Alienware’s Steam Machines will be just like a console … you won’t be able to upgrade it

alienwares steam machines arent upgradeable alienware machine featured image

Alienware’s small and sleek Steam Machine box might be pretty to look at, but it’s not the sort of gaming PC that tech-savvy users will be able to crack open and stick new parts into. “There will be no customization options, you can’t really update it,” Alienware general manager Frank Azor told TrustedReviews.  Instead, the PC manufacturer intends to improve its Steam Machines over time with annual hardware releases. Azor compares the approach to the one that console manufacturers take, only instead of a life cycle of five or more years, Alienware Steam Machines will be updated every year.

For those that desire the flexibility of self-installed hardware upgrades, Azor suggests getting a more traditional home computer. He specifically points to Alienware’s X51, a small form factor gaming PC, as a potential option. The smaller case places some restrictions on how much an X51 can be upgraded, but the unspoken points comes across clearly enough. The Steam Machines housed in tiny cases that we’ve seen so far appear to be priced competitively with consoles. The audience that hardware makers are aiming for with these products – console gamers and non-gamers with minimal PC experience – get a fully functional experience in one box at a nominal price without any need to worry about hardware upgrades.

There’s a flaw in this approach, however. Consoles can get away with a $400 or $500 price tag because they have that lengthy lifespan. It’s a lot less appealing to spend the same amount of money on a machine that’s going to be upstaged by its successor within a year. To be fair, there’s also no price set yet for the Alienware box; all the company has said is that “the price will be competitive with next-generation consoles.” It’s likely that means we’re looking at a $400-500 box (or so), but one could also argue that that price range isn’t as “competitive” for a machine that’s going to be subject to annual hardware refreshes. We’ll have to wait for more official word from Alienware later this year.

There’s a flipside to this. Consoles justify their price with a lengthy lifespan, but the tradeoff is that by year two, three, and beyond, the parts inside lag behind what a decked out PC can do. By fall 2015, maybe even fall 2014, the material cost of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hardware will have gone down. If Alienware and its competitors can get to a point where they’re stuffing console-comparable parts and performance into a box priced at $200 or less, the notion of annually upgraded Steam Machines as console competition becomes much more compelling.

Steam Machines continue to be a developing quantity. For more on Valve’s ambitious plan for invading your living room, check out our extensive CES 2014 coverage.


An inside look at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx, a revolutionary laptop processor

Six years after Microsoft’s failed foray into ARM computing with Windows RT, its second effort with Always-Connected PC is now showing early signs of success. Microsoft partner Qualcomm told us how the Snapdragon 8cx might revolutionize…
Home Theater

New TV? Here's where to go to watch the best 4K content available

Searching for content for your new 4K UHD TV? Look no further. We have every major source of the best 4K content, along with the cost, hardware requirements, and features that make each service worth a look.
Home Theater

Looking to cut cable? Here’s everything you need to know about Pluto TV

Pluto TV offers plenty of entertainment in a fashion similar to live internet TV services, only at no cost — you don’t even need to register. Too good to be true? Here’s everything you need to know.

AMD’s Radeon graphics cards are nearly half off today only on Amazon

AMD's Radeon RX 580 graphics cards are on sale today at Amazon for nearly half off. The graphics card is listed as part of Amazon's Deal of the Day promotion, so you have to act fast, as the discount offer will expire today.

How you can share your best gaming moments with friends on the PS4

Check out Digital Trends' quick guide to everything you need to know to save your outstanding PlayStation 4 gameplay moments, share them online, and transfer them to your computer.

How to delete games on your PS4

PlayStation 4 games eat up storage space quickly, which will inevitably require you to make room for new games. Here's how to delete and reinstall games on PS4 for those times when you have to manage your storage space.

Once the dust settles, 'Fallout 76' will be a nuclear wasteland worth exploring

The launch of Fallout 76 has been nothing short of apocalyptic, but that doesn’t mean the game is dead on arrival. Bethesda has a path forward, paved by The Elder Scrolls Online, another game that suffered a rocky start.

Joker from ‘Persona 5’ will take your heart in ‘Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’

Joker, the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts from Persona 5, will arrive to Super Smash Bros. as its first DLC character. The announcement was a surprising one, because Persona 5 is a PlayStation 4 exclusive.

‘Magic: The Gathering’ enters esports relevance with $10 million prize pool

Wizards of the Coast is pushing Magic: The Gathering into esports relevance with a prize pool of $10 million across the tabletop version and Magic: The Gathering Arena. Will the game be able to compete with Hearthstone and Overwatch?

The best Nintendo Switch deals and bundles for December 2018

Looking to score Nintendo's latest hybrid console? We've smoked out the best Nintendo Switch deals right here, including discounts on stand-alone consoles, as well as bundles that feature games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

Get some bang for your buck with these Nintendo Switch console deals at Walmart

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the past, but you can still get some bang for your buck on game consoles before the holiday season is done. Walmart has various Nintendo Switch bundles on sale right now.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

‘Just Cause 4’ is mindless fun that leaves little room for much else

Just Cause 4 revels in explosions and over-the-top action, but its world feels empty and hollow. With few new ideas and a stale open world, it's a fun but shallow piece of escapism.

‘CS:GO’ goes free-to-play and players are not happy about it

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), has gone free-to-play this week in a controversial move. Players are angry that the problem of cheating will get much worse now that anyone can make a disposable account to play.