Home theatre PCs (HTPCs) have been around for more than a decade, but they remain fairly niche additions to your living room or entertainment room. This is despite the fact they’re actually more flexible in many ways than consoles or smart TVs.
You can even use remote controls and wireless keyboards, hook up a webcam or use it as a server to store your data, dishing it out to other PCs in the home or further afield. However, something that HTPCs haven’t been traditionally known for is gaming.
With the addition of cheap, low-end, low-power graphics cards such as AMD’s Radeon HD 7750, they can play moderately demanding titles such as Valve’s Left 4 Dead, without being too noisy. However, what if you could play Crysis 3 and Battelfield 4 – two of the most demanding current PC games?
What if you could have a high-end gaming PC connected to your TV and living room sound system instead of a console, Blu-ray player or media streamer? That’s exactly what LA-based PC manufacturer Steiger Dynamics proposes and builds its incredible systems made to order.
They feature cutting-edge PC hardware and can even come equipped with high-end sound processors, satellite and cable-compatible TV tuner cards, custom water-cooling systems and Nvidia SLI graphics capable of playing games at 4K in your living room.
Most importantly, the enclosures it uses are most definitely not boring beige boxes. In fact, these solid aluminum cases that come equipped with front-mounted touch displays wouldn’t look out of place next to any high-end entertainment system. I was lucky enough to provide a home to one of these systems recently and also spoke to Steiger Dynamics CTO Martin Gossner about what he thinks the company’s systems offer compared to the Xbox One and PS4:
Our vision is to create systems that deliver the most immersive home entertainment experience possible. Our Windows-based HTPCs can basically integrate all the functionality of today’s living room devices like HD Satellite and Cable TV, Blu-ray disc playback, media center, home server, home automation, and high-end gaming.
And those are not only integrated, but done better: Watch and record up to 8 HD TV channels simultaneously or spread the signals to TVs in the house. When it comes to gaming and processing power, our base systems already outpace the new generations of consoles while our top-of-the line system is about 10 times faster than the new Xbox One. This allows for fluent gameplay on the upcoming 4K/Ultra HD resolutions whereas the new consoles struggle to produce 1080p.
The model it sent me sported an Intel Core i7-4770K, An Nvidia GeForce GTx 770 graphics card, two 120GB Kingston HyperX 3K SSD in RAID 0, a massive 4TB Western Digital Red hard disk, 16GB RAM, Asus Z87 Pro motherboard and a Corsair H80i liquid cooler. Even under load the system was remarkably quiet, thanks mostly to the Corsair H80i liquid cooler, which does a much better job than an air cooler at keeping the CPU cool while also remaining quiet.
There is one issue with gaming in your lounge, though and that is where do you put your keyboard and mouse? Well Steiger Dynamics has thought of a way round this. It’s called the Couchmaster and is essentially a padded desk that can straddle you on your sofa allowing you to use your favourite PC gaming peripherals. It’s a little cumbersome but works well and even includes a four port USB 3 hub and 3 meter cable so you can connect everything to your LEET system without having the usual mass of cables associated with a PC.
The GeForce GTX 770 isn’t the fastest graphics card out there, but it still managed a respectable average frame rate in Battlefield 4 of 55fps and 57fps in Crysis 3 at 1080p – the standard resolution of most TV’s these days, while the minimum frame rate never dropped below 40fps. If you want to see how the LEET Pure compares to your gaming PC, I also used Unigene’s Valley 1.0 graphics benchmark, which is free to download. At 1080p and high settings, it managed a score of 3,973.
So, how much is a LEET system going to set you back? Well the mid-range gaming model – the Pure, which I looked at here costs$1,799 plus $49 shipping to mainland US (Steiger Dynamics also ships the systems worldwide), while its top end custom liquid-cooled PCs with dual GeForce GTX 780 Ti graphics cards capable of gaming at 4K cost upwards of $4,000. With 4K screens dropping in price all the time, I can definitely see a market for Steiger Dynamic’s systems opening up, especially as true 4K gaming on the next gen consoles looks unlikely. However, even the basic model represents good value for a gaming system, given the exquisite case retails for $799 on its own.
Steiger Dynamics was also keen to point out that at the 2014 Consumer Electronic show in January, it will be launching a completely new gaming HTPC product line (smaller and cheaper) but same quality, basically a little brother of the LEET. There will also be workstations directly competing with the new Mac Pro (up to 12 Core Xeon and 3 FirePro or Quadro professional graphics cards), but of course faster and quieter (optional overclocking and custom liquid cooling), and the Couchmaster will also be getting a redesign – in all black material with better ergonomics and price thanks to a plastic top board with a flatter angle.
Feel free to let me know what you think about the LEET Pure in the comments.