Valve's Steam Machine prototype and SteamOS (hands-on)
Take a good hard look at Valve's Steam Machine, because it's the last time you'll see it. Er, something like that. Only 300 of the metal beast above will ship to beta testers, and then Valve says it's cutting off its own supply of Steam Machines. "We're really building this as a test platform, and there are many machines that are gonna be made by third-parties. They're the ones that will be available commercially in 2014," Valve designer Greg Coomer told Engadget.
Those machines will be revealed at next January's CES, as well as partners and more information (fingers crossed for pricing!). Coomer expects a "good array of options, optimized for different features" in the Steam Machines lineup -- everything from a low-end, inexpensive streaming box to an Intel i7/GeForce Titan GPU-powered supercomputer. The machine above was somewhere in between, with an Intel i7 CPU and a GTX 780 GPU housed in its snug chassis. All the parts in the prototype were swappable, and the only standard it's missing internally is an optical drive (presumably unnecessary if you're running SteamOS and downloading all your games digitally, right?).
Valve's Steam Machine prototype is a reference design, essentially. "We think it's the right test platform for us," Coomer said. Of course, putting all that work into a reference design and not creating the box seems mighty wasteful.