Valve and Xi3 create Piston, a pint-sized PC that runs the latest games


If you’ve been reading HP Fansite for a while, you know that I have a passion in seeing high performance hardware and gaming. And sometimes it’s good to break the monotony of talking about everything HP and discuss some other things happening in the tech industry. At CES 2013, there already has been plenty of exciting news: Intel talking about their latest Haswell processors, AMD launching new processors and Radeon 8000 series graphics cards, the Nvidia Shield handheld console and of course, the huge amount of product launches by HP, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and other big names.

Right up there in the big news section is Valve’s upcoming living room PC. For years, the living rooms of consumers have been dominated by consoles like the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii if they wanted to play games. And this year, Valve is about to foray into the ‘gaming with controllers’ market with their own hardware (or at least hardware with the help of Xi3). If they play their cards right against the 3 present elephants in the room, they have the potential to shake up the market and, at the very least, create an incentive for other developers to care about the PC platform more, instead of creating shoddy console ports (admittedly those ports have gotten better in the last 2 years but are a long way from the time when games were crafted in a more dedicated manner for PC).

The Piston ‘Steam Box’ by Xi3 is the first of the multiple hardware prototypes Valve has in mind for releasing a Steam-powered living room gaming machine. It’s remarkable because it’s the size of a small cube that can be held in one hand, yet its form-factor does not hinder it from sporting a quad core processor, ample DDR3 RAM, up to 1 TB of storage and AMD Radeon dedicated mobile graphics. It’s like a laptop in a box without the screen, yet it’s also not because the Piston employs a modular design which allows for easy access and upgrading of components. And unlike consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation which use proprietary solutions and software, the fact that Valve’s Steam Box will run on top of Linux means it probably won’t be limited to certain hardware configurations and it won’t be ‘stuck in the past’ as the years pass because you can upgrade the innards.

The Piston is certainly a true marvel because it’s so small yet it employs all the modern-day solutions and great design that enables it to be fairly future proof. This offers a glimmer of hope for putting consumers back in the driver’s seat, instead of companies dictating and fixing hardware configurations for consumers. As for those other yet-to-be-announced prototypes of various Steam Box designs, lets hope they will also employ small form factor, modular designs that offer the best of both the PC and console worlds.

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