Get Pumped: PISTON Preordering Open At SXSW

Hey RPSers! I have had three cups of tea, EXCESSIVE amounts of sugar and have bags of energy for news today: and here is the first story I have to report. Xi3 have announced that their apparently “uniquely shaped, grapefruit-size” PISTON, a system optimized for games on high-def television monitors, will be available for preorder at SXSW until the final day at 11:59 p.m. CST on March 17th.

The so-called “Steam box” console – which is a third party effort and certainly not Valve’s own Steam box, which is yet to be revealed – will be available to SXSWers for $100 off the actual, ludicrous $999.99 price.

The press release gives more explanation on why they’ve decided to open early: “Given the amount of awards, media attention and gamer interest the PISTON Console has generated since it was unveiled at CES 2013 in January, we’ve become seriously concerned that we will not be able to meet the demand for PISTON Consoles this year,” said Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3 Corporation. “That’s why we have decided to begin accepting pre-orders on our PISTON Console, beginning today with the start of the SXSW Gaming Expo. Gaming Expo attendees will also get the benefit of being the first to see the PISTON Console in action.”

Jason also added that he thinks the console will give us the best of both PC and console worlds, making it an ideal Thing for us to Own. The console will have 8GB of RAM and a 3.2Ghz Quad Core (R464) processor, as well as a range of SSDs available, and lot of ports for plugging things into it. Quite how this compared to the next set of consoles isn’t clear, but it is at least similar.

I’m sort of disappointed the thing doesn’t actually look like a grapefruit and have all mad leaves on it. I really want it to smell a bit citrusy too.


  1. MuscleHorse says:

    You always just cover it in leaves and squeeze lemon juice over it. It’s what I do.

    • Metalhead9806 says:

      I don’t understand the issue people are having with the price. Its a PC the size of a rubik’s cube.
      Its convenience, i know most will say they can build a PC and just connect it to a HDtv but keep in mind not everyone can keep a gaming PC in the same room as your home entertainment center.

      For me my wife would freak out… so this is a nice alternative. pay a thousand bucks, have a mid range PC that is smaller than a gamecube on my unit.

      • Feferuco says:

        Wouldn’t it be better to get an expensive gaming laptop, it is as portable as it needs to be and better all around. Maybe it’ll come out a few hundred dollars more expensive, maybe a few hundred less, still a better deal way I see it.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        People are having an issue with the price because it’s $999. In that regard, the size is going to be irrelevant to 99% of the consumer base.

      • Tams80 says:

        I’m more annoyed that I won’t be able to pay for one in citrus fruits. I hear it’s because no one can agree on an exchange rate for grapefruits to lemons.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Your wife will freak out if you have a PC on your unit, yeah

      • mattevansc3 says:

        Most Mini ITX cases are that small, there’s one on eBuyer for £50 you can mount on the back of the TV using the TV’s wall mount holes.

      • wererogue says:

        My gaming PC *is* my HTPC. If it’s hooked up to the telly I don’t need to use both at once, and if it’s good enough for gaming it’s certainly good enough for movies.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      They should totally sell scented tags to put inside your computer just in front of the fan. Every time there’s a graphics heavy section, you would get lemony freshness. Of course, that might also lead to pavlovian conditioning, so that every time you smell lemon fragrance you have some kind of post-traumatic hallucination. Seeing an end of game boss trying to throw cars at you in MacDonalds toilets could be funny though.

      (Note: To any pedantic psychology students / psychotherapists, I know Pavlovian conditioning isn’t associated with hallucinations. It was just funnier than having a panic attack on the crapper)

      • JFS says:

        Pavlovian condition as a method can be used to associate anything with everything. So, you don’t even need your disclaimer. Pedants unite.

    • Ashley_Hoskin says:

      my neighbor’s sister-in-law makes $75 every hour on the computer. She has been fired for seven months but last month her pay check was $17720 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this site… link to

  2. P4p3Rc1iP says:

    $1000 is a bit much no? You can buy a decent media centre/game pc AND a TV for that money…

    • Globox says:

      You probably can’t buy a pc for 1000$ having the same size/specs as the Piston.

      • Tyrmot says:

        Apparently it is only running an AMD R464, with the integrated APU graphics.. this is a pretty low-spec machine, for $1000 somewhat underwhelming.

        One feels they are going to have to drop the price significantly to compete with the next-gen consoles, which will be running similar hardware at a lower price.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Hi Tyrmot, do you have a link / source for that? I would be interested to read it. As they are listing it as ‘upgradeable’ I had rather hoped there would at least be a separate graphics card.

          • Knufinke says:

            There is no place for that, the piston is just the case and the modular 3 unit motherboard. So it will be onboard, no matter what. With enought Ram for shared memory it will be enough to play most games on a medium settings.

          • Tyrmot says:

            Sure, I got that off bit-tech: link to -they also state that ‘Using the FS1r2 socket type, it’s also going to be near-impossible to upgrade in the future’ – so no luck on that front either. Honestly, it’s hard to see how they are placing this product, and for $1000 too!

        • RvLeshrac says:

          So $200 for the CPU, $100 for a board, $100 for RAM, $100 for HDD. -40% for the discount they’ll get for wholesale purchases, $700+ in profit.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            They are being sold with SSD’s. Choosing progressively larger HDD sizes jumps the price up unbelievably.

            EDIT: link to Extra $300 for 100 gigs more, so maybe presume the base drive is $300.

        • Cross says:

          “Intel HD Graphics 4000” -> link to

          • Jools says:

            The HD4000 actually isn’t too terrible. I have a MBP (in addition to my regular desktop PC) and I do some light to moderate gaming on it, both in Windows through Bootcamp and in OS X. It’s not great, but it’s an acceptable enough solution that’ll play most things at low to medium settings. The problem is that the Piston’s specs aren’t that much better.

      • breakfastcereal says:

        Of course you can just build a small mATX or ITX PC.

    • Lemming says:

      They should price it just under the price of the latest ipad, IMO. But $1000 is….£671.95. Which isn’t outrageous at all for a PC.

      • Snargelfargen says:

        Yes, the Piston is completely in-line with pricing for pre-built pcs. It’s actually a better deal than most, since the majority of pre-built pcs tend to have fucked up hardware choices either as a cost-saving measure or in an effort to impress the customer with fancy but useless specs.

        To be clear, all pre-built pcs are ripoffs with a 30 to 40% price mark-up. Takes 3-4 hours for a complete newbie to assemble a computer. Subtract that 30% from a pre-built, then decide if your time is worth that amount of money. Or, spend half that on beer and invite a tech savvy friend to help you out in exchange :-)

  3. frame says:

    Why is it called “Steam box”? AFAIK it’s not endorsed at all by Valve. I don’t like this kind of false marketing.

    • AshEnke says:

      There is no mention of neither Steam nor Valve in the press release.
      It’s just the press that seems to think the Piston is the “Steam box” that was hinted by Valve.

      But hey, if this kind of console becomes a next standard, I think the term will become quasi-official.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Valve and Xi3 announced it together at CES.
      link to

      • KevinLew says:

        There’s no way that this is the Steam Box.

        Gabe Newell said just a week ago that Steam Box prototypes would be given to developers in three or four months. So it doesn’t seem to be the actual Steam Box if Xi3 has so many of them ready to roll out that you can buy them online.

        Also, Valve won’t even discuss the official specs of the Steam Box yet. Keeping this a secret doesn’t make a lot of sense if their business partner then just announces the hardware and then anybody with money can just benchmark it at home.

        Finally, it goes without saying that the Steam Box would have a custom Linux kernel with Steam preloaded on it. Otherwise it’s not much of a “Steam Box” and more like “Here’s a half-completed computer–you can finish the rest.”

        • Lars Westergren says:

          It may not be the official “Steam box”, what I was arguing against was “frame”‘s claim that this was false marketing not involving Valve at all.

        • solidsquid says:

          I think Valve said that the SteamBox software was going to be licensed out so other people could run it too. So it might be *a* SteamBox, but it’s not Valve’s SteamBox

        • yrrnn says:

          This isn’t “the” Steam Box, as in the one made by Valve, but Gabe Newell did say there would be plenty of third party alternatives. This is just one of them, and you can choose between it, the official Valve Steam Box, other third party offerings, or you can just make your own gaming htpc and run Steam in Big Picture mode. With so many potential choices for consumers, I don’t think $1000 for a tiny underpowered cube was very smart. They’ll likely make a little bit of money with their huge profit margins off the first few early adopters, and then fade into obscurity.

  4. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    one thousand of your earth dollars is an insane number

    • Mirqy says:

      Nah. A googleplex is an insane number. And sqrt -1 should be considered insane, in my opinion, but I guess mathematicians are more forgiving than me. 1000 seems fairly boring and normal to me.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        googolplex is a crazy number
        googleplex is where lives

  5. Ross Mills says:

    So, it’s a PC then? (“Piston Console” = PC)

    What does it run?

  6. neolith says:

    1k$? That’s a joke, right?

    • Edawan says:

      What did you expect ?

      • neolith says:

        Less. A lot less. I wouldn’t pay that much for a machine just because it is small.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Sorry, I give up, can’t post in the right thread today. :(

        • DyingTickles says:

          Then you are obviously not the target demographic. Just like most people on this site aren’t the target demographic. Or most current PC gamers. It has been stated before that the idea of the “Steam Box” PCs are to get new PC gamers into the fold and help them realize how great PC gaming is. So it’s dressed up and standardized like a console, and made easy to use. It’s a stepping stool to help console gamers become PC gamers.

          • Baines says:

            And it doesn’t look like a regular PC. That’s probably important if you are trying to appeal to non-PC gamers. (Apple even used that approach themselves.)

          • yrrnn says:

            The problem is, it is still way more expensive than average console prices (by at least two or three times!), and underpowered compared to the new generation of consoles (and possibly even the last gen as well with no dedicated gpu). So there aren’t many incentives to buying one other than it being the first “Steambox” to be sold. When you have to make excuses for a product, there is something wrong.

  7. Brosepholis says:

    This just reinforces the (partially justified) opinion of console gamers that PC gaming is too expensive. It’s got all of the disadvantages of consoles (custom form factor = huge expense) and none of the advantages (still using openGL rather than a lower level API)

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      The only reason that’s true is because console manufacturers sell their units initially at a loss until they either get enough die-shrink and/or economies of scale allow them to manufacture the units at a more competitive cost. This is why it’s in their interests to prolong each generation of hardware for as long as possible.

      PC hardware manufacturers are never going to do this for obvious reasons.

  8. Solidstate89 says:

    I’d just like to say in advance that if anyone shells out 1,000 dollars for this anemic hardware, you are a jackass.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      People have been paying similar amounts (if not more) for years for Apple hardware of similarly anaemic specs.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      Alternatively, they may have different priorities from you. For instance placing a lot of value on a small form factor and an attractive design, and also valuing the spare time it would take to research and assemble their own more than they do the difference in money.

      I’m tempted by this, but it is a bit on the expensive side for me.

      • All is Well says:

        Thank you Lars.

        No one will be a jackass for buying this, and no one is a jackass for buying Apple products or whatever. I’m not the least bit interested in this particular box, but it would be silly to suggest my preferences are more valid than another’s.

      • Knufinke says:

        Yeah, if you’re going for raw power this hardware isn’t for you. And yes you can probably build a system for that 999$ that surpases the pistons cababilities by far. But it won’t be the size of a rubics cube nor will it be that easy to setup.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        I’ve seen better SFF computers than this. I stand by my original assertion.

        link to

        • Lars Westergren says:

          That is a lot less attractive design, and also a bit larger. Again, you value price and performance. Other people value design, a small size and convenience. Saying they are jackasses for having different priorities in life is like someone who likes strawberry icecream declaring that all chocolate lovers are jackasses.

          • MrUnimport says:

            What about somebody who is willing to pay a massive premium for any piece of hardware that starts with a P? Is it safe to suggest that preferences based on utility or aesthetics outrank THAT?

  9. SuperNashwanPower says:

    CARAAAAA Urm, I don’t think you had quite enough tea:

    “Xi3 will showcase “live” gameplay on alpha versions of its PISTON Console at the 2013 SXSW Gaming Expo in Xi3’s booth (#400). Additionally, Xi3 is slated to deliver a “live” on-stage presentation at the Gaming Expo on Saturday, March 9 beginning at 7 p.m.”

    Any news on specs from that, or footage of the face melting wonderfulness of getting PISTON? (Arf. Snigger)

    • Ignorant Texan says:

      It’s a wee bit cold down here to be drinking tea. Definitely coffee weather. Oh, you mean *GASP* hot tea.

  10. amateurviking says:

    So are we adding grapefruit to the list of SI units alongside double-decker buses and football pitches?

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Engineer right here :)

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I believe it’s an abbreviation for “decimetre”, like “micron” is for “micrometre”.

      In other news, I’m drinking decimetre juice right now, which is among the most wonderful beverages in the world.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Yes, but sadly Americans will refuse to use the metric grapefruit that the rest of the world uses.

    • Koozer says:

      I have a pretty good idea how long a metre is, but no idea how big a football pitch is. Newsreaders hate me.

  11. Uncompetative says:

    Anything to avoid using Windows.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Yes, it’s a great excuse to waste money on poor hardware.

    • boe2 says:

      Because you need an overpriced small form factor pc to avoid windows. Obviously.

  12. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    This is a stalking horse for valve, the mistakes Piston makes and the problems consumers have with it will be used to inform the Steambox’s design.

    The price is contentious but if Valve / Xi3 can really emphasise how much cheaper games on PC and what a huge catalogue there is available at such a low price it may be less of a stumbling block. We’ll see.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      As long as people are associating the PISTON with the Steambox (like they have been with every piece I’ve seen on this news item so far), it’s going to be a bigger stumbling block than Valve will be able to cross over. Charging $1,000 for a sub-powered lemon like this is going to set an unavoidable prejudgement in the minds of consumers.

  13. PopeRatzo says:

    Can it run Crysis 3?

  14. snv says:

    c’t THE professional computer magazine in germany has build a steam box for 400€ link to

    Don’t know all the specs, but 400€ for a custom build HTPC seems plausible. Mass produced it should be lower, and thats why a steam box should not cost more than that.

  15. PoulWrist says:

    This device is … nonsensical. An Android pen-format PC covers the same bases this device does, and for 1/10th the price at that.

    A Rikomagic 802IIIs, or equivalent. is able to run android 3D games, the fidelity of which will be about equal/better to what you can pull out of the Piston at 1920×1080. It also handles all the same things, like streaming media content via netflix or a dlna source.

    Why would you ever buy this Piston thing? It sits at a price/performance range that is completely out of whack with anything that it competes against.

    I recommend not buying it, you would only be disappointed.

  16. Sander Bos says:

    Wow, they really go out of their way to make sure nobody can make heads or tails of the specs. So it could well be a lemon as they themselves describe it.

    But it still doesn’t look that bad to me. I get the feeling the 899 piston would get me a separate video card (a ‘7000 class with at least 384 shaders’ no less, so it might be a Radeon HD 7660D which is just twice as fast as an HD4000 ivy bridge Intel embedded GPU according to, and then the vesa mount option makes it really easy to hide the box.
    I am not really a HTPC guy, is that a standard option to mount your small PC to your monitor because that’s a great idea.

    But what is worrying is that this is a preorder to be delivered before the holiday season, and I don’t think they mean Easter. So by that time the hardware will be even older, and Haswell will be available in many devices by then which is promising great improvements in energy usage and on board graphics.

  17. Rian Snuff says:

    Well.. If the final actual retail price isn’t below 600 this is gunna’ flop.

    No chance in hell this is worth 900+.
    That will hurt so much.

    • frightlever says:

      This is a specialised PC. It’ll only “flop” if they get caught with unsold inventory. Given that they’ve been making this tiny computers for quite a while already I doubt that’ll happen. THIS isn’t a mass market device, nor is it remotely essential if you just want to play Steam games on your telly.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Longevity in the hardware business doesn’t necessarily equate with success. If the PISTON sells more than 5,000 units over its lifetime, I’ll eat my hat.

  18. poohbear says:

    I don’t get why its so expensive? AMD quad-core cpu is $150, 8GB DDR3 RAM is $45, any AMD midrange motherboard is $80, 128gb SSD is $100 so that’s $375 from for ME or any buyer, i’m sure they get a massive wholesale discount which would amount to ATLEAST -30% off retail, so that’s $255 in the end. Why is it $999?????

  19. Thermal Ions says:

    “Given the amount of awards, media attention and gamer interest the PISTON Console has generated since it was unveiled at CES 2013 in January, we’ve become seriously concerned that we will not be able to meet the demand for PISTON Consoles this year,”

    OR, the more likely situation

    “We are really worried that our competitors in the so-called ‘Steam Box’ market will undercut us massively in price, so we need to firm up all our pre-orders now before they launch to ensure we don’t over produce the Piston and are left with a huge stock of unsold grapefruit sized lemons”

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Will they be combustible? Then they can hand them back.

  20. Strutter says:

    It still looks cool. Look at it.

  21. Lemming says:

    Thank you for not putting ‘Steam Box’ in the article title to get hits….unlike Kotaku ¬_¬

  22. frightlever says:

    Alienware isn’t exactly cheap but you get a lot more bang for your buck with an X51:

    link to

    • Moraven says:

      And people say that also for Macs, but you are not paying for the power. You are paying for the design and size and anything else they may add to it to make it stand out.

  23. Moraven says:

    I would be curious to see the inside of this.

    Is it a custom board? Is it even upgradable? Or is it like Macs and Laptops where everything is integrated to save on space? These are the things that will make us understand better why the high price. Custom model like laptops tend to have premium pricing over your desktop.

    And assuming the SSD is a standard 2.5 inch size… how the hell is it $340 more when I upgrade from a 128GB to 256GB. A high end 256GB SSD is $250.

    • Lars Westergren says:

      > Is it a custom board? Is it even upgradable?

      Yes and yes.
      link to

      • Moraven says:

        Hmmm ok.

        I kinda wish they well the longer style like other consoles. You do not have to worry about a DVD/BluRay drive which saves on a lot of space and making sure it works in either orientation. Seems they would have more flexibility and being able to price it cheaper.

        Seems they are hoping to be first to the door and being a “Steam Box” will net them sales until the cheaper better options are available.

  24. El_Duderino says:

    The design of that case is really not my cup of tea, and given that the hardware is underwhelming to say the least, meh. If I didn’t just plug my laptop into my TV for gaming I’d much rather have a stylish htpc case that fit in well with the rest of my A/V stuff. Not sure it will see a lot of sales with that kind of starting price.

  25. Urthman says:

    It pays for itself if you buy 20 games that are $60 on console for $20 or less at a Steam sale (assuming you’re a console person who is afraid of buying a real PC).

    • derbefrier says:

      yep a lot of people, especially console gamers, don’t consider that when talking about the expense of PC gaming. Yeah the start up cost of getting into PC gaming can be quite a bit more than a console but if you are one of those gamers that buys tons of games. It will pay for itself within a year just from steam sales. Its much better than that scam gamestop pulls with their trade ins and hell if the speculation is to be believed buying used games may be a thing of the past soon enough anyway since the second hand market takes a huge chunk of business away from publishers and developers. I keep hearing whispers some of the next gen consoles will use an activation of some sort much like PC games though nothing concrete has come out about it as far as I know.

  26. guygodbois00 says:

    No. Thank you very much, but I’m doing very well with my PC of yore.

  27. RockandGrohl says:

    I feel like they could have done better if they eschewed size for more performance. If it was about the same size as a PS3 slim or 360 then they could get 2 laptop HDD’s in there (one SSD, one for storage) and then could even work on getting parts that don’t need to be so small, so they could be more powerful / cheaper.

  28. zeekthegeek says:

    The specs in this thing are fairly close to what the PS4 console toy is. And I will eat my hat if Sony charges more than $500 for that.

  29. fish99 says:

    Put a dedicated GPU in it and maybe I would see the point, although that price point would still be too high.

    I fancy in a years time there will be cheaper steamboxes with GPUs.

  30. Chorltonwheelie says:

    I can’t balance my printer on top of it. I can’t keep important little odds and sods (recently taken passport photos, spare car keys, pen drive etc) in the bottom of it. I can’t keep my kids baby shoes on top of its PSU.

    It is bobbins.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I like the word gash, which is apparently another British Military term for “not very good”. More favoured by the Scots I believe however. Along with ‘pish’

  31. Mudlab says:

    This is just another attempt at those ultra-portable “LAN Boxes” from a couple years ago. Meh.

  32. hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

    Hey cool, I live in Austin! It’s a shame I’m well below the poverty line, and could never dream of getting one.

  33. Toupee says:

    I have many questions.

    Is Xi3 pioneering a new form factor that motherboard companies are free to use, or will it be limited to proprietary Xi3 offerings? For that matter, what about the graphics card, the RAM? Are internal upgrades even possible, or will this thing look like some crazy octopus a few years down the line? Will any SSD work and is it easy to change? (Since that seems to be the only customizable piece on the order page.) Does it run Windows, Linux?

    Regardless, the price point does answer at least one question: It’s almost a thousand bucks and packs a hefty punch for being the size of a Gamecube. People who are super excited about that probably aren’t as worried about upgrading it as we are.

  34. Megakoresh says:

    1K for a PC which I can’t upgrade for 300 in 3 years and get back on the line with all the best games have to offer? Why would I want that? It’s like buying a mac for gaming.
    My PC cost 1300€ 3 years ago. I can still play most games on high or better and all i need to upgrade is my GPU for around 300€. That Steambox will in 3 years be simply obsolete.