Valve's mini-PC revealed, codenamed Piston

Also emerging from CES is our first look at the oft-rumoured Steam Box, a modular computer designed specifically for Steam and that big-screen TV hangin’ out in your living room. The new device, codenamed “Piston” (geddit?) is created through a partnership between Valve and mini-PC developer Xi3, but both sides of the equation are keeping pretty quiet on the specifics.

Xi3 Modular Computer - is this the Steam Box?

Xi3 Modular Computer – is this the Steam Box?

Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3 explains:

Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3. This new development stage product will allow users to take full-advantage of their large high-definition TV displays for an amazing computer game experience.

As a result, this new system could provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand.

The new Piston build will apparently include up to 1TB of internal storage and optionally upgradable CPU and RAM – we’re guessing it will be something similar to the US$999 Xi3 X7A “Power user and gaming level machine”, described like this in September 2012:

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 (4.27×3.65×3.65-inches) and run on a mere 40Watts of electricity or less.

Piston is being shown off at both Xi3 and Valve booths at CES, where people can check out the in-development device at work on large, high-def displays.

This isn’t Xi3‘s first time in the CES spotlight – the Modular Computer was first revealed at 2011’s showcase, which lead to the 2012 Kickstarter fund. Unfortunately, that effort failed (raising just US$90,771 of US$250,000), but if this really is the fabled SteamBox, the Utah company may well be onto a winner.

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