Zotac today unveiled its debut Steam Machine at Germany’s CeBIT expo, and it’s worthy of note for one clear reason: it’s absolutely tiny while still packing in the power.
Created as small form-factor gaming PCs, Steam Machines aim to challenge consoles’ dominance when it comes to gaming in the living room. Steam Machines run on SteamOS, a custom-built Linux variant designed primarily to host and support Valve’s digital-distribution service for games.
By offering a much more streamlined approach to gaming PCs, Valve hopes to turn PC gaming into a much more open, accessible hobby. The machines are purpose-built to run high-end titles, without having to worry about the labyrinthine world of component upgrades and system settings.
Much like its recently announced Steam VR platform, Valve has partnered with existing third-party manufacturers to provide the hardware. 15 companies are currently confirmed to be producing Steam Machines, but as the system’s popularity increases, that number could well grow.
Zotac’s steam machine, the SN970, joins a list including luminaries such as Alienware and Gigabyte. The list caters for a range of price-points and capabilities, but Zotac’s entry is aimed at the more premium end of the spectrum. And it’s absolutely tiny.
Zotac SN970 – specs and hardware
The Zotac SN970 features an impressive array of hardware, all of which should make it a match for most, if not all, current-gen games. It’s powered by a sixth-generation Intel ‘Skylake’ processor – most probably a Core-i5 or i7 – and backs that up with a generous 8GB of RAM.
Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 970m mobile processor provides plenty of graphical power, helped along by 3GB of onboard GDDR5 graphical memory. Storage isn’t going to be a problem either, with both a 64GB SSD and 1TB of HDD memory to store your games on.
In terms of connectivity, the SN970 sports dual Gigabit Ethernet, as well as the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. It also comes with 4 HDMI 2.0 outputs, and the capacity to run 4K monitors with a 60Hz refresh rate.
When you look at the undeniably meaty spec shet, one of the most surprising things about Zotac’s Steam Machine is the form factor. Steam Machines are, by and large, small to begin with, but the SN970 crams all that kit into a body that we’d estimate to be under 7in square, with a depth of no more than 3.5in. That’s one seriously small microPC.
Zotac SN970 – price
Slightly less micro is the price – the Zotac SN970 is currently listed with a retail price of $US999. While this will is substantially more than an Xbox One or PS4, it’s not as expensive as one might expect, given the quality of the internals and the average price of high-end gaming rigs.
We’ll have to hold off on an official verdict until we can run some proper tests, but it’s safe to say that Zotac’s little box has got us interested. Will this finally be the machine to take SteamOS into the mainstream? You’ll have to wait until the device’s November launch to find out.