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.

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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.

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Source: Engadget
January 8, 2013 | 03:14 PM - Posted by Luke (not verified)

Will something tangible or better yet useful come from valve funding their own hardware or allowing third party vendors to sell a "steam box"? I understand games or software can become finely tuned when the hardware changes are minimal, however I can also see third parties slapping on a "steam certified" sticker with no advantages pass along for the consumer/enthusiast.

(Keep up the great work Guys.)

January 8, 2013 | 03:41 PM - Posted by Scott Michaud

There really is no solid answer to that question yet. If Valve makes "Nexus"-like products then it could be setting bars for developers to optimize to which other products could match + differentiate.

That said, what we need most these days seems to be RAM.

January 8, 2013 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'd bank on the 1TB being a hybrid HDD and not completely solid state.

January 8, 2013 | 04:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Can't edit, but Gdgt specs list it as being a platter drive.

http://gdgt.com/xi3/piston/specs/

January 8, 2013 | 05:16 PM - Posted by MarkT (not verified)

Get this...............Valve gets the game makers to specialize in this hardware right....well u buy your own super steam rig and get better/if not better results then a say .....Intel/Nivida rig.....

January 8, 2013 | 08:41 PM - Posted by ThorAxe

I doubt games will be optimized for this particular hardware configuration.

GPU Drivers may get some focus but can anyone really see Activision, EA and Ubisoft developing games specifically for a STEAM Box? Espcially when they have their own platforms like Origin.

January 8, 2013 | 09:04 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

with the ps4 being rumored to contain an amd apu inside, and much of the consumer pc market being filled with similiar apus, using this to optimize would be more of an aid to developers than an issue from steams profits raising

January 9, 2013 | 09:04 AM - Posted by Erich (not verified)

There's too much emphasis on the "tiny" form factor, seemingly to the exclusion of all else - especially future-proofed performance.

This little cube is already struggling with modern PC games on Low settings. And I agree that it will never get "optimized" games. Console developers do this only because they have to.

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