Xi3’s Piston “not a Steam box,” branded as a $1,000 console
As teased before the weekend, Xi3 has announced more details about its ‘Piston’ project. You may recall this device being revealed at the CES 2013 trade show back in January, where it drew a lot of (often media, it must be said) comments about it being a possible ‘Steam box.’ Developers Xi3 have pretty much put that to bed in their FAQ, stating: “Xi3 has never described its PISTON Console (PC) as the Steam box or a Steam Box, especially since it appears that Steam Box is a term created by journalists and not by Valve.”
So, the team is now branding it a console (in terms of components it’s pretty PC-ish, but then the line between the two is getting blurry) and it’ll come with the Windows OS on it as standard. There’s nothing to stop you switching that operating system if you wish, however.
What specs do you get for the asking price of $1,000 USD? Well, um. These ones: A quad-core, 64 bit x86 processor running at “up to” 3.2GHz, 8GB of DDR3 RAM and “384 programmable discrete-class graphics cores” which is a little obscure. It also has a nice 128GB of SSD storage.
That latter feature is the one they’re pointing to when justifying the cost, which seems a little strange given that 128GB SSDs aren’t absurdly expensive ($100 USD or so.) What’s the deal with the rest of the price? Well, according to Xi3, that’s because if you want to play games across every single current console (Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, PS3 etc) you tend to have to buy one or two of them to get the exclusives. And that would be more expensive than buying a Piston which … still wouldn’t be able to run all of those games, because it’s a PC. I’m not kidding, that’s actually the reason. Here, from the FAQ:
Most gamers and families that game have one or more computers capable of gaming, along with one or more closed gaming systems. And by the time you add up the total expense of buying each of those systems, the $999 price tag for the PISTON Console looks quite reasonable.
Then there’s this puzzling picture (below) which seems to show a Piston controller looking awfully like an Xbox 360 one, except with its buttons painted silver. I guess we’ll find out how legal that is in the coming days.
So, in summary, the Piston is not a Steam box. It’s not cheap. It doesn’t seem powerful enough to justify a cost of $1,000 USD. But it IS a remarkable feat of engineering in terms of how small it is.