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PAX East 2015: Alienware Steam Machine and Steam Controller

by on March 16, 2015
 

Gamers have been patiently waiting for official Steam Machines. As Valve has finally nailed down specs of their Steam Controller, manufacturers like Alienware are ready to release Steam Machine bundles for everyone to enjoy.

Alienware’s Steam Machine is very similar to Alpha, which released late 2014. Alpha comes with a Xbox 360 controller, and pre-loaded with Windows, whereas Steam Machine comes with a Steam Controller, and pre-loaded with Steam OS. Specs for Alienware’s Steam Machine should be identical to Alpha since Steam Machine also starts at $479.99, and includes Intel CPUs along with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 2GB GDDR5. Also each bundle can be changed to be identical to the other. For example, if you bought Alpha last year and want a Steam Controller, no problem, buy one when it comes out, plug it in, and you’re good to go. Or if you end up with a Steam Machine and don’t like Steam OS, you can install Windows and Alienware will provide step-by-step instructions.

Alienware’s official Steam Machine will be available November 2015.

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Everyone is excited for Valve’s Steam Controller. Steam Controller takes a different approach to gamepads than any predecessor. The most obvious changes are Steam Controller only has one thumbstick, and it’s d-pad looks nothing like what gamers are used to. Steam Controller’s right thumbstick is replaced by a touchpad that is also clickable (similar to how you can click a thumbstick). The touchpad is entirely more accurate than any thumbstick I have ever used, but definitely has a slight learning curve. To lessen the touchpad’s learning curve, Valve added haptic feedback. The touchpad’s haptic feedback makes it easy to know how far you are moving your thumb without having to look down. If the feedback is intense, you’ve moved your thumb a lot, if it is a slow or inconsistent, your thumb is moving very little. Steam Controller’s touchpad is so smooth that it might allow gamers to use a controller instead of keyboard and mouse in competitive PC FPS titles.

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Another great design idea of Valve’s Steam Controller are two buttons on the bottom. Initially you might think of Nintendo 64 controller’s Z-button, but these are nothing like that. Steam Controller’s bottom buttons are more like paddles that move into the side of the controller. Imagine holding a controller while squeezing your ring finger and pinky, that’s about where the button is and it moves the same way as your fingers. Anyways, I had the button programmed to jump, and it was much more intuitive and easier to press than the standard A-button. While one side can be jump, the other can be grenade, reload, or whatever you want.

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Only thing I disliked about Steam Controller is its ABXY buttons are a bit difficult to reach, and I didn’t like the feel when pressing them. Although, with such limited time using Steam Controller, I can’t say if ABXY buttons are really a problem or not. What I can say is my dislike for the buttons won’t stop me from buying a Steam Controller in November.

Steam Controller will be available from Valve in November 2015 for $49.99.