Gamers interested in local pricing of Alienware’s Alpha Steam Machines will be interested too know that they’re looking at R10 000 for the entry-level Core i3 model.

That’s actually quite good, considering Alienware is thought of as a premium gaming brand that usually commands premium pricing for its gorgeous PC designs and game-centric hardware. You don’t get a monitor with it for that cash, but you do get a wireless Xbox controller.

The Core i3 Alienware Alpha will make use of a custom-built GeForce GTX graphics chip with 2GB of VRAM, and come with a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of DDR3-1600 RAM and dual-band AC-class (Gigabit) WiFi connectivity according to a press statement from Dell. Plus, it looks pretty good to boot.

The catch is that it’s a Steam Machine in name only at the moment. Valve’s Linux-based operating system, SteamOS, isn’t quite ready for commercial use yet (although you can download and install it for free). What you’re actually getting with the Alienware Alpha is a Windows PC with a customised interface.

Dell says the Alienware Alpha is set to boot directly into what they call “Alienware UI”, an interface designed specifically to allow gamers to access “all of Alpha’s core features with only a gamepad, without ever needing a keyboard and mouse.”

That UI has been specially-designed for the Alpha range, but still requires Windows 8.1 to run, making the Alphas Windows-powered not-quite-Steam-Machines.

A version of the i3 model sporting a 2TB hard drive and 8GB of RAM is currently available from local tech retailer Dion Wired; Alienware has Core i5 and Core i7 models in the Alpha lineup, but Dell’s local representatives aren’t talking about those quite yet.

So where’s SteamOS

With that out of the way, let’s back up a bit. Steam Machines are PCs that have been purpose-built to run PC games, and instead of Windows they are supposed to run Valve’s SteamOS, a Linux-based operating system built around Valve’s popular Steam gaming storefront. This turns them into devices that have more in common with games consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation than traditional PCs.

Of course, that also means that they won’t be able to play Windows games from your Steam library. Only the ones that have been recoded for Linux.

Steam Machines running SteamOS are expected to only hit the market in November of this year; Alienware has jumped the gun a bit with its Windows-powered offerings, giving gamers a taste of what’s to come.

The appeal of Steam Machines lies in knowing they’re pretty capable of running most games, hardware-wise, as they all require Valve’s official stamp of approval before being sold, and Valve wouldn’t approve hardware that would cast its service in a poor light. They’re still more expensive than PlayStations and Xboxes, however, but they have access to far more games, at much lower prices than console games.

They’re also quite attractive, and won’t look out of place in a modern living room.

And the beauty of Alienware’s Windows-powered models is that you can turn them into Steam Machines by downloading and installing Steam, and clicking the Big Picture button as that’s the interface Linux-powered Steam Machines will use when they finally launch.

What do you guys think? Too expensive, or just right? And are you even keen to get one of these right now, or are you going to wait for November to see what sort of money not having Windows on them knocks off the Alphas’ prices?

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.