Valve's 'Steam Box' Breaks Cover at CES with Xi3's Piston PC

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News Posted: Tue, Jan 8 2013 12:28 PM
For the past several months, the Internet has been flush with rumors about a so-called Steam Box that has the potential to revolutionize PC gaming. Such things have an unfortunate way of disappearing into a place called VaporwareVille (the only "Ville" not owned by Zynga), but lest you fear the same fate awaits the Steam Box, check out what showed up at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

A company called Xi3 showed up with a modular computer codenamed "Piston," which Valve and Xi3 confirmed is a "computer game system optimized for Steam gameplay." In other words, this is the Steam Box we've been hearing so much about, Polygon reports.

Piston
Image Source: Polygon

The Piston is an altered version of Xi3's X7A line of mini-PCs, though the exact hardware inside is a mystery. While Xi3 and Valve aren't ready to spill the entire barrel of beans, Xi3 did say that Piston will offer up to 1TB of internal storage and will be upgradeable, including the processor and RAM.

Piston I/O
Image Source: Polygon

Some additional details are available by spying shots of the Piston. You can clearly see, for example, an Ethernet port, audio in/outputs, SPDIF optical audio, four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, four eSATA ports, two mini-DisplayPorts, and one combo DisplayPort/HDMI port.

Piston Open
Image Source: Polygon

The Steam Box (or whatever it actually ends up being called) will take advantage of Valve's Big Picture mode, which is a special interface designed for HDTVs rather than PC monitors.

There are still many questions left unanswered, and they're not just about the hardware. Will the Steam Box run Windows or Linux? How much will it cost? When will it be available to purchase? Answers to these questions are unknown at this time.
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Cost is important, but I'm more curious as to how Steam will market the steam box. Obviously PC gamers will understand it's usage and the significance of being able to play Valve games in the living room, but will console gamers get it?

I'm hoping steam bundles every valve game under the sun to get this product moving. I'd love to play some HL2 in the living room.

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sevags replied on Tue, Jan 8 2013 4:22 PM

I think console gamers will "get" this since it will basically be a console as long as you have the option of using some sort of wireless controllers and not just a keyboard and mouse. Console gamers might not be interested in physically upgrading hardware in their steambox most most would either buy the cheapest configuration without the intent of upgrading or buy the highest end one from the beginning and again leave it be.

As for PC gamers this seems like a complete miss or total homerun. PC gamers already know how to connect their computers to full size TV's and a steambox wouldn't be bringing anything new to the table all they've done is build an HTPC that can game... Seeing as an avid PC user won't be giving up their PC any time soon this would be best for someone who has the money to blow on convenience so they don't have to transport the PC back and forth. What happens to those of us who already have their PC and main tv in the same room?

I suspect this is best marketed towards casual PC gamers who already need an upgraded system or to lure back gamers to the PC platform before the new next gen consoles are released and take further market share.

In the boxed image here are 4 usb2 and 4 esata but the pic of the mobo shows 6 usb2 and 2 esata.

Oh and it looks like he OS will be Linux and not windows.

Also has anyone else tried out the big picture mode? I tried it out on a 47" Vizio 120hz LCD, Samaung 55" 240hz LCD, 32" Vizio 60hz 1080i LCD, and a 24" iMac and I find that the interface is fuzzy and not crisp at all and we have had to switch back to normal view several times to find something we couldn't in Big mode. Seems like there is a lot of work to be done still.

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acarzt replied on Tue, Jan 8 2013 4:40 PM

I have my PC hooked up to my 50" Plasma... i've been gaming in the livin room for quite some time now :-P

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Dave_HH replied on Tue, Jan 8 2013 5:11 PM

I can't believe how many ports they squeezed in on that little guy!

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Dave_HH:
I can't believe how many ports they squeezed in on that little guy!

It's very "populated" isn't it?

Haven't I seen this PC here on HH before? It looks familiar to me.

It was very pricey as I remember it.

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OSunday replied on Wed, Jan 9 2013 11:21 AM

The fact there's so many ports crammed into it makes me worried about space left over for graphics and gaming since that's what it's catered towards. Xi3 has done some amazing things with limited space and at the same time I fell like their ability to fit all those ports in means they might be able to pull of some magic with the GPU as well.

I feel like because of the space limitation it's going to be the kind of device that doesn't max out settings but will run everything near medium settings since it'll probably be going off of integrated graphics

Can't wait to see what the internal specs are on this though

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realneil:

Dave_HH:
I can't believe how many ports they squeezed in on that little guy!

It's very "populated" isn't it?

Haven't I seen this PC here on HH before? It looks familiar to me.

It was very pricey as I remember it.

Oh Yeah! HERE

 

Damn... I hope that $500 price tag goes down with mass production.

 

Dave_HH:

I can't believe how many ports they squeezed in on that little guy!

Right?  Did you happen to notice that there is 4 of each type that connect say.... a controller?  Odd they are located in the back though.

 

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