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Xi3 opens Piston Steam Box-alike pre-orders

Xi3 opens Piston Steam Box-alike pre-orders

AMD's R464 embedded APU beats at the heart of Xi3's Piston, but can it fight off the faster PlayStation 4 and Valve's own Steam Box?

Xi3, the company behind what many had incorrectly taken to be Valve's Steam Box, has officially opened pre-orders for its gaming-centric compact computer - but if you were hoping for something closer to the cost of a modern console, we've got some bad news.

The Xi3 Piston, as the Valve-approved device is known, is a variant of the company's existing Modular Computer design. Like the PlayStation 4 it will be going up against at launch, it is powered by an AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) - a 3.2GHz quad-core embedded variant of the A10 family known as the R464 - and a built-in graphics processor rated as a Radeon HD 7660G. It also includes 8GB of RAM as standard, matching the PS4 but using more traditional DDR3 rather than opting for GDDR5 throughout. The system is also provided with a 128GB solid-state drive as standard, with upgrade options offering 256GB or 512GB for those with the budget.

So far, the system sounds pretty tempting as a low-cost gaming rig - but there are a few caveats. The AMD R464 is part of the company's R-Series of embedded APUs, as evidenced by its low 35W TDP. As a result, it doesn't have the grunt of an A10-5700 or the like, and Xi3's claims of a 3.2GHz clock speed are disingenuous: the chip runs at 2.3GHz as standard, only hitting the advertised 3.2GHz speed when in Turbo Core mode. Using the FS1r2 socket type, it's also going to be near-impossible to upgrade in the future: at present, there are no retail sources for single FS1r2 chips in the UK - hardly surprising, given the socket type is largely reserved for laptops and embedded systems.

The biggest issue with the Xi3 Piston, however, is the price: the entry-level model, supplied with a 128GB SSD, costs $999.99 - although the company is currently offering $100 off as part of its launch promotion at the South by South West (SXSW) event. Upgrading to a 256GB SSD will increase the cost by $340, while maxing the system out with a 512GB model will bump the price up by a whopping $750. With Sony's PlayStation 4 - a next-generation console featuring a more powerful AMD APU variant and 8GB of GDDR5 memory - expected to launch at around the $400 mark, that's a considerable premium that only increases when you look to add a game pad or other control peripheral.

That said, the Piston is capable of things the PlayStation 4 can only dream about. Arriving pre-loaded with a custom user interface and a copy of Valve's Steam client in Big Picture mode, it offers a massive back-catalogue of titles. In normal PC mode, it can also run any other software you might desire - although those who still buy their software on shiny polycarbonate discs will need to splash out on an external optical drive, as the Piston - in common with all Xi3 Modular PC designs - doesn't include one as standard.

While pre-orders are being taken now, Xi3 has admitted that it won't be shipping any actual devices until closer to the end of the year - and even then, it's concentrating on the US market initially. With Sony expected to launch the PS4 at the same time, rumblings of a pre-Christmas launch for Microsoft's Xbox 720 and Valve's own Linux-based Steam Box due to drop early next year, Xi3 is going to have a fight on its hands to convince buyers as to the merits of its design.

If you're interested in picking up an Xi3 Piston, and you're either based in the US or don't mind the thought of considerable import charges, you can find the pre-order page on the official website.

29 Comments

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Tyrmot 11th March 2013, 11:59 Quote
$1000 for a entry/mid-level gaming machine? Bit optimistic surely... Expect Valve's box to have better hardware at a lower price...
Mankz 11th March 2013, 12:05 Quote
I still really don't like the form factor of it..

It needs to be DVD player /Amplifier form factor, not cube-y.
mi1ez 11th March 2013, 12:07 Quote
A grand?! I guess they can't sell it as a loss leader and make up the money through the games like Sony.
WarrenJ 11th March 2013, 12:21 Quote
Erm. I was expecting it to be about half that price.

Good luck to em. Think they'll need it.
Pete J 11th March 2013, 12:37 Quote
Oh dear.

As I'm sure everyone else is thinking, you could have a powerful mITX build for that kind of money.
theshadow2001 11th March 2013, 12:47 Quote
I'd imagine part of the price, is down to the bespoke nature of the modular hardware within.
[USRF]Obiwan 11th March 2013, 13:03 Quote
For that money you can buy a PS4 and the new x-box And both are probably better in the hardware also
Ayrto 11th March 2013, 13:27 Quote
$1000 ...Guess the question becomes. Why would anyone want one of these over what looks like being an architecturally superior PS4, going for half that cost? And you'd still have enough money leftover to get a cheap laptop to run linux on, for all that's currently playable on Steam.

Their interest in Linux is refreshing though, if the drivers can be fixed , many would welcome a genuine 'gaming OS' alternative to Windows.
theshadow2001 11th March 2013, 13:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ayrto
Their interest in Linux is refreshing though, if the drivers can be fixed , many would welcome a genuine 'gaming OS' alternative to Windows.

Oh dear, I forgot that it is a linux box. Not that I have problem with that. Its just at that price you don't even get the full range of titles available on Windows.

Hopefully it does give linux a boost but I wouldn't be too hopeful.
Ayrto 11th March 2013, 14:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by theshadow2001
Oh dear, I forgot that it is a linux box. Not that I have problem with that. Its just at that price you don't even get the full range of titles available on Windows.

Hopefully it does give linux a boost but I wouldn't be too hopeful.


You can install Windows on it. But still, you'd think without windows the cost would be lower?

Gabe Newell's made it clear he doesn't rate Windows 8 and stated previously that any 'Steam box' wouldn't come with windows installed. If anyone can raise the profile of Linux and improve gaming support on that OS within the industry then it's G Newell. But as for going into the HW biz , just as new consoles are due? Don't really understand that.

Unless... they find a killer app that really leverages the APU (HL3?). But then , many gamers would view that as bad as the Nvidia/AMD proprietary stuff that hurts PC gaming.
runadumb 11th March 2013, 14:18 Quote
What is behind with the massive mark up in SSD prices for the capacity? Pure misplaced greed or insanity?
rollo 11th March 2013, 14:37 Quote
Dreamworld pricing sorry.

Good luck to them but at $1000 for the base model they are just expecting too much.

Ps4 will be between $400-$500 max same with Xbox you could buy both and have change still.
s1n1s 11th March 2013, 18:21 Quote
this is a ridiculous price I'd be surprised if they sell any haha
s1n1s 11th March 2013, 18:22 Quote
also who exactly are they aiming this thing at?
Fizzban 11th March 2013, 19:33 Quote
A grand!? Anyone willing to spend that on a gaming machine will buy a full-fat PC. Who on earth would buy a console that cost more than £400??

Utter madness. I wish them well..lol
IvanIvanovich 11th March 2013, 21:30 Quote
Who do they think they are with these prices, Apple?
Mechh69 11th March 2013, 21:46 Quote
Dear Xi3

Please put the crack pipe down, go to rehab and rethink your price!
chemo 11th March 2013, 23:08 Quote
It was inevitable that it was going to be grossly over the top! I'd be surprised if the steambox isnt far off this much either tbh, a few of my friends are thinking 'itll be cheap' but i just cannot see it (unless its going to be heavily offset by valve themselves in order to make the cash back via steam games)

I just dont know anyone who wants something like this for something thats hard to upgrade and is way too expensive for just the lulz of having it in a tiny box
jrs77 12th March 2013, 00:04 Quote
intel NUC with 8GB DDR3-1600 SODIMM and 128GB mSATA SSD = €490 and even smaller then the Xi3. Sure, the HD4000 isn't as powerful, but for playing older games like HalfLife 2 in 1080p it's enough.

This Steambox is pure overpriced marketing-nonsense.
SexyHyde 12th March 2013, 07:43 Quote
Anyone going to factor in the £200-300 of XBOX live you'll need for the 5-7 years you'll have the console?

Yes its expensive. But early adaptors always get rinsed in the tech market.
Pookie 12th March 2013, 10:49 Quote
Hardly going to get many games on a 128GB SSD!!
Gareth Halfacree 12th March 2013, 11:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyHyde
Anyone going to factor in the £200-300 of XBOX live you'll need for the 5-7 years you'll have the console?
You don't *need* Xbox Live Gold unless you're planning to play online multiplayer - and there's no fee for online multiplayer on the PlayStation 3 (which means there likely won't be for the PlayStation 4 either.)
rollo 12th March 2013, 11:40 Quote
I personally never owned a Xbox live sub too many issues with getting rid of it once it was begun.
XXAOSICXX 12th March 2013, 12:24 Quote
Since this isn't going to attract a single "console gamer", and it's not going to appeal to the casual gamer at that price, it can - surely - only be aimed at the PC enthusiast market.

Given that it isn't going to play 99% of the games that PC enthusiasts with a humongous Steam library already own (i.e. all of us) because it's on Linux, it can't be a replacement for our main gaming rigs either.

Which means it's a purely luxury item - something you might get it if you've got a bit of spare cash and fancy a new gadget around the house....and for that, it's just too expensive.

Valve need to dig deep into their vast pockets and come up with something special for a lot less money if they want this idea to take off.
theshadow2001 12th March 2013, 12:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by XXAOSICXX

Valve need to dig deep into their vast pockets and come up with something special for a lot less money if they want this idea to take off.

This Piston certainly does make you wonder how valve are going to produce their own Steam Box with a decent price/performance ratio.
Gareth Halfacree 12th March 2013, 12:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by theshadow2001
This Piston certainly does make you wonder how valve are going to produce their own Steam Box with a decent price/performance ratio.
Same way as any other console manufacturer, I would guess: sell the hardware at a loss in order to make cash back on game sales. When the thing boots up straight into Steam, complete with massive SALE ON NOW SAVE MEGABUX BUY BUY BUY banners, it's not a terrible idea.

Also, for everyone saying "it runs Linux:" you may notice I didn't make any reference to Linux in my article, for the simple reason that I don't actually know if it runs Linux or not. Valve's Steam Box is going to run Linux, but the Piston prototype on display at Valve's stand at E3 earlier this year was running Windows. Neither the press release nor the pre-order page actually say what the Piston runs, although evidence points to it shipping with Windows.

I reached out to Xi3 to find out exactly what OS the device will be supplied with, but haven't heard anything back yet.
theshadow2001 12th March 2013, 13:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Same way as any other console manufacturer, I would guess: sell the hardware at a loss in order to make cash back on game sales. When the thing boots up straight into Steam, complete with massive SALE ON NOW SAVE MEGABUX BUY BUY BUY banners, it's not a terrible idea.

Yeah that seems to be the only way to get it up and going. Its a big risk
XXAOSICXX 12th March 2013, 13:15 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
SALE ON NOW SAVE MEGABUX BUY BUY BUY banners, it's not a terrible idea.

I might make a banner ad and use that myself...very catchy ;)
Gareth Halfacree 12th March 2013, 21:23 Quote
Sure enough, Xi3 has confirmed that the Piston will ship with Windows, not Linux:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xi3
The Piston will ship with a Windows OS with a custom desktop interface that can be switched back to the standard Windows environment. You can also choose to put you own Operating System on it if you would like.
(Yes, the spokesperson did write "you own" instead of "your own." Could be worse: I somehow mistyped "list" as "l st" in an email I sent earlier today. I mean, how do you do that?)
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