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The Piston living room PC costs $1000, launching Holiday 2013
March 11, 2013 | By Mike Rose

March 11, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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    27 comments
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Video



Pricing details have emerged for a new games platform that aims to bring the PC games you make into players' living rooms.

The Xi3 Corporation opened up pre-orders for its Linux-based Piston game PC [UPDATE: Xi3 has since clarified the system ships with Windows, not Linux] over the weekend, and revealed new details about the hardware. The living room PC, first revealed at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, currently costs $899.99 to pre-order, although the price will rise to $999.99 after March 17.

That base price will get you a 128GB solid state hard drive. The 256GB model costs $340 extra, and the 512GB version is $750 extra. All three models are expected to launch to the public during the 2013 holiday season.

The Piston is part of a larger movement in making PC games more TV-friendly. It's the first third-party "unofficial" iteration of Valve Software's "Steam Box. Valve is currently developing its own version internally.

In a recent GDC survey, 45 percent of respondents expressed interest in developing games for TV-connected PC-based game consoles.

Xi3 provided some added details about the device too: The Piston will have 8GB of RAM, and a 3.2GHz quad-core AMD accelerated processing unit. It'll come with a Radeon 7000-series GPU, and support up to three monitors simultaneously.

The user interface for the Piston has also been revealed, as the video below from Polygon shows. The company says that the menu system will be fully customizable, allowing users to select exactly which programs are booted up for each separate media type.



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Comments


Maria Jayne
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$1000 cube? ouch, that seems to fit squarely in the limbo between the console and the PC market, both of which can get cheaper or better performance with their respective choices. I'm typing this on a 2 year old pc I bought for £600 and this is still more powerful.

I'm also not sure I understand why there are quad core mobile phones that are much cheaper and smaller than this, and they come with all the functionality you need to operate them out of the box.

David OConnor
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I'm puzzled, if the price is so high, what is the advantage of this system over a PC?

Bob Johnson
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Small form factor and quiet operation would be advantages.

Keith Thomson
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Not much at all. The PS4 on the other hand is significantly more powerful than this thing, and will probably be half the price or less. You could probably get an A10-4600M laptop for $700 and it'd be just as quiet and nearly as fast.

Emmanuel Navarro
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Small form factor (fits in your average TV unit/stand) and user friendly interface.

John Woznack
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The 512GB version will cost $1649.99.

Pure insanity, IMHO.

A W
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"Xi3 provided some added details about the device too: The Piston will have 8GB of RAM, and a 3.2GHz quad-core AMD accelerated processing unit."

So do we still believe that the PS4 will come in at $400.00 with a HDD?

Eric Pobirs
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Different business models. Xi3 needs to make money on the hardware. They don't get a piece of the action on the software sold. A console maker exclusively produces media for their console at a profit and gets a royalty on top of that. The situation is different for download sales from something like XBLA but still very lucrative and the heart of how Nintendo was able to revive the console business after the crash took down the companies that had no provision for profiting from third party products.

Sony will have a huge capital investment in the PS4 that a small company like Xi3 couldn't dream of mustering. This allows Sony to take a significant loss on each machine until the installed base is sufficient to allow the level of software sales needed to generate profits on the whole venture. A commitment of a least three years if everything goes right. Something like a RROD fiasco can easily cost a year or more of net revenue if it doesn't sink the product entirely.

Duong Nguyen
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Sony probably put in 1+ billion dollars in R&D in collaboration with AMD and numerous other hardware vendors for the PS4, so I'm guessing they can build a more powerful all in once consoles than the Xi3 and at a better price point.. Same for Microsoft and the new Xbox.

Duong Nguyen
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@ Christian economics of scale and R&D don't work that way. They spent that money so they can produce a device more powerful than the Xi3 for lower cost by creating custom system on chips. Also the big console players expect to recoup their investment over 5-6 years vs Xi3 which probably has to have immediate profitability if they want to stay in business. Now if Sony decided to sell the PS4 for just 1 year then yes there is probably no way they can recoup that investment at a likely price point of 400$..

Christopher Thigpen
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A grand huh?

Well, let me go ahead and buy 3-5 different systems for that price and when I come back around in a year, I will see if this company still exists. A grand for a system. Pffffft.

Michael Brodeur
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It's an interesting concept: providing a television-friendly interface for PC hardware. The price is too high, though. : /

Glenn Sturgeon
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I'd rather use up the space i have for the past 15 years having a mid tower in my living room for much less money & alot more hardware flexability. If the normal valve steambox comes out at near that price point its dead in the water at launch vs the consoles.

Merc Hoffner
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At the end of the day if you want to build powerful devices in compact spaces then the advances and efficiency have to come from the architecture, chemistry and stepping of the chips. No amount of clever industrial design or motherboard manipulation or cooling trickery can make x86 and high end GPUs magically low power if Intel and Nvidea (and AMD) can't be bothered to figure it out. Maybe it's unfiguroutable. But the Wii U's MCM and the PS4's single die high end SOC probably do more to shrink the power/watt and the cooling overhead/power than anyone without access to the design and foundry process could ever dream. It's a billion dollar investment or no dice. A customised rig built from off the shelf parts is an expensive oxymoron.

Eric Pobirs
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That would make more sense if 1) we had a PS4 box and dimensions to use for comparison, and 2) if this product were not using an APU that is directly related to that in the PS4 but with only half the cores.

Nintendo gets a small package by using dated technology at a fairly recent process node, and it's a safe bet that the PS4 at launch will substantially larger than the Wii U even if it doesn't have the bulk of the first PS3 model.

There is a simple approach to building ultra compact devices and that is underclocking. HTPCs have used this for a long time but typically forsake the high-end 3D performance desired by gamers in favor of video playback quality while minimizing active cooling. It isn't that Intel, AMD, and Nvidia cannot be bothered. It is that you cannot change the laws of physics.

One example of a might have been scenario is the original Xbox. It ran a 733 MHz Pentium III CPU. That processor eventual ran at speeds of 1.4 GHz after some die shrinks but ULV versions aimed at ultralite notebooks were produced. If Microsoft had not had their problems with Nvidia and sought to do a smaller, quieter Xbox, the P-III that could run with passive cooling at 733 MHz would have been readily available. Intel wasn't interested in doing a serious amount of customization but there were options. ULV is useful for more than just battery life.

Keith Thomson
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The APU in this thing isn't related at all to the PS4's cpu. The PS4 has a 8 core Jaguar running at 1.6-1.8ghz, while this is a 4 core Piledriver at 3.2ghz. The biggest place the PS4 has an advantage is the GPU, using a speedy 7970M with 2 of the compute units disabled, while this one is an older generation GPU rebranded as a 7660D at about 1/3rd the gflops. The Jaguar 8-core probably has as good of floating point performance (though I haven't seen any benchmarks,) and slightly less on integer performance than the Piledriver 4 core. The memory bandwidth on the PS4 should be significantly higher than the A10-5800k as well.

As for the size of the PS4... They're using a low power CPU combined with a laptop GPU. It's probably going to use less than 100 watts for the APU and not need nearly the cooling that the PS3 had at launch. I'm expecting it to be the same size as the first generation PS3 Slim myself.

Eric Pobirs
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So where did Xi3 get their pricing model for flash memory? Sony? The stated prices are an absurd premium to pay for a little box. I'd gladly trade a bit of bulk for a more reasonable price.

Keith Thomson
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More like Apple. Sony's flash prices are cheap by comparison.

Ruthaniel van-den-Naar
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Nothing special, this is other cube, similar pc are already available. Difference is linux, but now maybe 3% of all Steam games are ported on linux, so this is dead end, or we should wait.

Kujel Selsuru
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I don't see many people outside of the valve fatihful buy the steam box, even less for this version.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

John Flush
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Wow. I think the price point just killed this. It definitely took it out of the mainstream market - which to development these days means it is pretty much dead on arrival.

Kevin Fishburne
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This makes me nothing but sad. It's nice and all, and many will want one, but as has been stated by others the price point is brutal. Brains and hair on the wall brutal.

Ian Uniacke
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Who green lit this? So utterly ridiculous and unsustainable. Did they do even a moments market research?

If this is the best you can do then lounge room pcs should give up now. Hopefully a cheaper alternative can be made but unless it's massively cheaper this is a dead end for gaming.

Steven An
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Hum I am puzzled. I can understand charging a premium for the non-techie crowd, but that much? Like double the price of a console? 10x the price of AppleTV? I don't get it.

David OConnor
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I like Valve, but I'm really baffled by the pricing. I assumed that they would be coming in at a competitive level (less than half this price).

For less money, I can go out and buy a much better-spec and expandable system, which dual boots Linux and Windows. Heck, if I build it myself, I can save a LOT of money.

Ok, so what I buy/build won't be so small. So, is 'small' the key selling point of the Piston?

Paulo Mendonca
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$1000? Have I ever told you the definition of insanity?


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