At CES 2014, Steam Machines were a hot topic. A dozen different manufacturers showed off Steam Machines powered by Valve’s Linux-based SteamOS, an operating system built around the popular digital distribution community.

The designs varied in size and shape, but there were some standouts. Alienware showed off a cool compact rig that will no doubt catch the eye of console gamers looking to put a PC in the living room. Other dedicated gaming PC makers didn’t quite get that concept, showing off expensive high-spec towers.

This will likely come back to bite them, as Steam Machines feature a controller-friendly interface that’s meant to be played on your big screen (and supposedly come bundled with the Steam Controller). After all, the target market is not hardcore gamers, who likely have the spare cash and knowledge to build their own systems.

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With all that said, here are three things PC gamers need to know about SteamOS and Steam Machines:

SteamOS is Already Available

You can download and install a beta build of the gaming OS on your own rig and start testing it out. As mentioned, it is built on top of a Linux operating system, so you won’t be able to play all of your currently-owned Steam titles like you could on your Windows PC.

But developers are responding, and nearly 500 games are already available — including popular Valve titles such as DOTA 2 and Left for Dead 2. The system requirements aren’t too intimating either, but compatibility is limited for now. Your PC will need:

  • A 64-bit processor
  • 4 GB or more of RAM,
  • An NVIDIA video card (AMD and Intel support is coming.)
  • A 500 GB or larger hard drive (custom), 1TB for default
  • UEFI boot support in BIOS
  • A 4 GB or larger USB flash drive for installation

Tons of Options from Manufacturers

Alienware, CyberpowerPC, Falcon Northwest, Gigabyte, iBuyPower, Origin, and others will be launching their own Steam Machines over the next year. A lot of them look like typical PCs, but many get that this is not targeted toward traditional PC gamers and are designing their systems accordingly.

CyberPowerPC and iBuyPower have created some really cool, console-like Steam Machines that will likely be big hits once they hit store shelves.

You Already Have the Best of SteamOS Installed

Finally, you can already enjoy a controller-friendly Steam on your TV using Big Picture mode – a feature that’s already built into Steam on all platforms.

Simply hook your PC up to your TV, launch Steam, and click Big Picture mode in the app’s top right corner. It’ll launch an interface that is designed for televisions, which obviously makes navigating Steam from your couch much easier.

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steamos and steam machines