Here’s a bit of massively ground breaking news coming out of the Las Vegas CES show. Prior to that, it’s played out in many ways over the last 6 months, during which I have felt like a tennis ball being slammed back and forth between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

The madness on which I am reporting is the on-again, off-again news linked to Valve’s Steam-powered game console for the living room. Just a few months back we published a piece on their new Big Picture mode of their Steam digital distribution service. Turns out Big Picture was just the icing on the Steam-filled cake–the software pitch, if you will. The hardware is aiming more for a grand slam. Said hardware, is still in question. But CES today produced an additional wrinkle to this ever-reticulating mystery. Valve has teamed with PC maker Xi3 to infuse their Steam platform in Xi3′s new bite-sized PC, known currently as “Piston”.

Is this the Steam Box we’ve been speculating over? It’s hard to tell. When Polygon interviewed the fine folks at Xi3, it was stated Valve was an investor (and undoubtedly also a consultant) in this new PC endeavor. So the plot thickens on Steam Box. So about this tiny Steam-ready PC?

We have some specs listed below and a codename – “X7a”. We know, while tiny, the system can be upgraded with an amazing modular motherboard mechanic. It will run Windows 8, Linux and Unix. But particulars like the GPU used and the amount of VRAM are essential nutritional supplements for the ravenous gamer. We did note the Piston supports 4k display resolutions up to 4096 x 2160. So expect a GPU solution at least capable of supporting that next-gen res.

Xi3 Piston X7a Specifications

  • A quad-core 64-bit, x86-based 32nm processor running at up to 3.2GHz (with 4MB of Level2 Cache)
  • An integrated graphics processor (GPU) containing up to 384 programmable graphics cores (or shaders)
  • 4GB-8GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 64GB-1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage (with up to 12Gbps throughput speeds)
  • Three display ports providing maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 (including one DisplayPort v1.2 and * 2 Mini-DisplayPorts v1.2)
  • Four eSATAp 3.0 ports
  • Four USB 3.0 ports
  • Four USB 2.0 ports
  • 1Gb Ethernet port
  • Three audio ports (1 input and 2 outputs: 1 copper and 1 optical)

The Xi3 Piston X7a PC game console thingy is set to launch as early as Februar 2013. Starting price: $1100.

Shawn Sanders

Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.