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Intel PC Games (Games) Games Hardware Linux

Steam Machine Prototypes Use Intel CPUs, NVIDIA GPUs 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the as-long-as-i-can-play-quake-3-on-my-tv dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Valve has revealed their first Steam Machines prototype details. The first 300 Steam Machine prototypes to ship will use various high-end Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs while running their custom SteamOS Linux distribution. The Intel Haswell CPU + NVIDIA GPU combination should work well on Linux with the binary drivers. Using a range of CPUs/GPUs in the prototypes will allow them to better gauge the performance and effectiveness. Valve also said they will be releasing the CAD design files to their custom living room console enclosure for those who'd like to reproduce them." Valve is careful to point out that these specs aren't intended as a standard: "[T]o be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase — those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package. Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions."
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Steam Machine Prototypes Use Intel CPUs, NVIDIA GPUs

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    So this is a big middle finger to the open source driver developers, I guess. If they wanted real world testing and feedback of their work, they should look elsewhere.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:50PM (#45039299)

      By using Intel or AMD, they'd be giving the finger to the GPU vendor with the clearly superior hardware. Some of use actually just want the best computing package and don't care so much about the open source religion.

      • by Sir_Sri (199544) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:47PM (#45039795)

        Nvidia hardware isn't really clearly superior to AMD.. they rotate on who has the best hardware at various price points.

        But sure, the point is that this hardware should do a specific job for gamers at a specific price point, if Nvidia GPU's are the best bet for that in this product price segment there's no reason to be an ideological crusader about it. The point is to be able to play games, not make the average couch potato start writing driver code on his TV.

        • by houstonbofh (602064) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:30PM (#45040161)

          Nvidia hardware isn't really clearly superior to AMD.. they rotate on who has the best hardware at various price points.

          But sure, the point is that this hardware should do a specific job for gamers at a specific price point, if Nvidia GPU's are the best bet for that in this product price segment there's no reason to be an ideological crusader about it. The point is to be able to play games, not make the average couch potato start writing driver code on his TV.

          Not on Linux. nVidia consistently outperforms AMD, and is significantly more stable. And they have been actively working with Valve for quite some time to fix some show-stopping driver bugs.

        • by TeXMaster (593524) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @02:31AM (#45042543)

          Nvidia hardware isn't really clearly superior to AMD.. they rotate on who has the best hardware at various price points.

          Actually, if you just look at the specifications, ATI/AMD has almost always had the (theoretically) most competitive hardware (GPU-wise), both in terms of performance/price ratio and often even in terms of raw computing power/memory bandwidth. AMD was even the first to come out with hardware support for compute on GPU (the first CTM/CAL betas came out before CUDA was ever mentioned anywhere), even if it required assembly progamming of the shaders (which you could often do without by using a layer such as BrookGPU).

          However, their GPUs have been crippled by the most horrible software ecosystem possible. By and large the main culprit is ATI/AMD itself, who has constantly failed at producing high-quality, stable drivers and capable compilers for their shaders. A secondary culprit (which has finally been removed from the equation) is the architecture itself: up until the introduction of GCN, AMD shaders had a VLIW architecture (VLIW5 first, VLIW4 in the last releases before GCN) which were often not easily exploitable without heavy-duty restructuring and vectorization of your shader code: so you often found yourself with huge horsepower available, while only be able to exploit some 30-60% of it at best.

        • by GNious (953874)

          I wouldn't know who performs better, but after seeing (admittedly a decade ago) the shit-fest that were ATi drivers, I'm just going to avoid their products.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is a big thumbs up to GAMERS, who this hardware is designed for. NVIDIA is simply the best GPU for gaming, and Intel is laughable in the serious gaming GPU space. Kudos to Valve for making this choice.

      • " NVIDIA is simply the best GPU for gaming". Where have you been?
        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:57PM (#45039377)

          What GPU would be better for Valve's Linux based OS? Intel is irrelevant, AMD/ATI Linux drivers are far beyond terrible, and all the open source drivers have terrible performance.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by arbiter1 (1204146)
            last time i used AMD/ATI hardware in linux it was one the biggest headaches had I had in years. only 800x600 rez max and driver just screwed the machine to an unfix able state.
          • by binarylarry (1338699) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:06PM (#45039459)

            If you've checked the latest benchmarks, Intel is becoming more and more relevant each iteration.

            Intel GPU's are fairly decent midlevel performers these days AND the *official* Intel drivers are open source.

            Personally, I can't wait until the GPU goes the way of the math coprocessor. Fuck dealing with Nvidia and AMD's awful driver support.

            • by Kielistic (1273232) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:57PM (#45039881)

              Personally, I can't wait until the GPU goes the way of the math coprocessor.

              Probably shouldn't hold your breath on that...

            • "Personally, I can't wait until the GPU goes the way of the math coprocessor."

              Not going to happen, memory bandwidth is the big bottneck on GPU's. When's the last time you've seen a CPU with bandwidth greater then a GPU in its L2 cache?

            • by gman003 (1693318) on Friday October 04, 2013 @11:57PM (#45042001)

              Midlevel? For non-gaming usage, perhaps. For gaming they're strictly low-end, or unusable.

              There are three Intel GPUs on the desktop side - the HD 4600, the Iris 5100, and the Iris Pro 5200. In raw processing power, the first gets you 430GFLOPS, and the latter two get 830GFLOPS. For comparison, the *weakest* GPU in these Steam Machines pumps out 1880GFLOPS, and the top end maxes out around 4.5 TFLOPS.

              And that's a spec that's biased towards Intel - they're more compute-heavy than bandwidth-heavy, and unfortunately most graphics tasks are bound by memory bandwidth. For Intel, the first two have a mere 25.6 GB/S of bandwidth, with Iris Pro adding an on-chip cache to bring it up to 75GB/S. But even the GeForce 660 beats that at 144GB/S, and the Titan doubles that. For those who may not be familiar, the 660 Ti (and the new-gen rebadge-with-enhancements, the 760) was considered a good medium-end card, with the vanilla 660 being for those a bit more budget-minded. The Titan, of course, is their "luxury" card, costing a full $1000, but it's currently the most powerful single-GPU card, period.

              That's just their theoretical performance - the real test, of course, is actual game benchmarks. Nvidia is currently the best at getting the most performance from their hardware in actual games. AMD has more raw power, but their drivers aren't as efficient so Nvidia beats them more often than not. Intel's far worse than either - while Iris Pro should be able to go head-to-head with a GeForce 650, it actually tends to benchmark closer to the GeForce 640. Go look it up on Anandtech, if you're interested.

              Now, is it impressive how much power Intel managed to get out of an IGPU? Yeah, it is. Honestly, I would be interested in seeing them scale up the design further - go from 40 EUs to 200 EUs, bolt on the memory controller from the Xeon Phi, and sell it as a dedicated card. Might be something they can do with the 22nm fabs once they move to 14nm? But in any case, calling their current offerings "medium-end" is misleading at best, and downright wrong at worst.

              • yes, hence "The first 300 Steam Machine prototypes to ship will use various high-end Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs"

          • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:07PM (#45039461)

            nVidia is the dad that works long hours, comes home tired, and doesn't play with his kid. AMD is the drunkard abusing his children. :(

          • I wouldn't consider drivers a serious issue. If Valve goes to AMD/ATI and says 'We'll buy a hundred thousand chips for the first production run, with potential sales of fifteen million to follow' I'm sure improved driver support would quickly follow.

            • by Shinobi (19308) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:28PM (#45039643)

              It hasn't worked with the millions of chips purchased by OEM's such as Sapphire etc, why do you think Valve would succeed? Blind hope?

              Hell, it took ages for them to fix some of the completely retarded requirements for accessing OpenCL interface on Linux, and that was with a lot of people in the HPC field(both users/potential customers and vendors/potential resellers) begging them on their bare knees. It's been almost a year since I last looked at AMD's GPU's for a client, but they might STILL have the completely idiotic requirement of having X running if you want to access the OpenCL interface(Something nVidia doesn't require....)

            • by houstonbofh (602064) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:32PM (#45040179)

              I wouldn't consider drivers a serious issue. If Valve goes to AMD/ATI and says 'We'll buy a hundred thousand chips for the first production run, with potential sales of fifteen million to follow' I'm sure improved driver support would quickly follow.

              Actually, nVidia has been actively working with them for over a year now fixing some significant driver bugs. And they haven't bought anything yet.

              • At the same time, AMD has done numerous improvements to the fglrx driver and released extensive open documentation for Radeon HD family.
                • At the same time, AMD has done numerous improvements to the fglrx driver and released extensive open documentation for Radeon HD family.

                  This is a good thing, but they are still way behind nVidia on performance and stability. Just look in the Steam support forums to see...

            • by Nemyst (1383049)
              AMD have issues delivering a good drive on Windows (I have two of their cards, I'm very much aware of the situation), so forget doing the same on Linux. I don't know what their driver engineers are doing, but it isn't working; their software is slow, occasionally crashes and their game support usually lags significantly behind Nvidia's, especially if you go multi-GPU. I'm not even going to talk about customization and extra software, where Nvidia is king by a mile.

              The greatest advantage AMD has had is sol
    • by ichthus (72442) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:53PM (#45039337) Homepage
      Their objective is to maximize and/or evaluate possibly maximal performance -- not make people feel good about the work they're doing for the open source/Linux community. Calm down.
    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:13PM (#45039521)

      If you want Linux 3D graphics that are:

      1) As fast as you get on Windows.
      2) Support all the latest OpenGL features.
      3) Have a full implementation of the latest OpenGL spec.
      4) Are solid and stable.

      Then the binary nVidia drivers are it. Nothing else comes close. Well for games, particularly new games, this matters. They are making use of the high end features modern GPUs have, they need high speed rendering, etc.

      If another company wants to step up their Linux game then great, but right now it is go nV or go home. Their binary drivers are just head and shoulders above the rest. That may not matter for typical desktop use when the card is doing little else other than some desktop composition and maybe accelerated video playback but it matters a lot if you are trying to make a game render using the latest OpenGL 4.3/4.4 features and have it extremely fast and stable.

      • by phorm (591458)

        I used to think that, but actually these days I've had more luck with the (binary) AMD drivers than the (binary) nVidia ones.
        The biggest problems I have with AMD seem to be in things that use nvidia-intended extensions (like getting terrain mapping to work in Ogre)

        • Go into the Steam support forums. You will see that most of the people having graphics issues are running AMD cards...
    • Intel graphics are pathetic by gaming standards - they are more for office work. Being on the same package as the CPU puts serious constraints on heat dissipation, they they can't come close to the performance of a discrete GPU. The choice is between nvidia and ATI/AMD.

    • by jedidiah (1196)

      Sure. Want me to give you the finger in person?

      Improve your result. Don't expect special consideration if your results aren't satisfactory.

      Otherwise I will take a page out of the book of Linus.

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        It looks like nVidia is getting more serious about Linux and Steam of late. Intel too. Probably more to do with AMD winning both XB One and PS4 that love of open standards, but hey - whatever works. These are some hefty specs for a Linux TV/game console. I hope people will be willing to pay up. The Titan GPU by itself is $1000. It would also be nice if Valve would port their dev tools, since just gaming on this gear is a waste.
    • by prelelat (201821)

      It might have been a very large push in getting Nvidia to be more supportive of an open driver.
      http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/09/nvidia-seeks-peace-with-linux-pledges-help-on-open-source-driver/ [arstechnica.com]

      They have also been putting out a better closed driver for linux for years in my opinion. I have never had anything but issues with the radeon amd drivers. Sometimes you want things to work more than you want them to be open. This could be very good for the opensource community.

    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:54PM (#45039855) Homepage Journal
      Valve's own statistics show that gamers tend to prefer nVidia hardware. Because this is going to run Linux there really isn't a good alternative anyway. Intel Graphics are still a joke and AMD's drivers are still terrible. As much as free software guys hate it, the nVidia binary blob driver is the best supported 3D graphics driver on Linux.
      • by Mashdar (876825)
        I totally agree. I would LOVE to purchase AMD hardware, but I just can't justify the driver headaches. I have a Llano laptop and a 785G-based HTPC, both of which exhibit inferior performance whether I'm on open source or binary blob drivers. (For the HTPC I ended up buying a fanless low-mid nVidia card. WTB proper vsync...) On the other hand, back when I still had XP on my gaming desktop, my 8800GT would actually give me better OpenGL performance on Linux than Windows.
    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      no, it's a big high five to the clearly superior hardware vendors.

    • Intel can't perform well enough to keep up with current gen and ATI has a long history of driver issues (sorry, but it's true).

      For better or for worse Valve is stuck with nVidia.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    No one is surprised by this choice. AMD could've had this one in the bag with their APUs if they just kicked themselves more in the ass when it comes to their drivers.

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      Yeah, they kind of messed up treating Linux as a PR platform rather than a serious one to develop for.

      They still have the 3 major consoles, or 3 out of 4 if steam box takes off big, but if they focused on real open source drivers like Intel did they could of had a big win here.

      Especially with Valve basically saying "we love open source video drivers, it was great using intel GPUs to port our games".

    • No, they couldn't. APUs still aren't good enough for gaming. An A10-6800k on its own costs about the same and performs markedly worse than an Athlon x4 750k + Radeon 7750.

  • Intel i3 is now a high-end CPU?

    I think a more accurate characterization would be "will use various Intel CPUs".

    16GB memory is pretty damn nice, though.
    • An i3 is part of the premium family line. Its a solid chip with no real weaknesses compared to i5 other then processor count. i5s come with only 2 cores too.
      • by Shinobi (19308)

        Though the 2-core i5's support SMT instead, which makes them quite a bit faster than the i3's

        • All i3 have SMT, too.
          In fact, if it's the mobile offering you're thinking about, there's hardly any difference between i3/i5/i7 (there's dual core i7), they're all crippled by TDP and you pay a premium for things like a 5% faster clock in some turbo mode. A desktop i3 is much faster than a mobile dual core i7, and compares favorably to a mobile quad core i7 even.

    • Re:Intel i3 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 (636235) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:51PM (#45039307)

      Intel i3 is now a high-end CPU?

      It runs some games faster than an 8-core AMD...

      • by apcullen (2504324)

        It runs some games faster than an 8-core AMD...

        Ouch. And probably true for most games, not just some of them. To be fair though, I think most game developers target intel chips and use intel compilers. I will bet that with both playstation and xbox going aggressively multi-core, developers will change that, and we'll begin to see it in benchmarks.

  • by stewsters (1406737) on Friday October 04, 2013 @04:52PM (#45039325)
    Isn't the Titan like a thousand USD? That's going to produce noticeably higher resolution than can be displayed on a 1080p tv at max settings on the most demanding games currently available. Are they future proofing for 3d 4k tvs with high refresh rates?
    • Who's to say one has to connect to a TV? LCD monitors at 2560x1600 or 2560x1440 are pretty common nowadays, and yes, something like a Titan or dual 760s in SLI mode would make a big difference with these kinds of resolutions.
    • by Qzukk (229616)

      It does seem to be overkill, especially when you realize that the majority of games will be getting played on and streamed from the windows PC elsewhere.

      Maybe the titan ships separately for use in the PC (actually, I could see a custom video card for this streaming being a considerable boost, especially for anyone who's ever ran fraps and watched their framerate go to shit).

      • by Tapewolf (1639955)

        It does seem to be overkill, especially when you realize that the majority of games will be getting played on and streamed from the windows PC elsewhere.

        I don't think that's the long-term goal, though. The whole project seems to have kicked into gear because the Windows App Store means they can't rely on Windows indefinitely, and they seem to be trying to get devs to port to Linux natively. That entails a beefier GPU than you'd need for a pure streaming solution.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          I don't think that's the long-term goal, though. The whole project seems to have kicked into gear because the Windows App Store means they can't rely on Windows indefinitely, and they seem to be trying to get devs to port to Linux natively. That entails a beefier GPU than you'd need for a pure streaming solution.

          Exactly, that's the goal. You have to realize that Steam is the original curated App Store - sorry Apple, you are NOT the first.

          With both the Windows App Store and Mac App Store, Steam has competit

    • If anything Titan is a good test for a max-TDP card with a blower type cooler in a confined space.

      At 250W it's certainly at the top of the TDP range for a product like a Steam Machine, and it was in part designed for use in small form factor PCs and other devices where the card had to be responsible for its own cooling. So throwing a Titan in there should provide some good feedback on whether Valve's custom design can handle a suitably built card this powerful.

  • Nvidia has better openGL drivers, and has partnered with Valve to develop the streaming capability of SteamOS (Shield apparently uses the same tech). Now the prototype comes with Nvidia hardware. Suddenly, this longtime Radeon-head is feeling uneasy about the future of his $300 year-old videocard...
    • AMD is going to be just fine. Remember, both the PS4 and XBone are AMD.

      • by B1oodAnge1 (1485419) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:36PM (#45039703)

        Whoa, you're right. AMD *is* screwed!

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Whoa, you're right. AMD *is* screwed!

          The real question is whether AMD is trying to use this to change gears or not. After all, the PS4 and XBone aren't going to be replaced for many years with something that might or might not be AMD so if they want to exit the performance market and enter the ... well, whatever they're trying to do with APUs and ARM like embedded and microservers and custom hybrids and whatnot then this would be the time. They've bagged the current generation fo consoles, exit stage right. They've been very quiet about any su

          • No, Steamroller is a new core that supposedly fixes the slow performance, desperate fans expect an up to 30% improvment - well, maybe it's 5 to 20% better, and that's not counting it's 4-core only, not 8. So I'm hoping it works somewhat, allowing AMD to climb out of Core2/Phenom II performance and into Sandy Bridge performance.
            The APUs themselves will be hardly useful for linux gaming, but are a much cheaper alternative to Iris 5200 in Windows laptops, I guess. A Kaveri with disabled GPU plus a nvidia graph

      • by Shinobi (19308)

        Except that AMD already has an uncomfortably small profit margin on their product, and Microsoft and Sony WILL have negotiated that down even more...

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:47PM (#45039803)

    A week of news on this, and I still don't get it.

    Other than promoting Linux, why do I want a new "Steam Machine" rather than simply upgrading my desktop, and running an OS that a larger percentage of the AAA games run on? I've already got HDMI out. Can't I just buy a controller? What do I actually GAIN by running this machine over just downloading the next Steam title to my existing desktop -- or building a machine of my choice (on Windows) and putting it in one of a dozen cases that look nice next to the TV?

    A prettier case?
    Fewer native games?

    I'm not nagging. Help me understand what I get here...

    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday October 04, 2013 @05:57PM (#45039877) Homepage Journal
      If you have a gaming PC already, then just run steam and put it in Big Picture mode if you want the same experience. This is for people who don't have gaming PCs and/or want to play in the living room on their TV.
      • If you have a gaming PC already, then just run steam and put it in Big Picture mode if you want the same experience. This is for people who don't have gaming PCs and/or want to play in the living room on their TV.

        Uhh, then what are the gaming consoles for? PS4 and Xbox One are launching very soon.

    • by Gaygirlie (1657131) <gaygirlie AT hotmail DOT com> on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:16PM (#45040051) Homepage

      Other than promoting Linux, why do I want

      I'm gonna stop you right there -- you're assuming this is for you. Well, it's not. It's for people who do have a use for this stuff, like e.g. people who want a good PC to play PC-games on and want it to be useable from the couch with a controller, but who don't want to have to go through the hassle of building one themselves.

      • by timeOday (582209)
        If I bought one it would be in the hopes that whatever configuration it came with would be better supported (by either valve or the game developers) than a random collection of hardware.

        Today I upgraded Ubuntu to the latest stable version and just wasted my whole evening trying to get it to recognize my *keyboard* of all things [launchpad.net] (which worked on the previous version). It still isn't recognized after trying 3 different kernels. Of course the upgrade installed the wrong video drivers (which segfaulted) too

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      Quite simply, this product is not for you. This product is for people who want a console-like simplicity of installation and use, but want the power and library of a PC and are willing to pay for it.

      I do not think the high-end ones are going to be at all successful. I think the low-end ones may be useful for streaming games to a TV, since most Steam gamers already have a powerful desktop, and this will bypass the Windows/Linux incompatibilities. And, since it's there, it will probably see more and more port

    • The whole "Steam Machine" thing is designed to penetrate the living room. It's basically just a PC masquerading as a console. There's a good chance you're probably not their target market if that is meaningless to you.

      • It's basically just a PC masquerading as a console.

        Much like the XBox, except not locked down and without the Microsoft Tax.

        • Instead coming with a Steam tax... meet the new boss... just like the old boss.

    • Nothing.

      This is the beauty of this platform. It gives you choice. If you're someone that doesn't want to pay for Windows licensing, or build a custom gaming computer you can also install Steam OS, or buy their pre-built machine, or buy a pre-built machine from a third party.

      Valve is creating a open gaming platform around their Steam service. It's a good thing for gamers.
    • I believe Valve is consciously creating their own environment here. Much like Xbox, and PlayStation, they want to be able to offer you an end to end experience, where the software and hardware are tuned for performance. This may mean that Steam OS will give up some features as a generic linux OS to gain performance for gaming. In the case of the Steam Machine, this will more than likely mean that the hardware will have specially tuned drivers pushing it.

      So think of taking your Windows machine, and pas

    • by keith_nt4 (612247)

      This is the reason I'm kind of interested in this: I have I think ~180 steam games, very few of which run on linux natively. Hypothetically I could take my really low end laptop I bought in 2010 for $300, connect it to my TV via HDMI and play all that whole library of games (with valves new super-special gamepad) via the stream-over-network feature. Based on the promo materials/FAQs I've read I've been lead to believe this is an achievable scenario. So silent low end laptop in gaming room, noisy high end g

  • by Windwraith (932426) on Friday October 04, 2013 @06:07PM (#45039977)

    Glad they are using nvidia video, it always worked the best on linux. I kept hearing rumors about them having AMD video and it was really making me not want a Steam Machine, but now I am willing to give it a go!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    surprised no one mentioned that nvidia promised more documentation for the nouveau driver http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=news_item&px=MTQ2NzY

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