During a pre-Gamescom briefing in San Francisco, the company finally showed off the Alpha's Alienware exclusive user interface - but only through screenshots.
One of the main points made was that the UI will provide complete controller support with quick access to your Steam gaming library.
The machine is set to boot straight into a customizable Alpha UI and will fully be integrated with Steam Big Picture without the need for a keyboard or mouse.
However, there are remaining bugs the team is working on fixing - like how some games will prompt you with a launch screen (Skyrim and Ubisoft Uplay titles for example) which will leave you stuck needing a mouse. For the time being there is a certain button combo that should drop you back into the Alpha interface but Alienware is working with Valve and Ubi on a better solution.
About a thousand games with gamepad support will also be tested just in case the issue isn't resolved by Alpha's launch. Those that "pass the criteria" will be seen by default on the console and the others will be added later on. You'll still be able to play the games with launch screens, but Alienware will flag the titles letting you know that a mouse will have to be plugged in.
Alpha is almost ready
While we didn't get to actually play with the UI just yet, we did get a first look.
After choosing a network connection, Alienware reps said that there will likely be a day one update, and that it should only take about ten minutes.
Then you get the choice of picking "Console mode" or "Desktop mode."
Afterwards, you should see a simple menu with three options: Power, Launch Steam and Settings.
Power takes you to the standard off, sleep and restart options. At the moment, the team is tinkering with the sleep mode to potentially allow you to download games from your mobile device when you're at work - similar to Steam's own mobile app.
Regarding the modest menu, Alienware says, "We are not PlayStation, we are not an Xbox. We want to keep things really simple and we know our users really want to get into Steam ... what we're doing is giving them the option to get into Steam right away."
The reps also noted that this isn't an OS - rather it's an app running on top of Windows 8.1 which you can choose to have or disregard in favor of the UI.
Fancy getting yourself an Alpha?
The Alpha can be pre-ordered from the Alienware and Dell websites, or from Walmart and Amazon starting August 12 in the US and will begin shipping in November. An Xbox 360 controller plus free bonus content including the complete versions of PayDay 2, Magika, in-game content and more will be bundled with the Steam Machine.
Global pre-orders will begin "during the holiday season."
Base specs of the Alpha include Intel Core i3 Haswell based processor, 4GB DDR3 1600MHz memory, custom-built NVIDIA Maxwell based GPU, with 2GB of dedicated GDDR5 high-speed memory, dual-band Wireless-AC 1x1 with Bluetooth 4.0, HDMI In and HDMI Out for uncompressed 8 channel audio & support for 4K content, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, 500GB SATA 3 HDD
Configurations start at $549 (about £327, AU$592).
- Know what else will stream your Steam games? The Nvidia Shield Tablet. Check out our review to see which you'd rather get