Updated: July 17, 2015
It's been seven hours and fifteen months since my last SteamOS review. Now, there's a new beta version out there, labeled 2.0 Brewmaster, and it brings a fresh bunch of improvements and fixes on top of a solid base, plus Debian 8.1 internals.
The official statement says this image could ruin your computer, and concordingly, ipso facto, ergo, your mood, so you are most warmly advised not to test on any production machines. For me, this meant no games on me G50 laptop. Instead, I would have to slake my thirst in the world of virtualization, using VirtualBox. The same rules and limitations from the last attempt fully apply, and then some. Let's take a look, shall we.
If you have followed my guide on SteamOS & VirtualBox configuration, then you will have no trouble getting this operating system to run. It's quite easy, and if you go for the fully automated installation, it will complete within about 10-15 minutes. After that, you will need to setup Guest Additions, with the same tricks like the last time.
SteamOS 2.0 ships with a Gnome 3 desktop, very similar to the previous version. It's a fully fledged Linux distro, geared toward the gaming experience. There are several more obstacles to clear before you can enjoy Steam, related to 3D acceleration and OpenGL, but we will resolve those in a dedicated tutorial in just a couple of days. I promise. Stay tuned.
The core software of this release works well. The system is snappy and responsive, and although the terminal does throw up a bunch of errors, exceptions and warnings related to the GTK framework, border, shadows, element parenthood and such, Steam worked fine. There were no bugs or problems that I could find except the major issue related to OpenGL, but again, we are going to fix that soonish.
The large, media-center-like interface called Big Picture is also slowly becoming more and more relevant for everyday use. It's also faster than it was before, and the extra elegance and tons of tiny fixes sure help deliver the right kind of message. SteamOS is galloping in the right direction. Well, perhaps trotting. But still. My only complaint would be that the interface is a little too dark, but that's Steam in general. Nothing new here.
Overall, SteamOS 2.0 Beta is not a revolutionary release, and that's a good thing. Stability and predictability are highly critical to product success. Especially when you have a really decent baseline. In this case, almost to the point of being boring, SteamOS delivers a rather painless experience, with polish and gloss across the board.
Performance improvement, even inside a virtual machine, and Big Picture tweaks are the most notable fixes. On the other hand, using this distribution on a virtualized platform introduces its share or issues, including a somewhat tricky UEFI setup, Guest Addition hacks, and OpenGL incompatibility. Luckily, all of these can be sorted out, giving you an opportunity to test SteamOS, and get your first impression. Remember, don't do this on your live systems. But test, you shall. Anyhow, SteamOS 2.0 Beta brings the Linux gaming reality that much closer. If you consider yourself a techie, then you will want to be part of this journey, so some downloads and testing are definitely in order. Try it for yourself, see what gives. I like it. End of discussion, and this review, too.