The game developer, Valve, and hardware company, Xi3, today announced a partnership to create a gaming system that will eventually be called the Steam Box, and at CES 2013 the two companys were showing off their first attempt, the Xi3 Piston.
Get it? Valve. Piston.
The Piston is a tiny PC completely contained within a box around 20cm square. All that the user will need to do is plug it in their peripherals and away they go. Its modular design makes it upgradeable, with users able to make the most of new connectivity or graphics chips, for instance.
Although a fully-fledged mini PC, the Steam Box will be designed such that it boots into a user friendly console-like interface, i.e. the new Steam Big Picture mode. This will enable users to easily purchase, download and play games without the need to get up off their sofa.
Xi3 Piston / Steam Box Specs
Although neither Valve nor Xi3 is talking specifics about what will be in the final Steam Box, the first Xi3 Piston is based on the company's existing 'performance' system, the Xi3 X7A. This uses an AMD APU and offers up to 1TB of storage, upgradeable CPU and RAM and a plethora of connectivity: one ethernet port, 3.5mm audio in/out, SPDIF optical audio, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports (with one dedicated to keyboard input), four eSATA ports, two Mini Display Port ports and one DisplayPort/HDMI port.
Xi3 Piston / Steam Box Prices and Release Date
Both Xi3 and Valve are keen to point out that the partnership is still at the early stages and that the final Steam Box may go through a number of significant design changes but, for reference, the Xi3 X7A costs $999. We'd be very surprised if Valve were to charge anything like that much for the final Steam Box but as yet we will have to wait and see how much it costs, and just when it will arrive.