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SteamBoy Resurfaces as SMACH Z, the World's First Handheld Steam Machine; Kickstarter Now Live

Category: Gaming
Posted: 08:43PM

Depending on how good your memory is, you may recall an intriguing teaser during E3 2014 for a handheld device running SteamOS called SteamBoy. I hadn't heard much since my email correspondence shortly thereafter divulged a few more details, but now that all changes. Earlier today, a Kickstarter campaign launched for the world's first handheld Steam Machine, rebranded the SMACH Z.

The SMACH Z is powered by AMD's latest generation of Embedded G-Series SoC with a "Jaguar"-based CPU and GCN-based Radeon graphics containing 2GB of dedicated GPU RAM. The base model will feature 4GB of system RAM and up to 64GB of internal memory if a €1M Stretch Goal is reached (otherwise 32GB), while the PRO model will feature 8GB of system RAM and 128GB of internal memory. Both versions will handle expansion in the way of MicroSD, have a 5" touch screen at 720p or 1080p, depending on whether the latter's €1.25M Stretch Goal is reached, and feature USB 3.0 type C, configurable tactile gamepads, HDMI video output, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. The PRO model will also support 4G mobile network connectivity and contain a front-camera. And while you'll obviously need a network connection on install the games, a network connection isn't required to play Steam games in offline mode, giving this a leg up on the NVIDIA SHIELD's GameStreaming functionality. That being said, you can also stream games from your PC over Wi-Fi if you're in your home network, thus taking advantage of your PC's likely beefier specs. All this with a promised five hours of battery life, with the option of doubling it by adding an extra battery that attaches to the back.

The layout of the device is "similar to the official Steam Controller, making use of two touch pads, a joystick, 4 action face buttons, 4 trigger buttons and 2 additional action buttons in the rear-back." But what's even cooler is the addition of what the team is calling Magic Z-Pads. Magic Z-Pads are adapters that attach to either touch pad, allowing you to configure the device to fit your needs or relive precious retro memories. That's right - along with the basic joystick, face buttons, and d-pad, there will also be Retro Magic Z-Pads available separately that feature such classic layouts like the GameCube, Genesis, and more. Imagine playing emulators on-the-go with the proper button configurations! If a €1.5M Stretch Goal is reached, the SMACH Z will ship with "plenty emulators ready to use." There's also a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope, giving you additional control methods.

Along with the standard Deep Black color, the SMACH Z will also be available in up to seven other colors: Silver, Pearl White, Red Fire, Radioactive Green, Indigo, a special Gold edition for those willing to drop €900 (~$977 USD) or more, and an additional color decided by backers in the development forums. The SMACH Team is seeking €900,000 (~$976,796 USD) in its Kickstarter campaign. Along with the aforementioned first three Stretch Goals of €1M (more memory), €1.25M (1080p), and €1.5M (emulators), there are also the following: €1.75M "we will integrate KODI, a great multimedia platform"; €2M "all the backers will become VIP SZ members, and they will receive each month special offers about SZ and free games"; €2.5M "free shipping worldwide"; €3M "we will develop a game exclusively designed for SMACH Z; €3.5M "3 years of warranty for backers"; €4M "we'll give official support to install Windows"; €5M "we won't sell the company to Facebook, ever"; and €6M with a giant question mark.

The standard pledge starts at €299 (~$325 USD) for the vanilla version and €499 (~$487 USD) for the PRO, with several Early Bird options available as well. There are various tiers that offer additional items, such as an extra battery, Magic Z-Pads, a carrying case, and more; but as of the time of this writing, there is no mention of whether those things will be available as separate add-ons at all tier levels. I am guessing this is simply an oversight by the SMACH Team during all the excitement surrounding the launch of the campaign, so expect those optional accessories to appear as add-ons before the campaign ends. And speaking of, the campaign ends on Wednesday, January 15, 2016 at 12:05PM EST. That's more than a month to scrounge up the cash.

Source: Press Release and Kickstarter

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Guest comment
Guest_Guest_* on December 10, 2015 15:51
Why no dual control sticks like the Vita? People are unsure of these track pad things.. I'm not sure they will work out tbh.
ClayMeow on December 10, 2015 19:48
They wanted to match the design of the official Steam Controller, which IMO is pretty smart, even if I can't say just how good it is personally. BUT, thanks to the Magic Z-Pads, you will be able to add a second control stick if that's what you prefer. While the press kit photos oddly only show the control stick z-pad on the left touch pad, you can easily put it on the right touch pad and have that dual-analog stick control scheme. I think it was a smart compromise so they can satisfy everyone's preferences.
Guest comment
Guest_Guest_* on December 10, 2015 21:49
steam controller owner here. Dual control sticks work terribly in mouse-based games. Did you try playing games like Civ or cities skylines with e.g. a ps3 controller? Basically impossible. Touchpads are way more versatile and offer enough flexibility for most games.

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