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The $500 Steam Machine from iBuyPower is 'not a PC'

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IBuyPower built its Steam Machine, the SBX, to compete in the console market. It looks like a console – a rectangle smaller than the Xbox One with the Steam logo pressed into the top – and it's priced to compete with new systems at $500. A few details make it a Steam Machine rather than another new console: It has no disc drive, it runs SteamOS only, and it will ship with the Steam Controller and in-home streaming capabilities.

"We're telling all of our vendors that this is not a PC," Tuan Nguyen, iBuyPower director of product and marketing, said during a demo at CES. "Valve doesn't like to admit that they're really competing with the consoles, but they are."

The retail SBX should include built-in wi-fi, Bluetooth, an internal power supply, a 500GB HDD, 4GB RAM, quad-core Athlon X4 740 CPU, and a Radeon R7 260X graphics card supporting AMD's Mantle API, iBuyPower's Brad Soken said. Those specs aren't expected to change too drastically leading up to launch.

"With Mantle and everything, and the whole GCN up and running, you're very much on par at least with the current generation of consoles, if not even better," Nguyen said.

Gallery: iBuyPower Steam Machine - SBX | 27 Photos

IBuyPower's relationship with Valve began in June, when Nguyen sent Valve an email with a render of its idea for a Steam Machine. The prototype Nguyen showed off was mostly complete, missing the Steam Controller module and with a Raspberry Pi in the place of the box's lighting control. Users will be able to control the color of the LEDs embedded around the box with an app for iOS and Android. Four squares supporting the bottom of the console are yellow, red, green and blue, mimicking Xbox controller colors.

"Hitting that $499 price point is actually not that easy," Nguyen said.

IBuyPower had planned to announce a second SBX tonight, after Valve's press conference – a box with integrated Oculus Rift. It was going to be the ace up iBuyPower's sleeve, Nguyen said, but the Rift wasn't ready. The Oculus team is working with Valve now to tweak problems with the headset causing motion sickness, Nguyen said.

SBX on its own would be ready to ship early this year, but iBuyPower is waiting for Valve to finish the Steam Machine experience, including a new version of SteamOS. Instead, Nguyen said it should hit around June – just in time for E3.

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