Valve-backed living room PC system debuts at CES 2013

Tuesday, 8 January 2013 01:32 GMT By Staff

Valve and Xi3 will today show off a modular computer designed for Steam and the big screen TV in your living room – a “Steambox”, in other words.

The hardware was developed by Xi3 but financially backed by Valve. It’s not ready for launch yet, and Xi3 is calling the hardware shown at CES 2013 a “development stage” product. But there’s a picture of the chassis available; it’s said to be the size of a grapefruit. Check it out below.

The new product hasn’t got an official name yet, but has been codenamed “Piston”, and is designed specifically for Steam and its Big Picture mode, with Xi3 making specific reference to home use as well as LAN parties.

“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. 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 CEO Jason A. Sullivan said.

The modular computer will be on show at Valve’s CES 2013 booth, but beyond a mention of Valve’s investment, Xi3 has declined to give further comment on the two companies collaboration.

Although the press release specifically mentioned that no technical details would be provided right now, Xi3 marketing officer David Politis told Polygon that it is similar to the X7A line in both specifications and likely price – so about $1,000.

It will have up to 1TB of internal storage and allow for component upgrades such as RAM and even CPU, coupling the console-like convenience of standardised hardware with PC future proofing.

Polygon reports from the CES 2013 showfloor that the prototype Piston on show had HDMI out, two mini display ports, four USB 2.0 ports including one dedicated to a keyboard, four USB 3.0 ports, ethernet, four eSATAp ports, and both optical and bog standard audio out.

It’s not clear if this is the hardware referenced in yesterday’s reports of a Linux-based Steambox to debut in 2013.

Valve told Polygon the firm will be meeting with hardware and content developers to show “multiple” custom hardware prototypes during CES 2013.

“Valve will be at CES to meet with hardware and content developers in our booth space,” Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi said. “We are bringing multiple custom prototypes as well as some off-the-shelf PCs to our CES meetings.”

The prototypes were described by Lombardi as “low-cost, high-performance designs for the living room that are great candidates for Steam and Big Picture,” with more information released to the press and public “in the coming months.”