Alienware Alpha Steam Machine hits this holiday season from $549

Third-party Steam Machine manufacturer Alienware will launch its SteamOS-ready gaming PC, the Alpha Steam Machine, in time for this holiday season beginning at $549 with a Xbox 360 controller, the company announced during E3 2014 today.

But technically this won't really be a Steam Machine. That's because SteamOS isn't quite ready. Instead this system will run Windows 8.1 and a graphic user interface created in-house by Dell for Alienware. That interface will allow players to skip the standard Windows view and hop into Steam's Big Picture mode.

While the machine will ship with Windows installed, users can chose to install the SteamOS beta. Once the full SteamOS rolls out, Alienware will offer instructions throughout the update process "to make it turnkey and that "It's not that complicated a process."

"We don't want to force people to do it so we don't want to," Azor said. "The fact that it is based on windows it naturally ends up more expensive. When we launch SteamOS the price point will go down."

The Alpha, roughly about the size of a Wii U, will include a receiver compartment for the Steam Pad but will ship with an Xbox 360 controller. "We considered and could have designed a gamepad ourselves, but that's for the Steam Gamepad," Azor said. "Lets leverage gamepads that people love out there instead of forcing people to reinvest."

The machine sports two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports, optical audio out and 500GB SATA 3 HDD. The Alienware Alpha can be configured with an Intel Core i5 & i7 ‘Haswell' based processors, 8GB DDR3 at 1600MHz dual-channel Memory, dual-band Wireless-AC 2x2 with Bluetooth 4.0 and 1TB and 2TB SATA 3 HDD.

The Alienware Alpha features Alienware Alpha Console-mode user interface, Intel Core i3 ‘Haswell' based processor, 4GB DDR3 at 1600MHz memory and a custom-built NVIDIA "Maxwell" based GPU, with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 high-speed memory. Connectivity features include dual-band wireless-AC 1x1 with Bluetooth 4.0, DMI Out: uncompressed 8 channel audio and support for 4k content, HDMI In: Direct HDMI pass-through and gigabit ethernet.

Alienware stated during CES earlier this year that it plans to price its offering very competitively with Sony's PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. Its most important design goal, according to Alienware global marketing director Bryan De Zayas, was creating a Steam Machine that's small enough to disappear in living room set ups, while still maintaining the company's build and performance standards.

"We are definitely getting into the console business," Azor told Polygon. "We are bring to you a differ type of game. But we are not trying to build another box to play Call of Duty or Battlefield, there are great solutions out there to play other games. Xbox, PlayStation and PC are phenomenal solutions to play those games."


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