The dream is to get a Steam Machine in the living room so I can play my Steam library on the couch. I can plug in my laptop but it requires more setup than i'd like, i'd prefer to just turn something on, pick up a controller and play.

Since Valve announced SteamOS and Steam Machines i've been looking at what to get. I don't mind spending about as much as a console costs but I don't want to buy something terrible and that starts with not buying stuff that hasn't been reviewed. I've heard great things about the work Intel has been doing with it's Atom CPUs and it recently released a pretty beefy system on a board that is pretty impressive. A few manufacturers have shipped PC's with a very low form factor and the other day I pulled the trigger and bought one to use as a Steam Machine.

It's a mini PC running Windows 8.1 and has an Intel Atom (Quad-core) processor Z3735F, 2GB of DDR3L RAM, and 32GB of flash disk. It also supports bluetooth, wifi and has a full SD card slot to increase storage beyond the 32GB. It also sports a very competent integrated Intel card. The thought with buying the Quantum Byte is that it's a low cost, low power option where I can install nearly any Indie game and stream beefier games from my PC.

That said, my first experience in a DIY Steam Machine was horrible but it gave me hope that Steam in the Living Room is going to be great. Just maybe not using Windows.

First off the Quantum Byte is a fantastic little PC when it isn't bugging out on me. I am returning it because it couldn't keep connected to wireless which I believe is a problem with the unit I bought. The reviews on Amazon for the device are nearly all great but occasionally someone gets a bad run and I think I got one. That said, when the wifi is working the unit is responsive and installed Steam games and streamed Steam games run fantastically.

Beyond the infuriating wifi issues, I also had some huge problems getting Windows 8.1 to work the way I wanted. This is what I wanted to do.

  • Have the machine auto login.

  • Start up steam in big picture mode.

  • Run everything from the Windows guest account.

The first problem came with setting Windows 8.1 to auto authenticate. Somehow I flipped some bit wrong and lost administrator access. Totally screwed as I couldn't change or install anything. That said, I wiped it and was able to set up auto login correctly. Having Steam start in big picture mode isn't hard but the time from me pressing the power button to big picture mode popping it took almost two full minutes. Not a huge deal but not impressive.

Running things in the guest account is a good idea if you want to keep thing secure but is a pain in the ass when each Steam Windows game port needs to install it's own version of Direct X and .Net. I also found out that most games require you to have a keyboard and mouse plugged in to the computer. If you don't some games don't start, bug out or randomly crash. I also had issues with some games starting in over 1080p mode and having my TV freak out requiring me to have to physically reboot the Quantum Byte.

After everything was working I had to return the Quantum Byte due to wireless issues I stated earlier, that said when everything was running well(which wasn't much) it wasn't a bad experience. That said, Windows in the living room doesn't "just work" and is a pain in the ass. I totally understand why Valve is building it's own controlled SteamOS system as using Windows would be a bucket of pain. Sure, you have a ton of ported games but the experience isn't great and there are so many things you have to do to get it to "just work."

In the end I might replace my Quantum Byte with a newer one but after going through so much already I am not sure. I do want to have something in the living room that can play PC games but so far it's a DIY adventure and i'll keep you updated on how it goes.