With this in mind, I've taken a spare 2TB hard drive, and set out to try out Steam OS as a potential replacement for my Windows 7 Pro installation.
I'm using a custom-built desktop, with the following specs:
- MSI x99s SLI Plus LGA2011v3 mobo
- Intel i7 5930k 6-core CPU
- 4 x 8GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR4 2400 RAM
- Western Digital Red 2TB 7200RPM hard drive
- Rosewill 1000w Bronze PSU
- Gigabyte Windforce Radeon R9-280X GPU
Installation & Gameplay
Installation went through, and actually picked up and installed all applicable drivers (network, audio, etc.) for my computer. However, the monitor display showed up as tinted blue. That's right. Blue.
I can't find any articles on Valve's website to describe why this would happen, so I swapped out my monitor, video cable, and graphics card with an identical model to see if this would eliminate the problem. Problem persisted. The only conclusion I'm left with is that the blue-ish tint is some type of Radeon driver issue.
It's nice to know that regardless of what OS you have, AMD drivers still suck.
After completing installation, I also found that Steam OS has a really limited application repository at this point in time. Although, to be fair, you can run most Debian-based packages on Steam OS without any problems, you just have to manually add their repository or download the files yourself. Since it's still in beta, this was to be expected.
About a third of my Steam games are supported on Steam OS, most of which are Japanese visual novels, so I didn't have many options to pull from as far as graphically-intensive games. Games that I did get a chance to test were Dota 2, Bioshock Infinite, and Strike Suit Zero.
To give the brief summary of my gameplay experience, all these games performed noticeably poorer on Steam OS that they did on Windows 7. I had to scale the graphics down to get things to run seamlessly on 30 frames per second on a 1080p monitor, and there were still moments of choppiness.
I figured Dota 2 would actually run the best out of the bunch, since it's Valve's own game on Valve's own platform. The game lagged a lot on input response time for a local bot match, which should have no lag at all. It would take a little over a quarter of a second at times for my actions to take effect, even though my mouse would move in real time across the screen. Some of the game mechanics (such as the 'S' key to stop an action) were also really buggy, and only worked part of the time.
From my survey of Steam OS Beta, it's still definitely a beta at the end of the day. There's graphics issues, driver conflicts, and installation hurdles to overcome. Getting a bigger application pool will also be key to convincing users to make the switch from Windows to Linux, and Valve isn't quite there yet.
While I'll be switching back to Windows for the time being, I'm eager to try Steam OS 6 months down the road once some of the bugs have been worked out of it.