obviously, the buttons will take some getting used to, particularly the two on the rear of the controller. But there's likely a learning curve for some with the Xbox and PS4 controllers, and this is no different.

Alienware isn't ready to divulge the components that would go into the final Steam Machine, and would only state that the final price will be competitive with those of the Xbox One and PS4. The company says that it plans on releasing the Alienware Steam Machine sometime in the latter half of the year.