Author:
Manufacturer: Silverstone

Externals

Small form factor cases and the push to Mini ITX designs took a dramatic journey during 2013 as the popularity of the smaller PC once again became a popular trend.  Though a company like Shuttle, that hardly exists in the form it did in 2004, was the first PC hardware company to really drive home the idea of an SFF system design, many other players have released compelling products helping to strengthen it as one of the unique possibilities for enthusiast PCs.

Even better, though a Mini-ITX based platform could mean limited options for hardware and performance, with companies like ASUS, EVGA, BitFenix and others in the mix, building an incredibly fast and powerful gaming machine using small hardware is not only easy but can be done at a lower price than you might expect.

IMG_9145.JPG

One entry that found its way to our offices this December comes from Silverstone in the form of the Raven Z, RVZ01 case.  This case includes unique features and capabilities including the ability to support nearly any high end graphics card on the market (dual slot or single), space for larger heatsinks and even liquid coolers along with a home theater friendly look and style.  Oh, and it's the same almost the same design that Valve used for its beta Steam Machines as well.  (Update: Turns out the size of the Steam Machine is actually a fair bit smaller than the Silverstone RVZ01.)

Continue reading our review of the Silverstone Raven Z RVZ01 Mini ITX Case!!

Podcast #272 - Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, R7 260X, Steam Machine Specs, and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 10, 2013 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: video, SteamOS, Steam Machine, Steam Box, R9 290X, r9 270x, r7 260x, quark, podcast, Intel, ASYS G750JX-DB71, arduino

PC Perspective Podcast #272 - 10/10/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Radeon R9 280X, R9 270X, R7 260X, Steam Machine Specs, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

 
Program length: 1:16:43
  1. 0:01:35 Batman: Arkham Winner and new contest!
  2. Week in Review:
  3. 0:36:00 This episode is brought to you by Carbonite.com! Use offer code PC for two free months!
      1. iBuyPower and CyberPower too
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Jeremy: O'Reilly Media
    2. Allyn: Nest Protect
  5. podcast@pcper.com
  6. Closing/outro

 

Podcast #271 - Hawell NUC, MSI X87 XPOWER Motherboard, the Steam Controller and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2013 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: Z87 XPower, z87, video, steam os, Steam Controller, Steam Box, steam, podcast, nuc, msi, haswell

PC Perspective Podcast #271 - 10/03/2013

Join us this week as we discuss the Hawell NUC, MSI X87 XPOWER Motherboard, the Steam Controller and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Scott Michaud

 
Program length: 1:24:00
  1. Batman: Arkham Origins keys anyone??
  2. Week in Review:
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Allyn: Dual Power eSATA USB 2.0 Power combo to 22Pin SATA cable (on eBay)
    2. Scott: Teksavvy Internet (Not USB Hubs)
  5. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  6. Closing/outro

 

Fill out the Form Below to Enter for the Batman: Arkham Origins key!!!

Podcast #270 - AMDs new GPU lineup, SteamOS, the Steam Box, and more!

Subject: General Tech | September 26, 2013 - 02:41 PM |
Tagged: video, valve, SteamOS, Steam Box, steam, razer, R9 290X, R9, R7, podcast, Naga, corsair, amd

PC Perspective Podcast #270 - 09/26/2013

Join us this week as we discuss AMDs new GPU lineup, SteamOS, the Steam Box, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Morry Teitelman

 
Program length: 57:42
  1. Week in Review:
  2. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: A pair of coconuts supporting a beautiful
    2. Jeremy: Portable OS
    3. Allyn: Remote Mouse
    4. Morry: AT&T U-Verse
  3. 1-888-38-PCPER or podcast@pcper.com
  4. Closing/outro

 

Valve Hardware Pt. 1: SteamOS Announced

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 23, 2013 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: valve, SteamOS, Steam Box, big picture mode

SteamOS is the first announcement, of three, in Valve's attempt to install a PC into your living room. The operating system is unsurprisingly built from Linux and optimized for the living room. Still no announcement of hardware although the second part is less than 48 hours away. The key features of SteamOS will also be ported to the Steam client on Windows, OSX, and Linux. Are you seeing... the big picture?

steam-os.png

The four main features are: in-home streaming, media services, family sharing, and family options.

In-home streaming allows users to, by leaving their Steam client running on their PC or Mac, use their network to transmit video and controller input to SteamOS. The concept is very similar to OnLive and Gaikai. Latency is barely an issue, however, as the server is located on your local network. As the user owns the server, also known as their home computer, there is less concern of the service removing the title from their library. Graphics performance would be dictated by that high-end PC, and not the gaming consoles.

As a side note: Gabe Newell, last year at CES, mentioned plans by NVIDIA to allow virtualized GPUs with Maxwell (AMD is probably working on a similar feature, too). Combined with in-home streaming, this means that two or more Steam boxes could play games from the same desktop even while someone else uses it.

SteamOS will have music, movie, and TV functionality. Very little details on this one but I would assume Netflix is a possibility. The Steam distribution platform can physically handle video and audio streaming, especially with their updates a couple of years ago, but their silence about content deals leads me to assume they are talking about third-party services... for now, at least. We do know, from LinuxCon, that Gabe Newell is a firm believer in one library of content regardless of device.

We have already discussed Steam Family Sharing, but this is obviously aimed at Steam Box. One library for all content includes games.

Lastly, Steam will be updated for family control options. Individual users can be restricted or hidden from certain titles in other users' libraries. This helps keep them at-or-above parity with the gaming consoles for concerned parents.

Valve also believes in user control.

Steam is not a one-way content broadcast channel, it’s a collaborative many-to-many entertainment platform, in which each participant is a multiplier of the experience for everyone else. With SteamOS, “openness” means that the hardware industry can iterate in the living room at a much faster pace than they’ve been able to. Content creators can connect directly to their customers. Users can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want. Gamers are empowered to join in the creation of the games they love. SteamOS will continue to evolve, but will remain an environment designed to foster these kinds of innovation.

SteamOS will be free, forever, to everyone. Both users and system builders (including OEMs) can download the operating system and install it on their machines. No release date, yet, but it will be available soon... Valve Time?

The second announcement will occur at 1PM EDT this Wednesday, September 25, 2013. According to their iconography, we can now assume SteamOS will be the circle. The next announcement is circle in square brackets: SteamOS in a box? If you come on over to find out (please do! : D), stick around an extra couple of hours (minus the time it takes to write the article) for our AMD Hawaii Live Stream at 3PM EDT also on September 25th.

Source: Steam

Gabe Newell LinuxCon Keynote. Announcement Next Week.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 16, 2013 - 09:15 PM |
Tagged: Steam Box, LinuxCon, Gabe Newell

Valve Software, as demonstrated a couple of days ago, still believe in Linux as the future of gaming platforms. Gabe Newell discussed this situation at LinuxCon, this morning, which was streamed live over the internet (and I transcribed after the teaser break at the bottom of the article). Someone decided to rip the stream, not the best quality but good enough, and put it on Youtube. I found it and embed it below. Enjoy!

Gabe Newell highlights, from the seventh minute straight through to the end, why proprietary platforms look successful and how they (sooner-or-later) fail by their own design. Simply put, you can control what is on it. Software you do not like, or even their updates, can be stuck in certification or even excluded from the platform entirely. You can limit malicious software, at least to some extent, or even competing products.

Ultimately, however, you limit yourself by not feeding in to the competition of the crowd.

If you wanted to get your cartridge made you bought it, you know, FOB in Tokyo. If you had a competitive product, miraculously, your ROMs didn't show up until, you know, 3 months after the platform holder's product had entered market and stuff like that. And that was really where the dominant models for what was happening in gaming ((came from)).

But, not too surprisingly, open systems were advancing faster than the proprietary systems had. There used to be these completely de novo graphics solutions for gaming consoles and they've all been replaced by PC-derived hardware. The openness of the PC as a hardware standard meant that the rate of innovation was way faster. So even though, you would think, that the console guys would have a huge incentive to invest in it, they were unable to be competitive.

Microsoft attempts to exert control over their platform with modern Windows which is met by a year-over-year regression in PC sales; at the same time, PC gaming is the industry hotbed of innovation and it is booming as a result. In a time of declining sales in PC hardware, Steam saw a 76% growth (unclear but it sounds like revenue) from last year.

Valve really believes the industry will shift toward a model with little divide between creator and consumer. The community has been "an order of magnitude" more productive than the actual staff of Team Fortress 2.

Does Valve want to compete with that?

This will only happen with open platforms. Even the consoles, with systems sold under parts and labor costs to exert control, have learned to embrace the indie developer. The next gen consoles market indie developers, prior to launch, seemingly more than the industry behemoths and that includes their own titles. They open their platforms a little bit but it might still not be enough to hold off the slow and steady advance of PC gaming be it through Windows, Linux, or even web standards.

Speaking of which, Linux and web standards are oft criticized because they are fragmented. Gabe Newell, intentionally or unintentionally, claimed proprietary platforms are more fragmented. Open platforms have multiple bodies push and pull the blob but it all tends to flow in the same direction. Proprietary platforms have lean bodies with control over where they can go, just many of them. You have a dominant and a few competing platforms for each sector: phones and tablets, consoles, desktops, and so forth.

He noted each has a web browser and, because the web is an open standard, is the most unified experience across devices of multiple sectors. Open fragmentation is small compared to the gaps between proprietary silos across sectors. ((As a side note: Windows RT is also designed to be one platform for all platforms but, as we have been saying for a while, you would prefer an open alternative to all RT all the time... and, according to the second and third paragraphs of this editorial, it will probably suffer from all of the same problems inherent to proprietary platforms anyway.))

Everybody just sort of automatically assumes that the internet is going to work regardless of wherever they are. There may be pluses or minuses of their specific environment but nobody says, "Oh I'm in an airplane now, I'm going to use a completely different method of accessing data across a network". We think that should be more broadly true as well. That you don't think of touch input or game controllers or living rooms as being things which require a completely different way for users to interact or acquire assets or developers to program or deliver to those targets.

Obviously if that is the direction you are going in, Linux is the most obvious basis for that and none of the proprietary, closed platforms are going to be able to provide that form of grand unification between mobile, living room, and desktop.

Next week we're going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities that we see for bringing Linux into the living room and potentially pointing further down the road to how we can get it even more unified in mobile.

Well, we will certainly be looking forward to next week.

Personally, for almost two years I found it weird how Google, Valve, and Apple (if the longstanding rumors were true) were each pushing for wearable computing, Steam Box/Apple TV/Google TV, and content distribution at the same time. I would not be surprised, in the slightest, for Valve to add media functionality to Steam and Big Picture and secure a spot in the iTunes and Play Store market.

As for how wearables fit in? I could never quite figure that out but it always felt suspicious.

Read on for our transcript of the keynote speech. Bare with us, it is a little bit rough.

Source: LinuxCon

Xi3's SFF PISTON Gaming Console Now Available for Pre-Order

Subject: General Tech | March 27, 2013 - 12:06 AM |
Tagged: Xi3, valve, Steam Box, piston, pc gaming, gaming

It may or may not be Valve's Steam Box, but Xi3 is the closest thing to a small form factor PC gaming console running Steam on the radar so far. The Xi3 PISTON is now up for pre-order with an intended holiday 2013 launch.

The PISTON starts at $899 and increases in price from there depending on the amount of internal storage included. Basic specifications of the Piston include an AMD APU (likely the A10-4600M) clocked at 2.3GHz (3.2GHz turbo), Radeon 7660G processor graphics (384 shaders), 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and a 128GB solid state drive. For an extra $340, Xi3 will swap in a 256GB SSD, and for $750 the company will include a 512GB option. Of course, that would bring the price of the living room TV up to $1649, which is far from cheap.

Xi3 PISTON.jpg

For that kind of money you could build a much more powerful mid tower that could actually run Steam games at 1080p with all the details cranked up. The Xi3 box will be lucky to average 30FPS at 1080p with the latest games. With that said, it is a start and I hope to see continued development of these "Steam Box-esque PCs. Hopefully once mass production, competing options, and economies of scale kick in, consumers will be able to get their hands on cheaper Steam Boxes!

If you can't wait for the official Steam Box, however, you can head over to the Xi3 website to reserve your own PISTON.

Source: Xi3

Steam Box Prototypes Will Reach Developers Within The Next Four Months

Subject: General Tech | March 8, 2013 - 05:26 AM |
Tagged: valve, Steam Box, steam, pc gaming, gaming, console, big picture mode

In talking with the BBC, Valve CEO Gabe Newell revealed several details regarding the company’s upcoming Steam Box gaming PC. The console competitor will go up against Sony’s PlayStation 4 (PS4) and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 successor. So far we know that the Steam Box will utilize Valve’s Steam distribution service and its Big Picture Mode user interface. Valve will be manufacturing its own reference design, but third parties will also be allowed to construct Steam Boxes that will tap into Valve’s gaming library. Xi3 in particular looks to be at least one of the likely Steam Box partners to produce hardware.

Newell indicated that Valve would be sending prototype devices to customers within “the next three to four months.” The designs are not yet finalized, however, as evidenced by Newell’s statement that the prototypes would be used to gather feedback, and Valve is still working on balancing heat, noise, and performance.

“We're working with partners trying to nail down how fast we can make it.” - Gabe Newell in an interview with BBC before receiving an award for Portal 2.

Further, Valve has not yet determined exactly what it wants the controller to be. It will reportedly be shipping several different prototype controllers along with the Steam Box PCs. One area that Newell is particularly interesting in is in gathering bio-metric data -- such as heart rate -- and using that data to change the game experience for the gamer. This would be one area that Valve could focus on and have an advantage over other consoles. As a fully-fledged PC, the Steam Box could tap into existing bio-metrics technology and easily have the horsepower to effectively parse the bio-feedback. I can only think of a few situations in which such data would be useful (horror games, party/dancing/exercise games), but I do see it as being at least as beneficial as the Kinect was/is to the Xbox.

With that said, we still do not know much about the Steam Box. Much like the PS4, we still do not know what the actual hardware will look like (though we have at least been shown the PS4 controller). Pricing is also one of the major unknowns, and BBC reporter Leo Kelion quoted an industry analyst Lewis Ward (IDC) as noting that Valve will likely not be able to subsidize the hardware nearly as much as the other major console players (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) are able to. The Steam Box is inevitably going to be priced more in like with PCs than with consoles, as a result. On the other hand, gamers that buy a Steam Box can look forward to getting games that are much cheaper than the console equivalents. Give Steam Box gamers a couple of Steam holiday sales and they will easily make up the price difference!

What do you expect the Steam Box to be, and will it finally take PC gaming to the masses?

Source: BBC

CES 2013: Valve Announces Steam Box Not Announced in '13

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2013 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: CES, ces 2013, valve, Steam Box

CES opened with excitement from Xi3 Corporation and their announcement of the Piston. When Gabe Newell spoke with Kotaku at the VGAs he said that we would see Big Picture PCs this year. With word that Xi3 received funding from Valve some of us, including myself, wondered if this Piston was Valve’s “Nexus” Steam Box.

Ben Krasnow, hardware engineer at Valve, comments in the video below about whether we have seen Valve’s canonical Steam Box or if there are any planned announcements for 2013.

Thank you Ben.

There seems to be some discrepancies between statements from Krasnow and Valve Managing Director, Gabe Newell. The major deviation concerns whether the official Steam Box will be based on Linux or another operating system. When interviewed by The Verge, Gabe Newell claimed the official box will be based on Linux with no unclear terms:

We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.

Krasnow in an email discussion with Engadget was somewhat more timid in future plans. The Engadget article was published on the same day as the The Verge interview which makes neither position particularly out of date. His statement:

"The box might be linux-based, but it might not," he continued. "It's true that we are beta-testing Left for Dead 2 on Linux, and have also been public about Steam Big Picture Mode. We are also working on virtual and augmented reality hardware, and also have other hardware projects that have not been disclosed yet, but probably will be in 2013."

At the same point this might all become irrelevant very quickly. As reported yesterday, Gabe Newell in the very same interview seemed to strongly suggest that post-Kepler GPUs will bring virtualization to the consumer market. If that is the case, then the only barrier between Linux and Windows would be for a company to provide a user-friendly virtual machine. Having your host operating system as one or the other would not particularly matter if the user could run gaming applications from the other platform.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Engadget

CES 2013: Valve Talks Piston, Better Listen. Steam Box!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | January 8, 2013 - 02:06 PM |
Tagged: Xi3, valve, trinity, Steam Box, ces 2013, CES, amd

Going from a failed Kickstarter to Valve’s premier console? Sounds like a good anecdote to tell.

Valve has finally discussed the Steam Box in more concrete details. Get ready for some analysis; there are a bunch of hidden stories to be told. We will tell them.

Update for clarity: As discussed in IRC technically this was an Xi3 announcement that Valve will have at their booth but not an official Valve announcement. That said, Valve will have it at their booth and Valve funded Xi3.

Another Update for new information: Turns out this is not the Valve-official device. Ben Krasnow, Valve hardware engineer, made a statement that the official Steam Box is not planned to be announced in 2013. What we will see this year is 3rd Party implementations, and that should be it. News story to follow.

ValvePiston.jpg

Image by Engadget

As everyone is reporting, Valve hired out Xi3 Corporation to develop the Steam Box under the codename Piston. Xi3Corporation was founded in 2010 and revealed their first product at CES two years ago. In late September, Xi3 launched an unsuccessful Kickstarter to fund their latest designs: The X7A and the X3A.

The X7A Modular Computer is the most interesting as it seems to be what the Piston is based on. Regardless of the Kickstarter’s failure, Valve still reached out to Xi3 Corporation chequebook in hand. According to the Kickstarter page, the X7A has the following features:

  • 64-Bit Quad-Core x86 processor up to 3.2 GHz with 384 graphics shader cores.
    • My personal best guess is the AMD A10-4600M Trinity APU.
  • 8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 1 TB of “Superfast” Solid State Memory
  • Four USB 3.0
  • Four USB 2.0
  • Four eSATAp
  • Gigabit E
  • 40Watt under load
  • “Under $1000” although that includes 1TB of SSD storage.
    • Also Valve could take a loss, because Steam has no problem with attach rate.

The key piece of information is the 40Watt declaration. According to Engadget who went hands-on with the Valve Piston, it too is rated for 40Watt under load. This means that it is quite likely for the core specifications of the Kickstarter to be very similar to the specifications of the Piston.

Benchmarks for the 7660G have the device running Far Cry 3 on low settings at around 34 FPS as well as Black Ops 2 running on Medium at 42 FPS. That said, with a specific hardware platform to target developers will be able to better optimize.

During the SpikeTV VGAs, Gabe Newell stated in an interview with Kotaku that third parties would also make “Steam Boxes”. They are expected to be available at some point in 2013.

Coverage of CES 2013 is brought to you by AMD!

PC Perspective's CES 2013 coverage is sponsored by AMD.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Engadget