Early Look: The First Steam Machines Are Mostly Like PCs

Thirteen hardware partners announced, with prices from $500 to $6,000.

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Jared Newman for TIME

Valve continued its Steam Machine strip tease in Las Vegas, revealing its first wave of consoles but not actually showing them in action.

There are 13 devices in all, ranging from $499 to $6,000, at least from what we know so far. (A few the Steam Machines don’t have pricing just yet.) The names of Valve’s hardware partners–companies like CyberPowerPC, iBuyPower, Origin and Digital Storm–are far from mainstream, but should be familiar if you’ve dabbled in high-end gaming rigs.

Looking at the hardware on display, it was sometimes hard to tell that they were anything special, save for the occasional Steam logo. Many of the first Steam Machines look like ordinary gaming PCs–that is, hulking monstrosities with little regard for living room aesthetics. That might not be a bad thing if you want the colossal power that PC gaming can provide; it’s just the reality of what Valve is trying to do by bringing PC gaming into the living room.

There are some exceptions, with lower profiles that seem more fit for an entertainment center. Alienware, Zotac and Gigabyte are all working on low-profile gaming machines, but only Gigabyte is talking tech specs, and its Intel Iris Pro graphics look to be the weakest of the bunch. iBuyPower has a slightly larger machine that vaguely looks like a PlayStation 4, and it looks to have more powerful Radeon GCN graphics while staying just under the $500 mark.

We can only guess what kind gaming experiences these Steam Machines will provide, because Valve wasn’t doing demos of the new hardware. Alienware’s console was just a model, without any computing guts inside. I did get some quick hands-on time with Valve’s polarizing Steam Controller, which trades thumbsticks for dual touchpads, but not enough to come to any sort of conclusion. It didn’t help that the demos routinely ran into glitches and button mapping problems.

Valve’s event still left me wondering about publisher support and the nitty-gritty of in-home streaming, but one thing that seems clear now is that Valve isn’t trying to create distinct groups of Steam Machines as once thought. From what we’ve seen, Valve’s attack on game consoles seems more like guerrilla warfare than a tightly-organized invasion.

Here’s a full rundown of Steam Machines on display:


MORE: Check out TIME Tech’s complete CES coverage