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Steam Machines are gaming computers that ship with Valve’s Linux-based Steam OS software. It’s designed to run on a big-screen display and put your gaming experience front and center. The idea is to make gaming PCs a bit more like game consoles… and for the most part Steam Machines seem to do that.

But now that the first Steam Machines are shipping, it turns out there are some downsides to using a Steam Machine instead of PC running windows. First, there are still thousands of games that don’t support Steam OS or any other Linux-based operating system. And second, it looks like many games that can run on Steam OS run more quickly on Windows.

steam bench

The folks at Ars Technica ran some recent games on a dual-boot computer running Steam OS 2.0 and Windows 10. In pretty much every case frame rates were lower with Steam OS.

If you have a powerful enough system, you can probably play games on Steam OS even with the performance hit… but in some cases performance gap was high enough to make a game that’s playable under Windows completely unplayable with Steam OS.

It’s possible that future software updates and improved drivers could improve things. But for now Windows 10 still seems to be a better bet for gamers than steam OS.

Here’s a roundup of some other tech news from around the web. You can always keep up on the latest headlines by following Liliputing on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

  • Microsoft launches Office Insider program
    The Windows Insider Program lets users test new versions of Windows before they’re available to the public. Now there’s an Insider program for Office users as well. [Office]
  • Report: Google is considering designing, building its own phone
    Up until now the company has made Android available to third-party phone makers and partnered with some of those companies to produce Nexus hardware. Now there’s talk of Google building its own phones… maybe we’ll see a Pixel phone in the future? [The Information]
  • Xposed Framework for Android 6.0 coming soon
    It took a while for the developer of this popular framework for modifying rooted Android phones to make the jump from Android 4.4 to Android 5.0, but shortly after the launch of Android 6.0, Xposed Framework for Marshmallow is almost ready to go. [xda-developers]
  • Asus is working on an augmented reality headset
    Like Microsoft’s HoloLens, it’s expected to be a wearable headset that lets you interact with virtual objects in real-world environments. We could learn more about it in 2016. [CNET]
  • Don’t buy the OnePlus X if you live in the US
    The OnePlus X is a $250 phone which offers great specs and build quality for the price… but it doesn’t support some of the most important 4G LTE bands in the US, so if you care about high speed mobile data, this probably isn’t the phone for you. It should work better in Canada and Europe. [The Verge]
  • Apple is shutting down Beats Music at the end of the month
    Now that Apple Music is live, Apple is shutting down the streaming music service it acquired when it bought Beats. Some user data and preferences can be exported to Apple Music. [Beats]
  • Snapdraogn 820, Exynos 8 Octa, Apple A9 compared (allegedly)
    It’ll be a little while before you can buy a device with these next-gen chips from Samsung or Qualcomm, but some early benchmarks allegedly give us an idea of how they stack up against one another.. and against Apple’s A9 processor, as well as some older chips. Keep in mind that these results only show single-core performance. [G for Games]


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37 replies on “Lilbits 312: Steam Machines would be faster as Windows Machines”

  1. While it is true on the same hardware windows performs better now, if you use the money on a better gpu instead of the $100 to $200 windows license then it performs the same if not better so dollar per dollar i think it is a wash. Steam will be the reason that the price of windows license will drop imho.

    I don’t think current gamers are their target here, I think they are competing with playsation and xbox. Once they have a chunk of this market share they can then make a big play for AAA games as they have a bigger market share and then the whole game will be changed. I don’t think it will happen overnight or yesterday as many would hope.

    1. You are missing the money wasted in books and courses about autism spent by the average linux user. My favorite “Talk to a girl step by step guide”. Or “How to dismiss implications of autism in the nazi, and communist, genocides”.

      u mad bra.

  2. Ok. Take a Directx11 bad port and make some tests. Well done, but take
    Dota2 or Borderlands, or Unigine Valley Test Suite and make some native
    OpenGL tests….

    1. Bad ports are a valid issue. They have been an issue for PC ports of console games as well, though because of the maturity of the PC games market, it’s not such a big deal.

  3. Ok. Take a Directx11 bad port and make some tests. Well done, but take
    Dota2 or Borderlands, or Unigine Valley Test Suite and make some native
    OpenGL tests. Will talk after that,

  4. I wonder if certain games are native ports, and others are not. Ever since the Mac switch to Intel, some Mac games are not native. They are just the Windows version of the game in a Wine wrapper (I think they are called Cider wrappers actually).

    On low-end games it might be unnoticed, but on higher-end games that certainly would have a big negative impact on performance. Maybe the same thing is being done here in some cases.

  5. For the current game catalog of SteamOS, this might be true but I experience the exact opposite for web application development tools and applications. These tools (e.g. IntelliJ, JBoss, Weblogic, GIMP…etc) run significantly better and faster on a Linux desktop machine than on a Windows machine (I have the most exp. with Win7).

    Probably, this only signifies that the current SteamOS catalog is comprised of quick-and-dirty Linux ports, not quality-ports and not games that were designed for multi-platform originally. This will get better in time, since it is now clearly visible for everyone that Valve will not abandon this effort.

    We will also see much better results when the first batch of Vulkan games come out.

    1. Yeah Valve going with Vulkan for Source 2 is a good sign. With some even stating there’s no point in going with DX12 since Vulkan supports more operating systems and accomplishes similar things.

  6. Just wondering, but since they can’t use DX with Linux, could this be a slightly bad port job? Shadow of Mordor in my opinion looks like a muddy mess in most I’ve seen of it and doesn’t it demand some pretty hefty amount of VRAM in the system requirements?

  7. My hope is the when April comes along, everyone is selling their steam machines on ebay for me to snatch cheap.

  8. So Windows is faster? I am in no surprise, I knew it all the time. The title of the artcicle really is something like when it is needed to write about Windows superiority but the author is from the opposite camp, and thus is trying hard to dissipate this conflict. And then such titles come out. What does it mean? That steam machines might be as fast as Windows ones? If? If they ran not such a crap as linux? lol

    1. No, Brad isn’t in the other camp as you put it… He’s just being fair and your comment ignores that some games actually perform better under Linux, such as natively OpenGL games… This article just points out where the state of gaming on Linux presently is…

      It’s more a indication of the decades long gap between the platforms for supporting games, with Linux playing catch up with driver support and game optimization, never mind the time it takes to port games that is keeping the number of available games low and mainly for older titles.

      So not a issue of which platform is superior, just which is presently best supported for games…

      There’s technically no reason games can’t perform well on either platform, ideally developers will design games to go around the OS to prevent any limitations and thus it’s usually a issue of driver support and whether the game conflicts with any of the OS and other apps running, which you typically would have more to worry about with Windows due to the extensive legacy apps that aren’t all updated.

      Really, let’s not get into tired and obviously biased based comparisons… there’s no such thing as a perfect platform and they all have their strengths and weaknesses and for most it’s a matter of preference… There’s just a long way to go before Linux can overcome this old weakness but this is also the first time they’ve seriously tried, with a actual company backing the effort, and like Windows Universal Apps they just need time to see if they can actually accomplish anything before we should start knocking them down for even trying…

      Just like starting a new business, new platform endeavors takes 2-3 years to even know whether it has a chance of succeeding long term… and longer to actually show it…

  9. Ars tecnica did not benchmark several games at 1080p 450 USD Steam Machines vs 400 USD Xbox.

    And Steam Machines are not only far better console hardware but also better OS than MS WOS. GPU drivers at native opengl games at 720p and 1080p as Phoronix usually test sometimes run faster even at wine than at Ms WOS, and about 30% better than at OSX.

    MS must be very concerned with Steam OS if it has Android or even Chrome OS success and their PR is working their bad mouth.

    1. Ars Technica is not MS PR… Steam for Linux does have it’s problems and limitations, it’s just the way it is because they’re trying to overcome decades long disadvantage for Linux and that’s not going to happen overnight…

      Nor does having advantages in certain benchmarks means there are no benchmarks where they don’t have the advantage… Different platforms just have different strengths and weaknesses, but the problem for Linux is the decades long gap in support. Even OpenGL game like L4D2 took over a year and half to port and they showed better performance early on but it still took a long time before it was fully ported… Nevermind the DX games that will never be ported… So of course game selection will suffer for now until they at least have a chance to convince developers to directly support games for Linux…

      1. The same title or review suggesting to install MS WOS at Steam Machines is all over the net.

        One bad port proprietary game benchmark does not make any OS better.

        Phoronix does several benchmarks with FOSS and with Nvidia (AMD is far better at MS WOS and intel is slow at both) some games run better under GNU/Linux, others under MS WOS and always there are not a lot difference.

        720p (almost 1k) and 1080p (almost 2k) are the actual TV resolution settings.

        And Steam Machines are game consoles to plug to the TV and must be compared with XBOX and PS4 not desktop PC rigs even they have similar hardware.

        If making a MS WOS 10 rig and plug it to the TV is “a thing” Why almost nobody does it?

        And no Steam Machine will use the specs they are using for the “forced” test and of course not that resolution, so this rare only test of a rare game cannot conclude any result for an entire OS unless it is PR.

        1. Sorry, but this just the latest of articles on a subject that has been argued for years…

          Like I’ve stated before there’s no such thing as a perfect platform… Linux fans can argue Linux strengths and Windows fans can argue Windows strengths but what often gets ignored is that both have different strengths and both tend to ignore their weaknesses…

          Like it or not Steam for Linux is still very much a experiment… Until they get mainstream game industry support then little will change… It’s all good they’re trying but Valve can’t change the industry on their own.

          Sure, they’ve improved since the beta but not every game is equally portable and many still can’t be ported without the original developers completely reworking the code to make it work…

          Yes, it definitely has potential and like I told the other guy there’s no technical reason why it can’t eventually be done and perform well but we’re still years away from that becoming the norm…

          1. agree it’s not microsoft pr…more like covering their ass…just shows the grip MS has on the industry…having microsoft cut you off is a whole lot scarier than the linux community or valve cutting you off.

            you don’t want to be that person in the editorial meeting who caused microsoft to stop providing freebees.

  10. microsoft is directly at odds with steam since it has decided it wants to run a store as well. One would hope that vulkan might help with equalizing the field.

  11. This article’s title “Steam Machines would be faster as Windows Machines” is misleading and doesn’t make sense.

    1. They are reporting on research conducted by Ars Technica. Ars did their testing by playing a game and running a benchmark on machines that dual boot both Steam OS and Windows. The tests conclusively show that the same machine runs games at a quicker frame rate with Windows than it does with Steam OS, so logically a Steam Machine would be faster as a Windows machine.

      1. Unless packaged Steam Machines are optimized, and, thus, faster than just some random machine running Steam OS.

      2. You are correct. I didn’t know Steam could be installed in Windows.. so I was profoundly confused with the title.

        1. Steam for Linux is primarily Valve’s backup plan in case MS Store for Windows takes over the market and they start phasing out traditional desktop apps in favor of Universal Apps/services… They really don’t want to share revenue with MS but they started on Windows and they’re unlikely to drop that as long as it’s they’re main revenue source…

          So they basically copied Google Chrome… They took Ubuntu and customized it to boot directly into their store app. So, nothing special about it other than running on Linux instead of Windows… But this doesn’t address the decades long gap in game development that leaves most games developed for Windows and thus it’ll be years before we see a really good library of games ported for Linux, unless the industry sides with Valve and support developing directly for Linux but that seems unlikely as DX games continue to be developed and developers stand to make better profit over the Universal platform MS is developing…

          There’s also the issue of Linux fragmentation, for example… Since Valve based Steam for Linux on Ubuntu then any issues running it have to be in common with Ubuntu issues… So, if you’re running a version of Linux with different issues then you’re out of luck as far as support from Valve goes… Similarly, if you modify the default installation you are also unlikely to get support.

          While many of these Steam machines don’t have the highest specs and some of the cheaper models still require you to stream from a more powerful PC for certain high performance requiring games. So they’re mainly addressing a certain niche range at the moment and with the lack of games at the moment it still has to reach mass appeal…

          Steam for Android/iOS is more likely to succeed with it’s more mainstream appeal and consumers already accepting the idea they’d have to stream games from a PC to get the full range of gaming instead of expecting it to run natively as they would on a Steam OS system…

          1. What do you think Ubuntu is based on? Never mind, who do you think Valve’s Linux distro partner is?

            Hint, one of the only desktop Linux distros with an actual company backing it…

          2. Yes Ubuntu is based on debian, a lot of distros are based on Ubuntu but Steam after choosing Ubuntu CHANGED.

            And they changed because as Canonical is a company Steam is other and they want the Open Source FREEDOM, not to go from MS to Canonical dependence

            So now, Steam is as Debian based as Ubuntu is, and their improvements to the game scene in Linux have been big this last 2 years.

          3. It makes no difference… Either way it’s Debian and either way unless your distro is specifically the same enough to be fixed by the same solutions then you’re out of luck unless you’re willing to switch distros but not every Linux user is willing to switch or get a distro only for gaming and have to switch to use anything else or customize and risk making a game not work and then go through the trouble of figuring out why…

            And no, Steam for Linux is still years behind. The game selection is very limited and you don’t get the same level of support because the gaming industry isn’t embracing it yet… Until they do there’s little Valve can do about it except keep trying but it simply takes them too long to port games right now and they can’t port any of the DX games…

          4. yes i know valve recommends ubuntu for the steam client (or at least they did)…

            i think comparing how games run on the two different platforms at this juncture is stupid…for years the only game in town (sic) was windows and the game boffins built for that platform…along comes the new kid (which is basically still in beta) and the instant gratification crowd instantly start poking at it with a stick…

            overall it gives me tired head…(along with Coke v. Pepsi…iOS v. Android…Ford v. Chevy)

            just another brand pissing match…

          5. Agreed, it’s still too early to draw any solid conclusions and it is as you described but people these days have no patience and it doesn’t help that it’s a slow news cycle period, along with expecting immediate results that just promote the unrealistic expectations…

            But it’s just another thing we can tag down to check again in another year or two…

          6. Steam OS is actually debian based (It was Ubuntu but they changed the distro)

            Steam works great at Ubuntus, RMPs, and archs.

            Chrome OS has a Gentoo kernel and at their first stages it where based on Suse Studio (a web tool that let you build your own SUSE ISO image).

            A lot of console gamers do not know how to use a desktop computer for gaming, and that is the Steam Machines market and a 450 USD Steam Machine is far better than XBOX or PS4 400 USD hardware, have more games, and cheaper titles, and 70% of the most played PC games will be available for console users.

            That is why there is all this bad PR against this new consoles (not a desktop PC).

          7. Uh, no… STEAM for Linux does not have more games… Not even remotely close, it will take them years to port even the older games let alone the newer games.

            The fact you even tried to argue that totally discredits you… It’s not even true that all Steam systems are better than the modern consoles because many of them are low end budget models and only the higher priced models give you more performance.

            I figure your a fan of Steam but exaggerating what they’re offering for Linux doesn’t help but to disappoint users who will go get one with unrealistic expectations…

      1. Fail on my end. Until now, after some research, I didn’t know Steam Machines could be installed with Windows.. so no matter how many times I read it, I could not understand the title. I thought there was a typo or just grammatically incorrect.

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