Valve's Gabe Newell made some vague comments late last year about having a part in the development of living-room friendly PC packages, and the rumor mill was flooded with speculation. Valve today gave more specifics to those claims at CES 2013 with a small device revealed by hardware developer, Xi3 Corporation.
Engadget got a first look at the neat design and capabilities of what is currently called the "Piston," a mini-PC with a heat-resistant, aluminum chassis and a 1TB hard drive. Backed by Valve, the tiny computer is meant to run on the Steam platform with Big Picture Mode and packs a presumably powerful punch with a quad-core AMD APU, although the spec details have mostly been kept under wraps. The Piston will reportedly work somewhat like normal PCs, with a modular motherboard that allows for components to be exchanged for the latest and greatest.
Xi3 ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign last October for these modular PCs, and the company has been developing the devices with all of the trappings of a regular PC. The X7A Modular Computer, "designed specifically for gamers, engineers and power users," runs on 40W of power, much like the Piston, and features 64GB - 1TB of internal solid-state SSD storage. The X7A sports a GPU rather than an APU, and a max of 8GB RAM with support for a resolution of up to 4096x2160. The tech specs of the Piston are not completely clear, but considering Valve is the main investor, I expect they'll be somewhat similar to, if not better than, the X7A.
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