How to build the ultimate Steam Machine on any budget today

When we began pricing our second build, we tried to stay within console territory. Then, as we assembled the components it became apparent that we'd overstretched our ambition a little. Besides, we covered that in a previous article.

So, we amended the aim. What we arrived at was an affordable Steam Machine suited to contemporary PC games. In power terms, it matches several machines announced for November release - from names like Alienware and Scan - while undercutting the vast majority on price.

The Marvellous Midranger build specs and cost

Zalman 9

Blue lights are SO midrange
  • CPU - Intel Core i5 4460 (£156 / around US$233 or AUS$305)
  • Graphics - MSI GeForce GTX 750 Ti 2GB video card (£100, around US$150 or AUS$196)
  • Motherboard - MSI H97M-E35 (£60, around US$90 or AUS$117)
  • Storage - Toshiba 500GB 7200RPM (£31, around US$46 or AUS$61)
  • RAM - 8GB Corsair Vengeance (1600 DDR3) (£55, around US$82 or AUS$107)
  • Case - Zalman Z9 Plus (£33, around US$49 or AUS$65)
  • PSU - Alpine 500W (£15, around US$22 or AUS$29)
  • WiFi - TP-Liink Wi-Fi Adapter (£7, around $10 or $14)
  • CPU Fan - Stock (£7, around $10 or $14)
  • Total = £464 (around US$693 or AUS$908

Steamed sugar

At the centre of this build - and the biggest outlay in cost - is Intel's quad-core i5 4460, running at 3.2GHz. Console gamers may scoff at quad core, with their fancy, bespoke octa-chips. With PC gaming though, there's little point in flinging any more than four cores at a game. PC developers don't program for multithreading in the same way, so returns diminish quickly.

We've picked an NVIDIA 750 Ti-based card for graphics. It's chosen for balance of price and performance, but it's a card with plenty of life left in it. And the beauty of a DIY build is that there are more powerful upgrade options available when you have some spare cash.

MSI 750Ti

MSI 750Ti

We chose to spend a bit more on memory this time around too, paying for two 4GB Corsair Vengeance sticks. That's 8GB of high quality, 1600MHz DDR3 RAM - but stopping short of maxing out our MSI board. We still have an eye on those Steam Machine launch prices, after all.

And while we're on the subject - that motherboard is a slight compromise. It's a board that reviewers like but, free of frills, comes in well under a hundred notes. There'll be no need to flash the BIOS this time around though... and there's a nice synchronicity pairing an MSI board with MSI graphics.

Could we have brought this in even cheaper? Definitely, By spending less on the motherboard and case, we might have saved another £60 (around US$90 or AUS$176) - but we liked the Zalman Z9 Plus. It looks like a gaming machine. Even more when we've had chance to stencil "The Marvellous Midranger" on both sides in luminous blue paint.