There is a lot of innovation right now in the non-major gaming console market both from mobile platforms as from companies such as Valve looking to put forth their own platforms. Perhaps the biggest innovation is the new trend towards commodity hardware running Linux, Android or iOS. For example, with Valve’s Steam Machines, one can simply buy the machine and install SteamOS to get going. Xi3 announced the PISTON game console back at CES 2013. When they announced the device, little was known about how it would work, what it would cost, and when it would be available. On Monday, Xi3 answered those questions.
What is the Xi3 PISTON Console?
In basic terms, the PISTON console is a gaming computer that can run any of the major operating systems. It has gaming level specifications in a relatively small enclosure. On Monday, Xi3 announced the final specifications of the shipping product:
- 128GB of SSD Storage (with up to 1TB of potential storage with a second SSD Slot)
- Special hardware to look for and prioritize gaming Internet traffic
- Quad-Core x86 processor running at 3.2GHz.
- 8GB of DDR3 RAM and Discreet graphics that can run up to 3 monitors
The PISTON will be available in the United States on November 29th, and will be priced at $999.
For those wondering what’s inside this modular architecture, here is an example we took apart at CES this year:
What’s So Great About the PISTON Console?
The PISTON console, unlike an XBOX or Playstation can be easily upgraded. Either by buying the next year’s hardware or simply upgrading one of the component boards. Similar gaming PCs, which you would have to build yourself, could potentially cost well over the $1000 mark so the price is not completely out of line. Further, Xi3 has a custom form factor that is relatively small, put together more like a miniature version of the new Mac Pro.
This console is obviously meant to run PC games, but is even more interesting with the announcement last Monday of SteamOS. SteamOS, which is Linux based, should have no problems running on this hardware. With the SteamOS installed on the PISTON, you will have a solid selection of downloadable games and compatibility with the brand new Steam controller, which was announced on Friday. What’s really great about it, however, is that since it’s running a PC architecture, you can choose what OS you want to run on it, so you’re not limited to just one type of game ecosystem. This means that you can get it to work with almost any peripheral component including VR headsets and controllers.
Other details from this week’s announcement
In addition to announcing the availability date and the extra memory potential, Xi3 also announced that every console will come with a few games preloaded, though no info was given as to what games those will be. They also announced that the console will be able to prioritize its own network traffic to make sure that multiplayer gaming runs smoothly.
The announcement on Monday was more about availability than any revolutionary new feature, but the extra storage and prioritized networking setup will be great for gamers. The company seems to know that gamers love customizability. Giving them a small form factor gaming PC that can be used as a traditional computer or in the living room might prove very popular. With the console market as crowded as it is, coming out and calling this a console may not be the best move, especially priced at 2 times the price of an Xbox One.