Steam Machine Teardown

Teardown

Teardown

Teardowns provide a look inside a device and should not be used as disassembly instructions.

Featured Guide

Featured Guide

This guide has been found to be exceptionally cool by the iFixit staff.

If last month’s round of next-gen console launches left you in a fog, prepare yourself for the incoming Steam Machine. Valve has released only 300 beta kits into the wild, so grab your companion cube and hold tight—we’re about to open one up.

After-the-fact-note: we specced out the Steam Machine on pcpartpicker.com and came up with roughly $1300 in parts.

There’s more teardown where that came from—keep up with us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

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Edit Step 1 Steam Machine Teardown  ¶ 

  • With only 300 Steam Boxes to go around, how can you possibly get one? Follow our detailed guide.

    • Or beg your co-worker, the inimitable Christopher Patton, for the opportunity to destroy his. We'll be careful, Chris! Probably.

  • We'd like to start with specs, but the Steam Machine hardware varies—and the components aren't exactly printed on the box. Will it pack a punchy i3 paired with a GTX 660? Maybe a monster i7 mated to a Titan?

  • We may never know—we can't stop drooling over the packaging.

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Edit Step 2  ¶ 

  • Whatever the contents, Valve wins the award for best packaging. Ever.

  • We resist the urge to bring out the crowbar, unlatching the Steam Box box safely.

  • Looks like Steam neglected to ship brass goggles with the console, but there's only one way to be sure...

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • As we crack open the crate, no steam escapes—apart from this sweet logo.

  • Up front: a ginormous button.

  • The button has a lighted indicator ring, and sits next to two USB 3.0 ports for your wired controllers.

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Edit Step 4  ¶ 

  • Before we put the main hardware under the knife, let's take a quick look at the side dishes.

  • Is this the future of the gamepad vs. keyboard-and-mouse debate? Valve seems to have wrapped a keyboard and mouse around a controller.

    • Individually configurable touchpads and loads of buttons make this a sort of hybrid of everyone's favorite input devices.

  • Valve is encouraging developers and tinkerers to experiment with its operating system, and as such has thoughtfully provided a contingency plan: a USB recovery drive.

    • According to Valve: "SteamOS Beta ships with our Steam Client program, which... serves as a user interface and provides connectivity to our Steam online services. That being said, you can still access standard Linux desktop."

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • Bringing PC games to the living room without a keyboard means you're gonna need a controller with a lot of buttons. This looks like enough.

  • The only thing that feels better than a new controller in your hands is... taking it apart.

  • If you're keeping count, this is application number 101,997 of the Pro Tech Screwdriver Set.

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Edit Step 6  ¶ 

  • And we're in! The plastic casing separates into two halves: main button board and covers in the upper, and not a thing in the lower.

  • Speaking of nothing, where's the battery? We've grown accustomed to wireless console controllers, so this is a surprise. The Steam Machine Controller is wired only, and connects to the Box with the included extra-long USB cable.

  • Lifting the main button board out gives a quick look at how the super-configurable touchpads fit into the unit.

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Edit Step 7  ¶ 

  • Reading all of those inputs and sending them back to the mothership is a tough job. But the NXP LPC11U37F microcontroller handles the task well.

    • Now if we could only figure out how to handle the buttons...

  • On the reverse of the the main board, we find three switches. Half Life 3 confirmed.

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Edit Step 8  ¶ 

  • Back to the box: Around back, the Steam Machine's PC heritage is on full display. If this I/O panel is at all representative of final hardware, we can safely predict that connectivity will not be an issue:

    • PS/2 keyboard/mouse port

    • Two USB 2.0 and four USB 3.0 ports

    • HDMI, Dual-link DVI, and DisplayPort

    • S/PDIF digital optical audio out

    • eSATA

    • RJ-45 Ethernet port, plus connectors for the external Wi-Fi antenna

    • 3.5 mm audio in/out, rear speaker, c/sub, and mic ports

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Edit Step 9  ¶ 

  • Sturdy posts and a nice sliding lock secure the hefty upper case to the lower. A single screw locks them in place and keeps your steam properly bottled up.

  • Our first look, much to nobody's surprise, reveals all the usual components of a gaming computer. Video card, hard drive, CPU cooler, and power supply are all neatly tucked beneath cowlings and ducts.

  • See that shiny grille hole there? We've got a theory for that:

    • Only one of the 300 holes has had its paint filed away, and it's a different one than other units we've seen on the web. 300 certainly sounds like it might be 300 beta units. We'll bet our lunch money that these holes are some kind of unit marker for the limited run of prototypes.

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Edit Step 10  ¶ 

  • This looks like a built-in extension cord, to bring power from the back of the Steam Box up to the power supply in the front. Just to be safe, we'll start the unplugging here.

  • A molded plastic cowling covers the video card and fills the void between the card and the upper case, protecting it from shaking around and damaging itself.

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Edit Step 11  ¶ 

  • Wild SATA data and power connectors appear! This pleases iFixit.

  • If you were worried about storage capacity, worry no more. It seems the Steam Box is prepped for a second hard drive to store all your games.

  • This particular Steam Machine has a 1 TB Seagate ST1000LM014 laptop SSHD (Solid State Hybrid Drive). It's a 2.5" SATA III 6 Gb/s, 5400 RPM SSHD with a 64 MB DRAM cache and 8 GB MLC NAND Flash.

    • TL;DR This is a one terabyte platter drive paired with an 8 GB SSD and some clever software that keeps your most-frequently used data on the super-fast SSD.

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Edit Step 12  ¶ 

  • Tucked away inside this unit is a ZOTAC GeForce GTX 780 3 GB GDDR5 graphics card.

  • Just to save you the trouble, here are its sweet specs:

    • 2304 Stream Processors running at 863 MHz Base / 900 MHz Boost

    • 3 GB GDDR5 RAM running at 6008 MHz

    • PCI Express 3.0, SLI-compatible

  • As an added bonus, it looks like some kind of futuristic car.

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Edit Step 13  ¶ 

  • The inner cowling is one complex bit of custom-fitted craftsmanship. Its two parts were a little tough to wrangle out of their homes.

  • A SilverStone RC2 PCI Express x16 riser card also falls in our quest toward motherboard glory.

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Edit Step 14  ¶ 

  • Out comes the entire off-the-shelf Mini-ITX motherboard.

  • This Steam Box is equipped with two modules of Crucial Ballistix Sport 8 GB DDR3 (PC3 12800) RAM. At 16 GB total, it's the maximum this motherboard will support.

  • A nook in the motherboard cowling gives you access to the RAM before you get this deep. But they won't be easy to finagle out of their slots, even with only one clip apiece to secure them.

  • This motherboard includes DisplayPort, DVI, and HDMI ports, just in case you feel like using the integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600 instead of the GTX 780.

    • Valve was nice enough to discourage this with port covers.

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Edit Step 15  ¶ 

  • A gaming giant this juiced needs some serious cooling power; this fancy fan is no surprise.

  • This heatsink fan is a Zalman CNPS 2X Mini-ITX CPU cooler. Big AND quiet—nice.

  • Under the hood, the CPU powering our Steam Machine is a 3.2 GHz (with a Max Turbo Frequency of 3.6 GHz) Intel Core i5-4570.

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Edit Step 16  ¶ 

  • After mining through a small mountain of off-the-shelf components, we strike a vein of Valve-designed gold.

  • Behind the "Big Button" on the front of the Machine lies a board containing 12 LEDs—for illuminating the circumference of the power switch—plus the clicky button itself.

  • The board is wrangled by an NXP LPC11U24F 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller.

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Edit Step 17  ¶ 

  • We found a SilverStone SST-ST45SF-G 450W SFX12V SLI Ready CrossFire Ready 80 PLUS GOLD Certified Full Modular Active PFC Power Supply in our Steam Machine.

  • Some notable features about the power supply:

    • 450 W continuous power output at 40° C operating temperature rated for 24/7 operation

    • 80 PLUS Gold level efficiency (87%~90% efficiency at 20%~100% loading)

    • Silent running 80 mm fan with 18 dBA minimum

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Edit Step 18  ¶ 

  • Steam Machine (Beta) Repairability Score: 9 out of 10 (10 is easiest to repair):

  • The Steam Machine is designed to be opened and worked on. The case is secured with a single Phillips #2 screw.

  • Modular design with off-the-shelf components makes it easy to remove and upgrade the hard drive and video card.

  • RAM removal is made difficult by the motherboard cowling, and may require removing the cowling.

  • During reassembly, precise cable routing is difficult without a repair manual.

  • Our Steam Machine is a prototype, but according to Valve, you'll be able to fashion your own Steam Machine out of any computer running SteamOS. Your mileage may vary, and future revisions may have different scores.

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Comments Comments are onturn off

Wait...a 450watt power supply can power all that? Including a near top of the line single Nvidia 780 (only 780Ti and Titan might be higher). This confuses me as Nvidia recommends a MINIMUM 600 watt supply for the 780.

Jon Labbe, · Reply

its because nvidia has to accomondate for the low quality psus which are "up labeled";

every decent 550watt psu will run a single gpu/cpu config with oc no problems and since in the steam machine there are no a ton of extra drives/hdds or OC it is enough for this card

Angelo Merte,

They recommend that because they don't want to be liable if you get a low-quality PSU.

Most gaming towers that are running a 780 have a lot of other serious hardware, so this is never a bad idea. A 780 by itself doesn't need that much power. nVidia's hardware outshines ATI/AMD in performance and efficiency like nobody's business.

The rest of the hardware on this box is not power-intensive at all. Mini-ITX board, reasonably efficient i5, only 2 sticks of RAM (a lot of MOBO's take 8 or more) and a 2.5 inch hard drive.

Christopher Patton,

Those recommendations about power requirements for video cards are grossly overstated. 450w is tons.

phmsin,

http://www.anandtech.com/show/6973/nvidi...

The GTX780 has a system load of 405W on Furmark/Battlefield 3, and that’s with an i7-3960X test system. 450W is plenty enough if its paired with an i5.

JS Ng,

As other said, it's to cover their butts when people use lower quality PSUs, among other things (like a fully loaded system). In reality, gaming computers use a lot less power than people think. I have a system with a Core i5-2500, 4GBx2 RAM, a "regular" motherboard, a GeForce GTX 670, a sound card, a hard drive, and an SSD. Running say Crysis, my Kill-A-Watt reported it was drawing about 200W-230W.

I took my measurements and ran it against eXtreme Outer Vision's PSU calculator at 100% load and found that running Crysis didn't even draw 60% of the total power load (and 60% is the lowest their calculator goes)... if that means anything.

shokikugawa,

GPU manufacturers recommend power supplies based on bad power supplies, i.e. ones that cannot actually deliver as much power as they say they can. The actual power draw of a GeForce 780 is 250W, and the rest of this system is only brushing 100W (84W CPU + motherboard and SSHD and whatever fans).

paulcombe, · Reply

So this system could easily be selling for $1500? Is anyone going to be buying what they are marketing as a gaming console for 3 times more than the competitors? Why not just build a $1500 PC with better airflow and case?

Izzy Data, · Reply

Some people will build their own machines, and install SteamOS on them. Valve encourages people to do just that. I think this option is more targeted at people who don't know how to build their own computer, or who simply don't want to build their own.

Taylor Arnicar,

Sweet little box. Really looks like a prototype-HTPC with some oompf. I wonder how loud it is?

Is that fan duct detachable, I wonder?

amarg, · Reply

Those asking why Valve would put together such an expensive don't get it. Valve has said repeatedly that this prototype is mainly a test bed for the operating system, not an indication of hardware they actually plan to ship.

Sure, you can build something way cheaper than this. Valve wants you to. But these demo models are built to be as powerful as possible so that gamers testing them can run any game specifically for the purpose of making sure everything works. They don't want their beta testers running into issues where the hardware isn't as capable as it needs to be to handle certain games running at maxed out settings.

So yeah, you can (and should) build something cheaper than this if you want to. But you're not trying to beta test a new operating system on the most powerful hardware you can get.

mike, · Reply

Is there a reason this was scored a 9 out of 10? I didn't see any reference to why it was marked down by 1 point in the guide.

Ben W, · Reply

I believe it is due to the difficulty removing/replacing the RAM and the difficulty of reassembly due to the cable routing. These are the orange and red dots on the overview.

Brian Volk,

While a 550watt might be able to run it, you only want to use 60% of your total capability.

John Ryder, · Reply

Tbh I hope the steam machine works to make other companies think about creating small console sized cases for people who don't have room or want a large PC just shows how you can do a lot with such a small space. I may not buy the machine but I may have to try and convert my Pc to something like that when I move to Uni so that I can make it easier to move with me.

Javehn, · Reply

Hi all guys, congrats for the very interesting article ! For all those who are wondering if the SilverStone PSU is capable of handling this system, here's a test with a Core i7 920 and a GTX480, which is very power hungry configuration (100% load): http://www.xtremehardware.com/recensioni...

Ps: if you're interested, here's another article about cabinets like the steam one (unfortunately without a powerful vga): http://www.xtremehardware.com/recensioni...

We will soon analyze the SilverStone RVZ01 (a competitor of this steam platform), that you can find here: http://www.xtremehardware.com/recensioni...

Matteo Trinca, · Reply

Also you're going to have to cut off about 1/5th of it to be this size.

Jeff Jenkins, · Reply

I love that the 'handle with care' stamp has a companion cube in the middle :D

Adam Hintz, · Reply

Be nice to my baby!

Christopher Patton, · Reply

Just wanted to point out that you made a slight error in step 17. You wrote originally that the PSU is 80 PLUS Gold efficient, then you went on to say it was 80 PLUS Bronze when the picture does indicate that it is Gold efficiency.

Tanny Qureshi, · Reply

Thanks! Got it updated.

Andrew Optimus Goldberg,

The irony is that you burn the companion cube afterward. I assume they knew people were going to tear this thing apart as readily as they'd toss the cube into the incinerator.

Brandon Bachman, · Reply

Regarding the lack of steam, it's a shame Valve didn't copy Nokia and their Hackerbox (limited edition N900 case)...

http://vimeo.com/8337966

:)

Neil, · Reply

Why do those front-facing USB ports look so tacked-on, I wonder? Everything else about this device looks sleek and rad, but then there's those two USB-holes kind of just awkwardly hanging out there.

Adam Rezich, · Reply

We were wondering the same thing—turns out, as you can see here, the front USB ports are individual cables held in place with a plastic bracket. Not as beautiful as we expected, but this is a prototype after all :)

Andrew Optimus Goldberg,

I think the plan with the Steam Controllers is to make them wireless, but the beta ones require a wired connection.

Luke Driffield, · Reply

Yes, this seems likely to us at iFixit as well.

Taylor Arnicar,

There are 300 vent holes. Based on my count it looks like yours is #167. On the sticker near the back by a QR code it does indeed seem to say FX-167.

http://cynagen.com/steam-machines/

Dylan, · Reply

How can it have Stream Processors if it is an nVidia card, shouldn't it be CUDA cores? AMD cards have stream processors.

Matthew Bilker, · Reply

CUDA Cores are a type of stream processors. nVidia started calling them CUDA Cores around the Fermi architecture. The differences are marketing and a difference in instruction set between AMD and nVidia stream processors, but they both fit into that categorization.

Brian Volk,

Why does the CPU not have the retention assembly? Is removal requiered for the Cooler?

Elpidio Simon, · Reply

How is the valve button connected to the rest of the machine? Also possible to see the backside of the button?

zer0her0, · Reply

Probably USB considering the microcontroller on it has USB device support. Simplest way to interface custom hardware to a PC I would think. Or simple serial. But I'd say USB along with a few I/O pins that connect to the mobos power/reset lines. This is backed up by the two differential traces you can see going from the connector to the two USB pins on the micro (check the datasheet) in the image of the custom board.

Ryan V,

Ryan, I was more interested on seeing 1) the cabling 2) the exact headers they plug into, I think they'd need to plug into some power header in addition to USB. (do boards even come w/ serial headers still?) oh and 3) the backside, I'm sure it's boring but still nice to see.

zer0her0,

Why did they find it necessary to use an ARM to drive 12 LEDs and read one button? Surely they could have found a cheaper microcontroller to do that. (I didn't count the RST and ISP buttons in the upper left corner because they're presumably only used for debugging the board.)

notexactly, · Reply

They probably used the ARM because it's similar to the one in the controller and they had the same team design both PCBs. As others have said, it is a prototype, so I would imagine that they went with what they knew. Mass production would likely see that chip replaced with something much cheaper.

David,

The Cortex-M0 line is actually meant to compete with 8-bit and 16-bit MCUs, though they are slightly pricier still. It still depends on what's needed (and you need at least 13 I/O lines).

shokikugawa,

But what does that MCU actually do? Do those LEDs just straight light up, or do they create some patterns, some primitive animation...?

Gianmario Scotti, · Reply

your information is conflicting with source

80 PLUS Gold level efficiency (87%~90% efficiency at 20%~100% loading)

450W continuous power output at 40℃ operating temperature rated for 24/7 operation

Dung Huy Le, · Reply

Thanks for catching that! I've updated the step to reflect the proper specs.

Andrew Optimus Goldberg,

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