Intel & NVIDIA Dominate The Initial Linux-Based Steam Machines
Written by Michael Larabel in Valve on 5 June 2015 at 09:03 AM EDT. 38 Comments
For anyone that didn't get a chance yesterday to look at the Steam Machines up for pre-ordering, these SteamOS loaded devices all come with Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce graphics.

If you were hoping for a low-end model with an AMD APU -- similar to the current-generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles -- or some units with AMD graphics, you're out of luck for the initial hardware. While it shouldn't come as much of a surprise, the units are using Intel Haswell CPUs and various modern NVIDIA GeForce latest-generation Maxwell graphics cards.

While there will likely be AMD-based Steam Machines to surface in the future, they likely were not part of the initial launch models given the state of the Catalyst Linux graphics driver with regard to performance issues in the latest AAA Linux titles as well as rendering issues. If you need some examples, just see the Benchmarking The Latest AMD & NVIDIA Graphics Cards On Ubuntu Linux from earlier this week that looked at a variety of modern graphics cards on the latest binary drivers.

The open-source drivers likely aren't yet considered viable for Steam Machines given that their performance hasn't yet met or exceeded the proprietary drivers across the board, the open-source drivers only have OpenGL 3.3 compliance with GL 4.x in development, and there's no guarantee that the Vulkan support will be ready ahead of the October ship date for these initial Linux game consoles.

We know that the open-source Intel Vulkan Linux driver is planning to be released on the same-day as the Khronos Group releasing the initial Vulkan specification. However, there's been no signs of open-source Vulkan driver work for other hardware. We do know for a fact that the Steam Machines will be Vulkan-enabled. With these initial Steam Machines all using NVIDIA graphics, it provides reasonable assurance too that NVIDIA is planning to ship a Vulkan driver well ahead of October. Of course, given NVIDIA's past turnaround times and great support of their Linux driver, it wouldn't surprise us to see a same-day Vulkan beta driver release. Currently it's anticipated that the Vulkan specification will get released in August.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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