As Valve continues to fiddle with Steam OS, the key cog in the Steam Machine initiative it announced way at CES back in 2014, system builders have been taking matters into their own hands. We've seen various small form-factor gaming PCs that boot directly into Steam's Big Picture mode, a 10-foot user interface designed for big-screen TVs. Many of the options have just been smaller versions of big desktops, while others look more like Xbox One or PlayStation 4 video-game consoles.
Origin PC is taking a whole different approach with its new Omega line, a new generation of home-theater PCs we first spied at CES 2015. Unlike Origin's own Chronos line and the majority of SFF gaming PCs currently available, the Omega is designed specifically for living-room deployments, with a choice of legitimate HTPC enclosures that will look right at home in an A/V rack. These are understated square and rectangular cases that forgo the usual LED light show, although Origin does offer the option of custom airbrushed paint in any design or color.
Prices starts at $999 for a modest configuration consisting of an Intel Pentium Anniversary Edition dual-core processor overclocked to 4.5GHz, an Asus H97 mini-ITX motherboard, 8GB of DDR3-1600 memory, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card, a 500GB hard drive, a Silverstone 450W power supply, and Windows 8.1 Home.
Hardcore gamers with deeper pockets have the option of configuring far more muscular builds, with up to three GeForce GTX 980 graphics cards in SLI--that's more than enough to push pixels around a 4K resolution Ultra HD TV. Faster and higher capacity storage options are available too, up to 14TB of space for installing large libraries of games and storing movies, music and other media.
On the OS side, the Omega can boot directly into Steam's Big Picture mode, with optional mouse emulation software for Xbox controllers as a stop-gap solution until Steam OS finally arrives (which the Omega will also support). Likewise, movie buffs can stick with Windows 8.1 for easy access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and similar video-streaming services.
Why this matters: It's anyone's guess when Valve will put the finishing touches on Steam OS, but system builders aren't waiting. Origin's Omega allows anxious gamers to jump the gun with a configurable system that looks like it belongs in the living room; one that can be upgraded to Steam OS, should the software prove be worth the wait. And with triple GTX 980 support, the Omega shouldn't skip a beat when you trade in that Full HD 1080p TV for a 4K model.