iBuypower releases $399 Steam machine—sans Steam OS

Valve may have postponed the Steam machine rollout until next year, but that hasn't stopped some of its partners from releasing the systems we saw in January. Alienware did just that with the Alpha, which now comes with Windows and an Xbox 360 controller, and now iBuypower is introducing the SBX Entertainment System.

iBuypower describes the SBX as an "ultra-simplified system designed to do one thing: entertain." The company also says the SBX combines the simplicity of a console with the kind of power "usually available to only high-end desktop PCs," adding that it "labored to create a highly tuned and optimized system that would deliver a sustainable 60 frames-per second gaming experience at true high-definition resolutions." If that doesn't get you hyped up, the video below should:

All of that sounds great, especially considering the system's $399 starting price. A look at the actual specs throws some cold water on iBuypower's claims, though. The base config comprises:

  • An Athlon X4 740 quad-core processor
  • 4GB of system RAM
  • A Radeon R7 250X graphics card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory
  • A 500GB 2.5" hard drive (presumably of the mechanical kind)
  • 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

To put things in perspective, the R7 250X is essentially a re-branded version of the Radeon HD 7770, and it sells for about 90 bucks. The HD 7770 could handle Battlefield 3 at 1080p with medium detail two years ago, but it may not do so well with the latest crop of next-gen games—or upcoming ones.

iBuypower also ships the $399 version of the machine without a game controller and operating system. To get those, uh, extras, you'll have to fork over $549. None of the higher-priced configs have a faster CPU or graphics card, either. The only hardware upgrades are in the $699 model, which simply comes with 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.

If you don't mind those limitations, the SBX does have redeeming qualities. Its Mini-ITX chassis should look right at home in the living room, and there's a cool RGB LED bar at the front. (Lighting colors will apparently be customizable via an app for iOS and Android.) iBuypower also says the machine is "fully Steam OS ready," so you can skip Windows altogether and grab the SteamOS beta. (A $459 config with an Xbox 360 controller but no OS is on offer.) The library of high-profile SteamOS-compatible titles is small but growing. Finally, the SBX is covered with a three-year warranty, which beats the standard one-year coverage Microsoft and Sony offer with their consoles.

iBuypower started taking pre-orders for the SBX Entertainment System this morning. Shipments are scheduled for "late October," and the machine will be "available everywhere" next month.

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