This is Alienware's Steam Machine

This is Alienware's Steam Machine

We all saw this coming, right? Alienware is getting in on Steam OS, and what you see above is the first Steam Machine from Dell's gaming brand. It looks surprisingly measured considering its X51 brethren! Just ahead of CES 2014, Dell showed us the Alienware Steam Machine: It's set to arrive in the "later half of 2014," and Dell isn't talking specs just yet (except to say that it will perform on par with a gaming notebook).

Even then, Dell reps declined to make any specific comparisons with Alienware's current notebook offerings, so you really won't know until later if this is an Alienware 14 or 18 equivalent. As for the price, it will be "highly competitive to the next generation of consoles," according to Marc Diana with Alienware business development. So, between $400 and $500, then? Dell is hoping it can sell more Steam Machines than all the other guys, even if this is something of an experimental category. "We feel we are uniquely positioned in that we can serve a lot of customers from the start," Diana told us.

As seen above, Dell's aiming for its Steam Machine to be exceptionally compact. "It's dramatically smaller than about everything else in the lineup," said Valve designer Greg Coomer, noting that there will be at least one machine that's smaller, but it will be far less powerful. Given that we don't know the specs, we'd take any comments about performance with a grain of salt. That said, anyone with two eyes can see that this is indeed a compact little box, especially compared to the PS4 or Xbox One. As for the rest of the design, Dell is already talking up the cooling system, which sucks in cold air through channels on the back, and is said to run quietly. Unfortunately, we can't vouch for that last piece, as we haven't yet seen a working prototype in action.

Elsewhere on the device, you'll find two USB ports up front, but that's of course subject to change as the unit on display today is hardly final. Also, given that this is an Alienware machine we're talking about, there will naturally be some colorful LED lights. The setup is (thankfully) quite modest as far as Dell goes: Right now, only the Alienware and Steam logos are expected to light up. Alienware's rationale? The Steam Machine will likely reside in your living room -- a spot where you'd probably rather it blend in than call too much attention to itself.

We'll get our hands on Dell's Steam Machine very soon. For now, enjoy the hands-on photos -- just remember that's a wooden mock-up you're looking at. So, not the real deal, but close enough to give you an idea of what this thing will look like when it finally ships.