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With our GeForce GTX 680, our performance was great and we had no trouble hitting 60+ FPS in every title that we played using SteamOS. However, we didn’t like how there was an immense amount of screen tearing, even when V-Sync was enabled. We saw less tearing in 2D games like Bastion and Shattered, but we experienced a heavy amount of tearing in Portal. Our current assessment is that games with complex polygons will experience a lot of screen tearing while 2D games will have very little to no screen tearing.
We encountered audio problems on the OS, as it only supports audio via HDMI, so your onboard motherboard audio will not work. We did get external headphones to work when we used an audio pass through on our monitor, in combination with HDMI as our video output. Valve probably assumes people will use SteamOS in their living room, so we think they guess most people will be using an HDMI audio setup too, or this could simply be patched up when SteamOS officially launches to the masses.
We like the idea of SteamOS and feel it could give Microsoft a run at being the go-to gaming OS, but right now it’s very stripped-down. There aren’t many third party applications you can run on SteamOS because not much supports it. We tried installing Chrome on the OS, and it didn’t work because the browser doesn’t support SteamOS. We were able to use the Internet by using Iceweasel, which is a rebranded version of Mozilla’s Firefox for Debian distros of Linux, however.
SteamOS isn’t a free gaming OS that can replace Windows at the moment. We’d much rather take Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, as a Windows alternative at this point because there’s much more you can do with this Linux distro. Ubuntu 12.04 LTS also has more third party applications than SteamOS, and it performs similarly in gaming too. Ubuntu also supports legacy hardware, so you won’t need to mess around modifying an installer to get it to work properly on your coveted rig. Lastly, unlike SteamOS, which doesn’t support Intel and AMD graphics as of print time, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS will install easily to Intel, AMD, or Nvidia graphics hardware.
If Valve wants to move people away from Windows and onto SteamOS, they’ll need a more versatile OS to bring people on board. When it comes to gaming, currently, there are over eight thousand titles on Steam that support Windows, while SteamOS has just 440 games. For an OS devoted to living room gaming, it’s a cool idea, but Windows can do so much more than the free OS at the moment, both in gaming and productivity. Still, if you've got some time to spare, SteamOS is free so feel free to give it a try and let us know what you think of it in the comments below!