Valve and Xi3 unveil tiny living room Steam and Linux powered PC


When rumours abounded and rebounded about a future Steam Box reveal yesterday, we speculated about an appearance at GDC or E3, in March and June. But no – try today. Today is the day we find out what the Steam Box is.

It’s a Steam-based modular PC, designed to be played on large, high definition TV displays. The computer is in “development stage” at modular tech company Xi3 thanks to an investment from Valve.

The new Steam PC – codenamed ‘Piston’ – is built around block architecture designed by Xi3 for its X7A gaming system, revealed last year. However, the modular computer failed its Kickstarter campaign in October and the X7A product page is blank. The gaming model returns now with the help of Valve’s funding, newly optimised for Steam’s Big Picture Mode.

“This new development stage product will allow users to take full-advantage of their large high-definition TV displays for an amazing computer game experience,” said Jason Sullivan, Xi3’s CEO.

“As a result, this new system could provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand.”

Xi3’s ‘Southbridge Agnostic’ design splits its motherboard into separate parts, circumventing the “built-in obsolescence” of conventional PCs and making their computers more readily upgradeable.

Xi3 chief marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that Piston will feature up to 1 TB of storage space. It will also offer modular component updates, including the option to upgrade the PC’s graphics card and RAM.

While no detailed specs have been announced for Piston, last year’s X7A model was to include a new Quad-Core 64-bit, x86-based processor running at up to 3.2GHz, integrated with up to 384 graphics shader cores and 8GB of DDR3 RAM.

The demo unit of Piston being shown in both Xi3 and Valve’s booths at CES this week features one ethernet port, 1/8″ audio in/out, SPDIF optical audio, four USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports (with one dedicated to keyboard input), four eSATAp ports, two Mini Display Port ports and one DisplayPort/HDMI port.

Price is a similarly nebulous area at this stage, but Xi3 planned to sell the X7A for $999.

As for it being Linux-based? Xi3’s current sale build comes with openSUSE Linux as standard.

Thanks to the EE Times.