Do You Want To Get Piston?

John made me write that headline. And he was encouraged by Jim, who responded with an “arf”. RPS: the site that writes about the biggest things to happen in PC gaming with references to wee wee. And wee it is. Piston that is, the surprise announcement from PC makers Xi3 and Valve that they’re building a tiny, modular PC together. It was such a surprise that when Nathan wrote about it, all we knew was the name, the companies involved, and that the thing is small enough to be held in your hand. But I have more information and a video below. You’ll see just how small it is, and gasp as I did. It’s like the kitten of the PC world.

It’s not until the Xi3’s CMO David Politis grasps the thing that you can appreciate just how small it is. He holds it in one hand, and can easily swap out its base components in seconds. Watch him show off his baby to Machinima.

Piston has eight USB slots (four 2.0, four 3.0), four eSATA slots, two Mini Display Port ports, and an HDMI port in a modular PC. The motherboard is broken into three smaller pieces, with each section providing separate components to the PC. The pieces connect at the edges, forming a box shape. The biggest surprise is there appears to be only two wires in whole PC. It looks to me like there’ll be an external power source.

The company’s current high-end PC, the X7A, which features up to a 3.2GHz quad-core processor with 4 to 8GB of RAM and at least 64Gb of SSD storage, though it can manage 1 terabyte. Looking at the machine in his hand, I’ve no idea where any of those drives will fit. No news on the power of the graphics cards, but it is integrated. I suspect it’s not the best. The lowest of those specs is expected to be around $1100, and the details are worryingly vague. Intel vs AMD is still important to everyone. Anyway, I’ve dug up a few more videos, showing off the innards off.

First up, the motherboard.

Next, how it all slots together.

Nathan’s already asked the sort of questions that this move begs, so I’ll refrain from repeating them. Instead I’d like to know what relationship you have with your home PC. Do you build? Would something that gives up your ability to control every component while simplifying the building process appeal to you?

You want more tech than that? More tech than you can handle? Richard “Digital Foundry” Leadbetter’s got some of his hot scoop over at EG.


  1. fish99 says:

    I don’t get it. It’s unnecessarily small, and therefore too expensive, and it doesn’t have nearly enough storage for anyones steam library. I don’t get who it’s for, are there really that many people who go to LANs regularly, but are unwilling to drag their PC along? If it’s going under your TV it could have been much bigger, cheaper and have some decent storage. I’m guessing it’s also not as powerful as my desktop, so it’s not going to appeal to desktop gamers like me.

    To me this doesn’t feel like a ‘steam box’ as such. I get that Valve have invested, and see it as an interesting project, but if this was a steam box there’d be a big Valve announcement, and it’d have some Valve logos and the word ‘steam’ on it somewhere. It’s a cool mini PC with a limited audience.

  2. Runs With Foxes says:

    Advantages of a PC:
    – Power
    – Openness
    – Flexibility
    – Versatility

    Advantages of a Piston:
    – None of the above

    Not sure why PC-focused sites like RPS aren’t being more critical of stuff like this. This trend towards making PCs more and more like consoles is what will kill PC gaming, because eventually there will be no difference. The future in which you play games on one machine from one manufacturer streaming from the cloud all your games which you don’t own is not an appealing one to me. But that future is coming, tragically welcomed by those who claim to defend PC gaming. What a sad end.

    • newprince says:

      Exactly. The PC is strong as it is, it has resisted fads that have come and gone because of its form factor, modularity, and extensible nature. The crowd that has to get a new tablet every 2 years is not the market to chase.

  3. Michael Fogg says:

    They should use the song A New Level by Pantera for advertising,

    “Got spat on, PISTON, fucked with, pointed at by lesser men!”

  4. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    I love how soon after my post about playing Dark Souls II on a Steambox both of those things got announced. Ya’ll are welcome, everyone!!

    Or, I guess, if you hate the idea of Piston, I am sorry!

  5. RagingLion says:

    This could be a thing that would make me consider building my own PC and actually believe in replacing components – still haven’t been ready to make that leap yet.

  6. zeekthegeek says:

    Keep in mind folks: this isn’t THE Steambox. Valve have since made that very clear. This is just Valve investing some money in a company wanting to make some small boxes.

  7. Rapzid says:

    Nope, and here is a bit of reasoning.

    First of all. I’m typing this to you from my computer desk on my keyboard and the occasional assistance of my mouse. I do not have a mouse, keyboard, and computer desk sitting in the middle of my living room. This is where I play PC games.

    I already own a PC. If I want to play steam games, I’ll play them on my computer. I don’t need to purchase an insanely expensive little box to play indie games on Linux. I rock Windows on my desktop and that’s where ALL the titles are. My current computer also has discreet graphics; what has this thing got that makes it worth over 1k USD? It’s small? Cool. It’s 2013 though and people have been cramming 5-years-ago-powerfull hardware into small form factors for decades. If it were the size of my iPhone it still wouldn’t make sense for me to purchase. If it were a singularity and the video and audio signals were magicked to my peripherals, it still would not make sense for me to purchase. It doesn’t seem to make sense as a gaming system to me… And the Raspberry Pi makes more sense as a media device.

    Those are my thoughts anyway.

  8. chuckles73 says:

    $1,100 for integrated graphics trying to compete with consoles? No thank you.