The Xi3 Piston console, first spotted at CES 2013 and supported by Valve as the first of many third-party “Steam Box” consoles, will start at $1,000 (roughly £670).
Aiming for a delivery window of “2013 holiday season”, those who pre-order will get $100 off the price tag of the Piston, which faces stiff competition from next-gen consoles such as the PS4, also set for a “holiday 2013″ launch.
Is it worth the money? It’s hard to say, as Xi3 Corporation have yet to reveal a full specs list. As it stands, the $1,000 model will include at least 8GB RAM, a 3.2GHz Quad Core (R464) processor and a 128GB SSD. More expensive models can be configured with 256GB and 512GB SSDs. There’s no word on a GPU, which will really determine just how impressive the performance of the Piston will be.
“Clearly, the computer/video gaming market is huge, both in the personal computer and traditional console markets,” Xi3 Corporation Jason A. Sullivan said.
“That being said, we believe there is a crying need for a machine that captures the best of both worlds, with the upgradeability of computer gaming rigs and the design and form factor of consoles. We believe our Piston Consoles do exactly that – deliver the beauty and small size of consoles with the upgradeability of computers.”
Either way it’s starting to look like a tough sell: the Piston (using PC architecture to run Linux and Steam’s Big Picture mode), like other forthcoming Steam Box machines, is designed to bring PC gaming to the living room as small-form-factor, modular upgradeable, affordable units. If the Xi3 Piston is anything to go by however, Steam Boxes look set to be just as pricey as next-gen consoles, and not necessarily as powerful, given the size constraints.
Also worth keeping in mind is that there are currently far fewer titles available to Steam gamers through Linux than through Windows, meaning you won’t necessarily be able to carry over your entire library of games to the Steam Box (or at least not yet).
Having said that, the Piston is just a third-party Steam Box build, and Steam Box visionaries Valve have yet to reveal their own Steam Box console, which they’ve claimed will be in testers hands within the next few months ahead of a full release. Given the dominance of their Steam digital games distribution store, they could well be in a position to subsidise the cost of their own Steam Box machines, putting better hardware into the diminutive gaming boxes at a lower price. It’s an approach they’ll have to take if they want to even attempt to compete with the PS4 or expected Xbox 720 console, let alone the legions of PC gamers who build their own powerful, bargain gaming machines for just a few hundred pounds.
If you are interested in picking up an Xi3 Piston pre-order, click here.