Saturday, March 9, 2013

Xi3 Piston is a Steambox, Also Ridiculous

The 'Steambox' has been a thing that we've heard about time and time again, but always in sort of vague terms and ideas, never really anything concrete.  Despite -a- Steambox (not 'the', which is an important distinction) being more or less firmly announced and priced and such, that....has not changed much surprisingly.  It's kind of astounding, really, the nebulous nature with which this whole idea has been approached, and it sort of makes sense on the Valve side of things, since they always kind of play things close to the vest, but for anyone else?  They really just don't have the clout or the weight behind them to just toss out a few things, slap a pricetag on it and expect the masses to roll in.  To do so is, honestly, kind of arrogant and foolish.

I say all that because, of course, it is pretty much what Xi3 has more or less done here.  The "Piston" modular computer that has been leveraged as a Steambox through a partnership with Valve has been sort of semi-announced for a little while now, but was put up for pre-order yesterday...for $999.  I would do the whole "US DOLLARS" thing, but let's face it, you already did that in your head when you read it and this is just making you do it again.  Possibly a third time since the first two times were just you making sure you read correctly.  You did.  For $1,000, you can have a tiny little computer meant specifically to interface with Steam and Big Picture Mode so you can run your Steam library through your TV in a way that is, presumably, comfortable.  It should look glorious too.  Well....maybe.

The thing I was saying before, about not really having many details to work off of, well, this is where that comes in.  We know how much the thing -costs-, but we don't know what's inside of it which is kind of the important thing, especially with a computer.  Especially if you're looking to pre-order a computer for some reason.  (The reason right now would be to knock $100 off the still-ridiculous price)  Yet, all that we readily know is that the standard model comes with a 128 Gig Solid State Drive (versus a traditional Hard Drive), 8 Gigs of RAM (that I assume is standard RAM, and not the flashy, awesome kind in the PS4) and a 3.2 Ghz Quad Core processor which -sounds- impressive if nothing else (since it probably isn't).  I don't really know what those things -mean-, per se, but I am told that it's not very impressive.  Combine that with the complete lack of Video Card disclosure, which I know -is- important for gaming, and the fact that if you want more storage space, 256 Gig and 512 Gig models are available for $1,339 and $1,749 respectively, and 'wary' is an understatement for what we should be feeling here.

Those are really all the specs we know about, or at least, the specs -I- could find.  The partnership link above had a little blurb about the specs, but it's a little suspect.
As we envision our new X7A Modular Computer, we see it powered by a new Quad-Core 64-bit, x86-based processor running at up to 3.2GHz, integrated with up to 384 graphics shader cores, and 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and able to handle graphics-rich computer games like Crysis 2 with ease. The X7A Modular Computer will also run 3 high-definition monitors simultaneously, has four USB 3.0/2.0 ports, four eSATAp ports, four USB 2.0 ports, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, and up to 1TB of super fast solid-state storage inside the chassis, making it perfect for gamers and power users alike. And yet the X7A Modular Computer will be housed in a chassis about the size of a softball (4.27x3.65x3.65-inches) and run on a mere 40Watts of electricity or less. We expect the X7A Modular Computer to begin shipping in early 2013 with a price starting at under $1,000. All within a chassis you can hold in the palm of your hand!
For one, that blurb is for the X7A Computer which is, apparently, a separate product.  I think.  The official Xi3 website is just a mess of rhetoric that doesn't really go into a whole lot of details about anything.  But the products area still lists an X7A where the pre-order page is for, specifically, the Piston PISTON Console.  As we have established, actually no model that they're selling offers 'up to' 1TB of SSD space (Not even like a super-premium $2,499 model) and the rest of that is things that they don't bother to tell anyone anywhere else.  I mean, perhaps I'm just calling dirty pool because of that, but without a spec-sheet anywhere I can't help -but- to do that.  Besides, as I said, my 'people who know computers' don't seem very impressed with what -is- definite, so I'm not quite sure what else could be inside of the PISTON to make it a 'powerhouse' that warrants that $999 pricetag.

The unfortunate thing about all this is that, as stated, this is -a- Steambox which I'm sure is already being depicted as the Steambox in some media outlets out there.  That's surely going to cause quite a bit of confusion since the official Valve Steambox is not even in a "public prototype" phase.  A lot of the draw of the concept is that it's something that will be easy to get into and be an alternative for folks that don't necessarily have computer know-how (like myself), but if there's going to be this kind of premium associated with it, then I (and others) will just continue to steer clear.  It puts Valve on an even more precarious position now since this $999 figure is out there for a device -like- the one they're making and even if Valve comes out with something that's decidedly more reasonable, cost-wise, this will still exist and thus be compared to it.  "Why is this so much more expensive if it does the same thing?" and the like.  From the proliferation of Apple products compared to cheaper, more sensible things that do the same thing, people don't really understand the whole concept of "cost versus value".

At the same time, it's hard to tell when the 'official' Steambox will even be out, and who knows what the market and climate will look like then.  It won't accommodate another $999 Steambox, assuredly, but I would think that something from Valve wouldn't come at that much of a premium.  But in terms of confidence and attitude, what with Xi3's efforts already out there, it could be a rough sell for those who don't voraciously serve the Newell.  I hope to have -something- in the form of a laptop that will play games by the time this will come out, at any rate, so either Steambox probably won't appeal to me, but it's always something to take a look out for, certainly.

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