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SMACH Z, the portable AMD Steam Machine is on Kickstarter

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Oh boy, here we go. SMACH Z is a portable Steam Machine running SteamOS that will be powered by an AMD embedded low-powered SoC.

They state it's not an official Steam Machine, as they probably can't use the term officially without Valve giving it their blessing.

I have my concerns about it using AMD, but this isn't exactly a machine that's meant to play the latest and greatest anyway. They did have a whole "play your favourite games" section, with a screen-shot from the Steam SteamOS sale that showed stuff like Payday 2 and The Witcher III which made me quite iffy about their project, but it seems they have now removed it.

They do still state this though:

QuotePowerful enough to play any game on the market: Portal 2, DOTA, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, SOMA, Civilization V, Metro: Last Light Redux, Borderlands 2, The Witcher 2, ...


I think that's quite misleading personally. It certainly won't play any game, especially not on SteamOS, and even more so on AMD.

What also worries me is their timeline. They plan to ship it to backers in less than a year, but looking over their Kickstarter comments they aren't even showing a prototype to people at the moment. That's an extremely short amount of time for a brand new bit of hardware to be finalised and shipped out.

They want €900,000, and they already have €147,517 pledged with 32 days left, so it could hit it quite easily.

What do you think to it?

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20 comments
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Xaero_Vincent 12 Dec, 2015
The SMACH Z is impressive hardware but I agree that the AMD GPU technology might be disapointing due to the trash Linux Catalyst/Crimson drivers that SteamOS uses by default. RadeonSI is shaping to be much faster for OpenGL 4 games than Crimson but while SteamOS's Mesa and FOSS GPU driver stack is newer than Debian Jessie Stable, it isn't updated frequently enough to take advantage of the latest advancements to RadeonSI.

I think when they throw around terms like "play all games" they are referring to the fact that you can use Steam In-Home Streaming to stream demanding Windows-only games from another Windows PC to the SMACH Z much like is the case with the Steam Machines. However, another less talked about option is cloud gaming. Linux and SteamOS will gain native access to an upcoming cloud gaming service that will essentially let any Linux gamer play any game for PC, not just Linux ports and also potentially play on cloud hardware much more powerful than the SMACH Z or baseline Steam Machines, thus offering better graphics and performance.

An example of this for instance is Fallout 4 on SteamOS:

Iperpido 12 Dec, 2015
Quoting: XaeroVincentThe SMACH Z is impressive hardware but I agree that the AMD GPU technology might be disapointing due to the trash Linux Catalyst/Crimson drivers that SteamOS uses by default. RadeonSI is shaping to be much faster for OpenGL 4 games than Crimson but while SteamOS's Mesa and FOSS GPU driver stack is newer than Debian Jessie Stable, it isn't updated frequently enough to take advantage of the latest advancements to RadeonSI.
The console is coming out in end 2016 if the kickstarter campaing will be successful, so i'm pretty sure the drivers will be much better.

I just love the idea, and i've also already backed the broject on kickstarter, but it seems that it isn't just taking off as it should.
Because... they managed to get around 100.000€ quite fast, but then it seems there are really few people backing the project now.

Maybe it wasn't enough advertized, or maybe people aren't convinced by SteamOS enought to get one.

Actually i'm getting one not for AAA games, but for indies and emulation. And Linux is already great for both of them. Even with the AMD drivers we have right now.


Last edited by Iperpido on 12 December 2015 at 6:42 pm UTC
Iperpido 12 Dec, 2015
Anyway, it seems thay actually have a prototype, as thay said on their facebook page.



Last edited by Iperpido on 12 December 2015 at 6:39 pm UTC
Avehicle7887 12 Dec, 2015
I hope the more experienced Linux users don't fall for this. First of all the gameplay sections they showed were not on the handheld itself but a recorded video and that could be from a sturdy desktop system. Secondly I doubt their chip will be able to handle AAA games, especially with such poor drivers and at 1080p? Oh please.

There are plenty of games that it will run fine, but certainly not AAA ones and for god's sakes you don't need a 1080p on a 5 inch Screen, a 720p will do just fine and will boost performance quite a bit.

This project has nailed everything the unwary customer wants to hear: 1080p, AAA game names, Steam, Streaming...etc. Then comes in the lack of a working prototype.

One must be mad to pledge 200e (minimum) for something like this without having any idea what it's going to be capable of.


Last edited by Avehicle7887 on 12 December 2015 at 6:51 pm UTC
Zelox 12 Dec, 2015
Quoting: XaeroVincentAn example of this for instance is Fallout 4 on SteamOS:




What :O?! How in the world?!
How did you do that, magic?
Purple Library Guy 12 Dec, 2015
To me the questions revolve around the controls. OK, the AMD thing is a little worrisome, but let's imagine someone has gotten drivers much more better by the time it comes out. But the Steam Controller took Valve ages to get right, it almost seems like it was the major bottleneck for the whole project. These people are going to be doing their best to emulate the Steam Controller on this little device, but how well will they succeed?

I'm not really part of the audience for this thing, but it's interesting.
Keyrock 12 Dec, 2015
Quoting: IperpidoThe console is coming out in end 2016 if the kickstarter campaing will be successful, so i'm pretty sure the drivers will be much better.
I don't know. I mean, I hope you're right, but how many years have we been waiting for ATI/AMD Linux drivers to get better? Maybe Vulkan will be the catalyst, pardon the pun, that turns the driver situation around, but I've given up on AMD ever getting their shit together. At this point, open source drivers might be a better bet.

As for cloud gaming, until they solve the latency issue I'm not interested.


Last edited by Keyrock on 12 December 2015 at 7:36 pm UTC
Leerdeck 12 Dec, 2015
Quoting: ZeloxWhat :O?! How in the world?!
How did you do that, magic?

Quoting: XaeroVincentI think when they throw around terms like "play all games" they are referring to the fact that you can use Steam In-Home Streaming to stream demanding Windows-only games from another Windows PC to the SMACH Z much like is the case with the Steam Machines. However, another less talked about option is cloud gaming. Linux and SteamOS will gain native access to an upcoming cloud gaming service that will essentially let any Linux gamer play any game for PC, not just Linux ports and also potentially play on cloud hardware much more powerful than the SMACH Z or baseline Steam Machines, thus offering better graphics and performance.

An example of this for instance is Fallout 4 on SteamOS:

It's probably only a stream from a Windows PC ;)
adolson 12 Dec, 2015
I will not feel bad for ANYONE who ignores all the obvious warning signs and plunks down their cash on this, only to be ripped off. This is going to take the Divinity: Original Sin fiasco to a whole new level. Mark my words.
Iperpido 12 Dec, 2015
Quoting: KeyrockAt this point, open source drivers might be a better bet.
Why not? Nobody said the device will use propetary or open drivers. They will probably use the best choice when their console will be released.

AMD is also investing on the open source stack, so... they could indeed turn to be the best choice in the future.

And... probably that's not what most of the backers are looking for, but i backed this console for small indie games, not for AAA titles. And for those games the current drivers are already enough.


Last edited by Iperpido on 12 December 2015 at 8:32 pm UTC
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