Gaming Cypher has had the pleasure of previewing the new Alienware Steam Machine. Below are our first thoughts and impressions.
The second we took the box out of the package and saw the Alienware logo shining on the cover, we knew we were in for a treat. Opening the box revealed a sleek compact console, the coveted Steam Controller, and the cables and adapters to let us start our upcoming experience. Immediately we saw that the interface is the same as the Big Picture Mode for Steam on PC, only enlarged to fit the TV. This sense of similarity made us feel a little more comfortable since we wouldn’t have to learn a brand new scheme, yet it was still a somewhat new experience since we weren’t in front of our computer.
We were looking forward mostly to seeing how the Steam Controller would interact with games made for PC, how seamless the experience would be. A game we knew of that focuses heavily on precise mouse movements is Mushroom 11, a game in which the user clicks and holds the mouse and moves it in order to move a bacteria around a platform genre environment. Going in we were skeptical about how effective the controller would be. Personally, I find first person shooter games to be much easier to play on PC due to how precisely I can move the mouse, whereas with a controller I am finding myself aiming a couple pixels above or to the side of my target. However, as I started playing Mushroom 11 on the Alienware Steam Machine I noticed how fluid it felt. I was actually quite surprised by how similar it felt to the PC experience I had with the game.
The controller itself felt very comfortable in my hands the moment I held it. Whenever users need to use a keyboard on the machine, such as for logging in, they put both their two thumbs simultaneously on each control pad and move them around. The experience feels very seamless, and quite different than both a mouse or a control stick. Button placement seemed natural and ergonomic, and I was impressed with the fact that the battery cover doubled as two extra buttons. This means that there are a total of six back buttons on the controller, three on each side. The main movement method is the right side touchpad/control pad. It is clickable as well, meaning the user can both move their finger on it or press it, giving added functionality possibilities to the control schemes of certain games.
Another cool feature I noticed was in the interface, the user is able to change the colors of the glowing lights on the Steam Machine console. The power button is in the front as the Alienware logo, and on the corner is the Steam logo. By default they both glow a blue color, but the user is able to change them independently of one another to have whichever combination they prefer, including off.
We tried to test out the streaming service available through a wireless connection. It is stated that Steam recommends only a wired connection to be used, but we wanted to still see if a wireless connection would work. We tried playing Euro Truck Simulator and the game froze and got serious lag right after the menu screen. We then tried playing Star Wars The Force Unleashed and the same thing happened, where the game basically froze on the TV while it was still running smoothly on the computer. Once again, this was via a wireless connection, which is not recommended by Steam.
As for individual games themselves, something we found very convenient and useful was that games had individual controller configurations uploaded by other users. The Steam Controller is able to be configured in whatever way the user finds most desirable, including sensitivity and button composition. This is very helpful because it allows users to play the game in whichever manner they want, or even let them experience the way other players play the game.
Overall the Alienware Steam Machine is turning out to be a very fine console. Next week we will post a comprehensive review and our final thoughts on the machine. Visit Alienware Arena for all news Alienware Steam Machine related, including articles, forums, and videos. Purchase it now directly from Dell or GameStop.