A bit of background before I get into it. I'm an Enterprise Linux fan. I run RHEL Maipo (7) with LightDM and Cinnamon. I also use a custom kernel for backported Ryzen support, and to stop the random reboots happening on Ryzen-based rigs. You can probably guess that since I was using EL I was looking for something like Debian Oldstable but even more oldstable than that. As a side note I use RHEL as a VM host, so that factors in to what I'm doing. Anyway, here's a look at my desktop, and what my commit looks like halfway through startup.
Now that's out the way, let's get on to
SteamOS is built on Debian Oldstable (Jessie), so it's relatively stable compared to the rolling-release Arch, and even to Fedora. It's got everything you need to start gaming on Linux in a few minutes.
The install process was incredibly simple, even when choosing to do an expert install. As usual, since this is *nix, customisation is easy enough. I have 2 disks in my desktop, one SSD and one HDD giving me a total of 2.25TB of storage. My partition layout looks like this:
/ 1G GROW
/home 1G GROW
Nice and simple there. Lightning fast boots for the OS, and the games on the slower but larger HDD. The UI for SteamOS looks nice, and if you enable it, you can return to the default GNOME DE. Of course you'll want to see it, so here it is
and this is what the commit looks like (while running Half-Life 1 and with no VMs yet)
The Summary (aka TL;DR)
It plays games nicely, and has all the right drivers integrated into the OS, so win-win there. It's based on Jessie, so anything that works there should also work here. And yes, it does play Half-Life
Overall it's clean and polished, and very console-like. That said, if you want to, you can look under the hood and tune it till it works like you want, it is Linux after all. I'd probably recommend SteamOS to people who are building their first gaming PC (and of course the Linux fans who want games to Just Work™ but still have some level of control over the OS). It's insanely easy to install and once installed it's as easy as downloading, installing and running your games.
So that's it for now. TTFN!