With only 300 of Valve’s prototype Steam Machines in circulation you’d think these itty-bitty gaming PCs would be one device out of reach for one of iFixit’s famous device teardowns —but you’d be wrong! The DIY fixit site was able to get their hands on one of Valve’s precious commodities and immediately sacrificed the device on the altar of curiosity.
So what’s it look like inside? We’ve already seen the basic look of the internals thanks to a video posted on YouTube by Steam Machine recipient Corey Nelson, but iFixit took a deeper dive. So let’s take a peek—but keep in mind that Valve's prototype configurations vary. The Steam Machine iFixit looked at will be different from others spotted in the wild.
Before we jump inside the console itself, iFixit took a look at the unique Steam controller that comes with the box. “Valve seems to have wrapped a keyboard and mouse around a controller,” iFixit said. “Individually configurable touchpads and loads of buttons make this a sort of hybrid of everyone's favorite input devices.”
Peering inside the box itself, the first notable thing that iFixit found was that the PC-like console has space to insert a second hard drive for game data and other files you might want to save to the device.
The teardown got tricky after that revelatoin, thanks to a mess of cables and custom-fit components, but that didn’t slow iFixit down for long.
For graphics, iFixit’s box was loaded with a GeForce GTX 780 from Zotac, and the CPU was a 3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core “Haswell” i5-4570. Steam is also sending out Steam boxes with the GTX 760, 660, and high-end Titan cards. Other options for chips include the Core i7-4770 and Core i3 processors. All Valve's prototype Steam Machines come with 16GB of RAM, 3GB of dedicated graphics RAM, and a 1TB hybrid drive.
Built to be tinkered with
It appears Valve wanted at least its beta versions of the Steam Machine to be easy for tinkerers and hackers to get into. Overall, iFixit gave the console a score of 9 out of 10 for repairability. The Steam Machine got high marks for having a solitary screw secure the outer casing, making it easy to open. The box’s modular design and use of off-the-shelf components also means swapping out a component is easy for anyone with a Newegg account and a few screwdrivers.
But the Steam Machine isn’t as easy to deal with as a generic tower PC. The mess of cords packed into the console’s small footprint makes it hard to put all the cables back where you found them. The iFixit team also dinged Valve for making the RAM one of the harder components to swap.
If you were left out of the Steam Machine party, you can still fashion your own device at home. All you need is a rig that meets Valve’s system requirements, a copy of SteamOS, and the willingness to tinker with a somewhat complex Linux install. For more information check out our recent lookat the SteamOS beta .
Official Steam Machines are set to go on sale in 2014, and Valve will announce its PC manufacturing partners at CES in January.