After yesterday’s report on the Valve-funded Piston “Steam Box” computer built by Xi3, more news emerged as to the exact nature of Valve’s push Steam into the living room space which began with last year’s release of Big Picture Mode. From third-party machines, to words of wisdom from Newell, we have the skinny on the small-form gaming PCs after the jump.
Xi3’s Piston – The First Confirmed Challenger
As we stated yesterday, reports suggest that the Piston will be similar in nature to Xi3’s X7A PC, which is the nearest thing to a gaming rig in their line-up. If this is to be believed, we can expect a quad core 64-bit processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB SSD, support for 3 displays, 6 USB 2.0 ports and 2 eSATAp ports, with reports of the system requiring just 40W of power to run. The current price point for the X7A sits at $999, and while chances are the price for Piston will be lower, it will need to be considerably lower than that to meet with the “low-cost, high-performance” mantra that has been told to media outlets over the next few days. [Update: In an interesting turn of events, that guess on the price has since been thrown in the air. See more here.]
More Steam Boxes To Come
The Piston will not be the only Steam Box to emerge, in fact it won’t even be the official Valve effort. Similarly to how Microsoft licenses their Windows OS to hardware companies to pre-load onto new PCs, Valve will license their Linux-based version of Steam to any company that wishes to build their own small-form gaming rig. Xi3 are the first company to get on board (largely in part to Valve’s cash injection) but Valve have also confirmed that they will be revealing their own product in the near future. This means that specifications (and prices) will vary, but it will provide multiple options for consumers to look at, all of which will be open platforms and upgradable should users wish to add a little extra power. Marketing Director Doug Lombardi told Polygon that Valve was at CES to “meet with hardware and content developers in our booth space” and would be “bringing multiple custom (hardware) prototypes as well as some off-the-shelf PCs to our CES meetings.” As such, we expect a few more morsels of information to emerge before CES is through.
The Good, The Better, And The Best
The word is that Valve are not quite ready to show off any of their own progress in the hardware department just yet, but in an interview with The Verge CEO Gabe Newell did reveal that the end game is to provide three different flavours of Steam Box to cater to the various needs of gamers. Described as “Good, Better or Best”, the Good entry would be the low-cost entry focusing on streaming content around a home network via something such as Miracast technology. Meanwhile, the Better entry would be able to power its own content thanks to a dedicated CPU and GPU, but would have to conform to Valve’s guidelines of being as small-form as possible (ie. no optical drives). Finally, the Best entry would be “whatever [companies] want to manufacture,” which could mean that larger Steam Boxes could be on the cards. Another interesting bit of information came from how the Steam Box will act like a server, with Newell stating that "you could have one PC and eight televisions and eight controllers and everybody getting great performance out of it."
UPDATE: We've since learned that the intended price for each tier of the Steam Box will go from free for the "Good" option, around $300 for the "Better", and anything above that for the "Best". More info on this latest development here.
Ultimately, despite the huge media buzz and excitement that’s pretty much all we know for sure for the time being, but with CES still on-going there is still time to get some more facts on Steam’s now-confirmed foray into the hardware market. We’ll be keeping our beady eyes on this hot topic and update our coverage as we go.