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Kavawuvi

SteamOS "Brewmaster"

11 posts in this topic

SteamOS is an operating system developed by Valve and is to bring PC gaming to the couch, giving you access to many Steam games from the comfort of your living room. It's as free as the desktop client, but is it still good?

 

System Requirements

 

The system requirements for SteamOS, as reported by Valve, are:

64-bit Intel or AMD processor

4GB of RAM

200GB storage space

NVIDIA, Intel, or AMD graphics

UEFI firmware

 

The only real requirements are the processor and graphics, and a lack of UEFI support will require downloading a hard-to-find ISO. There is nothing stopping you from installing it with less than 4GB of RAM (playing games might end up being a disaster) or with less than 200GB of storage space (OS takes about 20GB; less storage = less games).

 

The latest mid-ranged prebuilt computers might support SteamOS, though building your own system provides even better cost effectiveness due to the fact that SteamOS is free (an instant $120 savings over Windows if you think about it).

 

Installation

 

For the installation media, I used a Samsung 32GB USB 3.0 drive. A USB 2.0 drive probably won't make much of a difference, though it might take a bit longer. Just make sure it's a MBR disk with the primary partition formatted in FAT32. The rest is just extracting the files from the downloaded .zip file to the volume, and you're done. On Windows, this can be done with 7-zip. If you are on Linux or a Mac, you will need to make sure you include all of the hidden files that start with a dot, or you will be brought into a grub prompt that can't do anything when you try to boot from the USB.

 

Most of the installer is automated. It's not as user-friendly as a Windows installer, but it can get the job done. Installing took about 10 minutes, which I guess is fairly short compared to Windows. Steam will bring you to the desktop when it updates for the first time. You can remove your USB drive from here. If you don't have network access, it will tell you to configure your network settings here.

 

After installation, there were a few issues. Sound didn't work at first, which required configuring audio by changing it from HDMI audio to HDMI audio (not a typo). It's more likely that this will be installed by an OEM, rather than an end user, so these issues will likely be fixed by the OEM.

 

The Client

 

The client is pretty much the operating system version of Big Picture mode. It looks like it, has a lot of the same functions as it, and more. It looks very crisp and clean and beautiful, overall, as if care was taken to its appearance. 

 

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for its functionality. Some buttons don't work, forcing me to restart my entire computer sometimes just to get out of a menu. Exiting a menu forces the entire client to be blurry until I go to the desktop, and SteamOS randomly crashes at times, even in the middle of a game. When SteamOS crashes, it kills whatever you're doing, restarting without going into your motherboard's splash screen. Even something as simple as getting the correct time requires changing the settings from the Desktop (which is locked by default), as specifying a time zone in the Steam client like GMT-6 gives something way off like GMT+2, instead. Overall, it's fairly buggy.

 

Library

 

Selecting games from the library is easy. I'm able to filter games from categories, hide games that aren't supported by controllers, and even search my games by text. This can be very useful for people who have over 50 games, as SteamOS displays all of the games in thumbnails rather than a list. Under Installed games, it will even show games that are installed on computers running on the same network for In-Home streaming.

 

It's not perfect, however. It keeps forgetting my "SteamOS Games" filter that I keep having to set. The Linux version of the Steam client shows Linux only games by default, and the Mac client does the same, so I'd also expect SteamOS to show only SteamOS games by default in my library.

 

Overlay

 

The overlay provides similar features to the desktop Steam overlay, though it provides an option for an on-screen keyboard for controller users. Activating this enabled it, but it's not possible to deactivate it in some games, forcing me to either restart the game to get rid of it, or keep the top left quarter of my screen unusable. Because it's the second option, it might be easy to misclick. I'd press escape, but as I mentioned before, it's very broken.

 

The web browser is HTML5-compliant. You can watch YouTube videos here if you want, but your content is suspended if you leave the web browser, so you can't just listen to a song in the background. However, using the scroll wheel on my mouse scrolls the page all the way to the bottom regardless of how far I scroll, forcing me to use the arrow keys. In fact, the same can be said for browsing friends, groups, and anything else in the overlay.

 

Sometimes, screenshots work fine, but often I'll get a horribly corrupted screenshot that doesn't resemble the screen at all. Sharing the screenshots that do work is easy, though, and works great.

 

In-Home Streaming

 

Using the best possible situation I could think of, with an Ethernet cable directly connected between the two devices, I tested a few games with In-Home Streaming. 

 

I streamed several games, running them on maximum settings on SteamOS. One of the main uses for In-Home streaming is to be able to play games on a system that cannot normally run that game, whether it is for performance or compatibility. In my case, it was for performance, as I was streaming them to my laptop which was connected via 5GHz wireless Internet, and my SteamOS machine connected through Ethernet.

 

Results were about the same on each game. The video was slightly lossy, but nothing too significant. It was also at a slight delay, but considering it's going through wireless Internet, it's actually not too bad. Audio was a little jumpy for some games, but was usually very consistent. The framerate was also around 25-30FPS on my laptop, where SteamOS was outputting the full 60FPS, which may be a deal breaker for some. Input delay was hard to detect for even a first person shooter.

 

Steam store

 

The Steam store, like much of the client, looks great. Attempting to buy a game that has a bundle gives you a list of options, with the game by itself being at the top. It's one of the most user-friendly parts of the entire client, which shouldn't be surprising, because selling games are how Steam makes its money.

 

SteamOS does not have as many games as the Windows version. In fact, only a little over 24% of Steam games are available on SteamOS, which is even less than what the Mac client has. I could have easily forgiven this if the Steam store didn't show games I couldn't play when it shouldn't by default. In fact, it sometimes completely ignores this setting.

 

 

The Desktop

 

Because this is meant to be an operating system dedicated to gaming, and it does warn you that you can screw up your system by doing this, I won't take points off for disabling the desktop by default. However, you can still launch desktop applications by adding shortcuts to your library without overriding anything, and without any warning that you can also screw everything up this way, such as by adding the Terminal as a shortcut.

 

Aside from terminal access, there isn't much to do on the desktop. You can download Google Chrome, play non-Steam games like Minecraft, and do many other things that Debian can do, but it's not meant for fun, only work and troubleshooting. Most end users should never even see the desktop.

 

Why get it?

 

The only reason I can see someone using SteamOS instead of Windows 10 is because it's free. You can either spend the $120 you would have spent on Windows for more performance, more games, or just don't spend it at all. However, SteamOS supports only a fraction of the games than what is supported on Windows 10. Remember that SteamOS is NOT a replacement for a full desktop operating system such as Windows or Linux and never will be, and Valve makes that pretty clear.

 

However, if you are looking for a console experience with PC gaming, then SteamOS is for you. Remember that Steam does not charge $60 a year for multiplayer access, and you get access to quite a lot of games. However, SteamOS does not have direct support for video streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video, etc. at this time like what all of the latest generation consoles support, making it only for video games, and just that. Some games might be exclusive to certain consoles, only. Others might be available on consoles and Windows, but not on Linux or SteamOS, such as Bethesda games (Fallout series, The Elder Scrolls series, etc.).

 

Final Thoughts

 

There are MANY good things about SteamOS. When it works, it's perfect, and if it worked all of the time, then I would have definitely recommended this. Unfortunately, with the current state it is in, all of these bugs are holding it back from being something great.

 

It is a beta, though, and it's poorly advertised as such. In fact, you're only told it's a beta when you actually go and download SteamOS. It's very likely that many of these bugs will be fixed in the future. I may go and update this review in the future when that happens. For now, I feel bad for anyone who has a Steam machine.

 

Pros:

  • Free
  • Usual features of Steam (instant messaging, Steam store, voice chat, etc.)
  • Lenient system requirements
  • Beautiful interface
  • Supports Steam Link, Steam Controller, Xbox One controller (wired only), Xbox 360 controller (wireless with dongle or wired), and keyboard & mouse - pretty much anything supported by the Steam Link
  • Supports over 1700 games
  • In-home streaming for unsupported games or games that are too demanding for the installed hardware
  • Multiple account support, as well as the ability to share the same installed games

 

Cons:

  • MANY bugs; Why is this being included with Steam machines, again?
  • Support for considerably less games than the Windows or Mac client
  • No way to change screen resolution from the Steam client
  • No video streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, etc.
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Members of Open Carnage never see off-site ads.

MANY bugs; Why is this being included with Steam machines, again?

You can either spend the $120 you would have spent on Windows for more performance

Because the distribution isn't guaranteed to work with all hardware. It seems to work just fine on the Alienware Steam machine, for example.

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Because the distribution isn't guaranteed to work with all hardware. It seems to work just fine on the Alienware Steam machine, for example.

 

Most of these bugs are most likely not hardware related. Several of the bugs I found have also been reported by someone else using completely different hardware (AMD vs NVIDIA / Intel), and there are YouTube videos of these exact bugs. Some bugs do vary on hardware, though, like I don't have any sound issues where some people may get corrupted sound through Line Out or HDMI.

 

It is a possibility that SteamOS doesn't play as nice with keyboards and mice, which could explain why some buttons don't properly respond to being clicked or escaped out, since every review I've seen of the Alienware steam machine uses the included Steam Controller (I didn't want to test it because I was only testing the OS). However, this does not address even most of the issues, like corrupted screenshots or a store that shows games that it's not supposed to even be listing by default because they aren't compatible.

 

It could also be possible that Alienware machines use a different version of SteamOS, or a version that uses some sort of OEM-installed patch that isn't included with the downloadable version of the operating system, but there are even some bugs reported by users of Alienware Steam machines, and fairly recently, too.

 

However, the point of the review was for SteamOS itself, rather than Steam Machines. If SteamOS only works with hardware that can't be obtained anywhere except from Dell, then it should either not be a public download, or it should have a notice that says something like, "This operating system was only tested using Alienware hardware, and you may experience issues on other hardware." Otherwise, the system requirements are misleading (it even says you can "Build your own Steam Machine" on the front page), thus SteamOS deserves a negative review.


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When Windows 8 came out, Gabe deemed it trash, so he decided that valve knew better how to make an Operating System that GAMERS will like. He also wanted to get the console money, so it all fit together.

 

Except that Gabe forgot that

  1. His company can achieve literally nothing in a timely fashion.
  2. Valve doesn't do OS dev.

Valve Missed deadlines massively and Steam Machines were delayed for a very long times, when manufacturers didn't just go ahead and release them as Windows boxes. Then with IHS, the already slim market for Steam Machines evaporated, and the Steam Link appeared. I own one, its pretty good, and its not hard to see why SteamOS has taken second place to IHS.

 

This actually makes me wonder about how fractured Valve really is, cause IHS and SteamOS are two teams with the exact same goal, Steam in the living room, and despite an obvious winner, both stick around. Its a very Steve Balmer kind of thing.

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Except that Gabe forgot that

  1. His company can achieve literally nothing in a timely fashion.
  2. Valve doesn't do OS dev.

It's really too bad. With all of the money Valve makes, I'd imagine that they could hire enough people to achieve both of these. Getting a helpful response from Steam technical support within two weeks is apparently the same thing as winning the lottery.


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Let's not forget that Steam OS is running on top of Debian Jessie, which uses outdated/deprecated libraries. Valve has no ambitions to update their shit to work on distros using newer libraries and can tote on all they want about being "Linux friendly" when they are the complete opposite. This is what you have to do just to get steam running on Ubuntu 15.04 and newer. So don't expect the steam client to get updates until Steam OS gets updates.

Edited by Rudolf
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Linux/Unix | InfoSec | Electronics | Radios

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Let's not forget that Steam OS is running on top of Debian Jessie, which uses outdated/deprecated libraries. Valve has no ambitions to update their shit to work on distros using newer libraries and can tote on all they want about being "Linux friendly" when they are the complete opposite. This is what you have to do just to get steam running on Ubuntu 15.04 and newer. So don't expect the steam client to get updates until Steam OS gets updates.

 

Isn't Jessie was the latest release of Debian? :|

 

From what I've read, SteamOS is (supposed to be) updated on the first Wednesday of every month, but the opt-in beta is updated every Monday. However, many of the bugs I found go back for months, so I doubt they're fixed in the opt-in beta.


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Isn't Jessie was the latest release of Debian? :|

 

From what I've read, SteamOS is (supposed to be) updated on the first Wednesday of every month, but the opt-in beta is updated every Monday. However, many of the bugs I found go back for months, so I doubt they're fixed in the opt-in beta.

Jessie is still in the 3.16/3.19 kernel version because their focus is on stability. Most  other distros, including Ubuntu, are pushing into 4.2 or 4.3. One of the reasons Steam doesn't work on the newer kernels as-is is because it uses an outdated version of GCC, which doesn't play well with the newer MESA drivers. Steam comes packaged with older versions of GCC and other libraries for systems that don't have it.

Edited by iTails
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Linux/Unix | InfoSec | Electronics | Radios

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Valve's entry into Linux pushed graphics vendors to actually give half a shit about Linux, maybe some of you remember. Lots of hubbub about it when L4D2 port was first revealed. Anyways, just another example of Valve not keeping up their end of the bargain. Couldn't meet hardware vendor deadlines and won't fix the shitty software stack Tails mentioned, which no doubt pisses off many an open and closed source driver dev.


lol volvo pls nerf

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