Valve’s assault on the living room seems to be off to a bumpy start. Marketed as an alternative to consoles and as a way to bring your high-end PC gaming experience away from wherever you keep your traditional desktop, it turns out that the new Steam OS takes a big chunk out of in-game performance.
Perhaps it was trying to emulate this generation’s consoles a bit too much.
This isn’t an anomaly in a few select titles, as synthetic tests seem to be performing worse on the operating system, too. In Ars’ tests of various different pieces of software, GeekBench resulted in a few percent points of difference, in single core and multi-threaded scenarios.
Unfortunately for Valve, the results were even more pronounced in games. In Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor running at 1,792 x 1,120 resolution, Windows 10 performed much better at all graphical settings. The most extreme comparisons could be found at the very low and very top ends, where in the former the frame rates were around 50 percent higher on PC, and in the latter more than 100 percent.
Metro Last Light was the same, but the most surprising results come from Source Engine games. Portal, Team Fortress 2 and DotA 2 – all Valve produced games running on Valve’s engine – perform significantly worse with Steam OS. Only Left 4 Dead 2 was comparable on both Windows 10 and the Steam OS.
Bear in mind none of this was run on a Steam Machine, but a dual booting system with Windows 10 and Steam OS 220.127.116.11.0-0 running on separate drives. Hardware choices included a Pentium G3220 Haswell CPU running at 2.0GHz, 8GB of DDR3-1600 and an Nvidia GTX 660 with 2GB of GDDR5.
Of course when looking at these results we must consider that none of these games were built with Linux gaming in mind. A title with OpenGL as a focus from the start may well deliver better performance on the SteamOS than Windows 10, but considering these are all games that were made available with SteamOS compatibility alongside the new Steam Machines, this isn’t good news for Valve.
However this could be a big boon to those that are looking to compete with Steam Machines. Alongside their release, some manufacturers like Alienware have touted their own living room gaming systems using Windows instead, and they are often priced competitively too.
Based on these results, would you consider one of the Steam Machine alternatives?