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Valve lets press play with Steam Machine

Several publications got to play with Valve’s upcoming Steam Machine and the awesome new controller, and as The Verge reports, it’s essentially nothing but good news.

Valve’s steel and aluminum chassis measures just over 12 inches on a side and is 2.9 inches tall, making it a little bigger than an Xbox 360 and smaller than any gaming PC of its ilk. And yet the box manages to fit a giant Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan graphics card and a full desktop CPU – and keep those parts quiet and cool – without cramming them in like a jigsaw puzzle.

That’s a tall order, but they’ve managed it: despite the massive amount of CPU and GPU power crammed into that tiny box, it’s quiet and cool. According to Valve, they’re still working on this, and the device will get even cooler and quieter as it nears release. Considering Valve is aiming for the living room, this was a major concern.

The big question: how does the controller perform?

The touchpads are surprisingly accurate, and they make first-person shooters and other mouse-friendly games far more accessible than any analog stick can afford. You can sweep your thumb across the pad to turn on your heel, then move it a tiny bit more to line up a headshot without having to compensate for a joystick’s return motion. You can push a thumb to the very edge of the pad to keep moving continuously. You can even use both touchpads simultaneously in cursor-driven games to move the mouse cursor faster than with either alone.

This is all in a long line of first-hand reports that all say more or less the same: it takes some getting used to, but it’s far more accurate than analog sticks. It seems like Valve’s whacky idea phase (the pictures in The Verge’s article make clear just how whacky it was) is already paying off. I’m also very excited about how you will be able to download new controller configurations and adjust all the settings in case you’re into that sort of thing. Steam Controller users will be able to vote on these, too.

The final question: SteamOS. How does the Linux-based platform perform compared to Windows?

As far as performance is concerned, Valve’s Steam Machine with SteamOS certainly seemed up to snuff, at least with these high-end components. The team switched between a Windows and SteamOS box halfway through our demo, and I couldn’t tell the difference.

Coming January, at CES, Valve will share more about the partners it has signed up with. Valve has been working with game makers on this Linux project for three years now, and thanks to many underlying engines already supporting Linux anyway, getting games to run on Linux isn’t as hard as it seems.

Valve seems to be on the right track. I can’t wait to hear just which partners will be supporting SteamOS.

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