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Zotac Steam Machine Review

Zotac Steam Machine Review

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Zotac Steam Machine Review – The Controller

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Zotac Steam Machine Review – Conclusion

So lets start this conclusion with the hardware side of things. Overall we were very impressed with the system that Zotac have put together. We like the styling of the chassis and the ports are well set out. It could be argued that the USB 3.0-c connector would be better on the back with a standard port on the front but really that’s about it. There is plenty of connectivity overall, 6 USB in total, dual LAN, 4 HDMI, wireless-ac and so on. We also very much like the use of that internal USB port for the wireless receiver and that the system can accept a 2nd drive in the form of a M.2 device. We upgraded to a standard sata SSD without issue… its simply a case of turning a few screws and users can also drop in an extra stick of memory with ease. All very good.

The choice of CPU and GPU used here are also good. We get a nice balance of performance and thermals. the GPU config is of course most interesting… it seems odd for Zotac to call it a GTX 960. It’s not. It’s a GTX 970M. Maybe they feel that people will think this system isnt a true desktop so want to change the name? Who knows…

Moving to the SteamOS, that we didn’t like so much. It does boot quickly, it is fairly simple to use but it does occasionally error in ways we wouldn’t expect. For example when trying to access the Steam Store. Out of the box the functionality is limited and as it is Linux based, the games available are limited when compared to the PC version of Steam too. It has potential as an OS but really any serious gamer will want to get a copy of Windows on there right away and it’s great that Zotac provide the drivers to allow this.

The Steam Controller was much like the OS. It has potential but its not quite there. We like the idea of the touch sensitive pads and using them to move pointers instead of a mouse works well. That said when you hover over a letter on the virtual keyboard and then push the touch sensitive pad to action the click/select it can bump you on to the next letter which is frustrating.

Not all games support its features too, though profiles should become available in the future and we found the shape to be too large. For an adult it is probably fine however kids will find the thumb and main action buttons a stretch. It would also be fair to say that this controller has very much the same feel as 3rd party Xbox and Playstation controllers, not quite that same quality feel as the official Sony and Microsoft versions.

Using the controller in Windows was also not an ideal experience. Again limited use of the touch pads was evident and we even found a few odd bugs. Fallout 4 for example wouldn’t allow any interaction on its main menu, from any device, when the Steam Controller was connected. All in all, we see no current reason why anyone would use the Steam Controller over the Xbox 360 controller (if they have access to one).

So that brings us to performance. Overall, a very positive experience. The Zotac Steam Machine allowed us to game at 1920×1080 (HD) resolution and high levels of detail. We do note that comparing the GTX 960 desktop card with the GTX used here shows around a 400 point drop in 3DMark FireStrike Extreme however the temperatures are great, noise level is near silent and real world gaming in the latest titles, nice and smooth. The CPU should be more than enough for most uses too, it streams HD content with ease for example and as noted before the potential for expansion is great.

Summary: Get some Windows installed, run the PC version of Steam in Big Picture Mode and connect up a 360 controller. That’s how to get the best from the Zotac Steam Machine and it is that configuration which wins it our recommended award.

Recommended Award

Available from Overclockers in the UK.

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Zotac Steam Machine Review
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About Author

Stuart Davidson


  1. madjr

    fair review.

    Still I disagree with FO4 and steam controller problems. I also had problems with my 360 pad not being detected. You have to restart the damn game, because of Bethesda has a bunch of input bugs.

    Anyway I prefer the S-controller very much and works really well for aiming once you enable the Gyro / Motion Aiming controls. Fallout 4 and other shooters work much better than with any analogs.

    SC FO4 Guide:

  2. madjr

    As for the steam couch OS, my kids already love it. And helps me not worry about maintenance or Antivirus consuming resources in the background etc. Dx11 gen is ending so The future is Vulkan (aka mantle 2.0)

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