Piston Has Three Boards For Hardware Upgrades

By Ishaan . March 11, 2013 . 12:20pm

Xi3 Corporation’s upcoming Piston PC-meets-console hybrid aims to combine the open-ended nature of the PC with a smaller, portable form factor and custom UI that’s comparable to that of a game console.


Using the UI, Piston users will be able to access game services like Steam, as well as services for movies and music.


Custom UI aside, Piston will come with the Windows OS (although Xi3 haven’t announced which version of Windows), essentially making it capable of functioning like a regular PC that you can play games on. That begs the question: how will hardware upgrades work? We got in touch with Xi3 to ask.


“As we have stated before, the Piston Console is based upon the forthcoming X7A Modular Computer that we have previously announced. As such the Piston Console is also at its core a modular computer and has been designed to be readily updatable, upgradeable and modifiable,” Xi3’s Chief Marketing Officer, David Politis, replied to Siliconera in an e-mail. Politis elaborated:


“This starts with the ability to mod the external metal casing with customized artwork and/or to exchange it for a new casing of a different color or pattern. And it extends to all internal pieces, including the:


  • Processor Board (the middle of the three boards in the tri-board layout),
  • Primary I/O Board (the board containing the majority of the I/O ports and holding the SSD),
  • Secondary I/O Board (the board containing video ports and the power connector and on/off button),
  • The APU itself (the integrated processor and GPU), which is possible because the APU is socketed into place and not soldered, and
  • The RAM


“As new technologies are introduced into the marketplace (USB, eSATA, video standards/ports, etc.), we will evaluate these, and as we feel appropriate, we will create new Boards that will be available for purchase by our customers. This also holds true for new RAM and APUs.


“We may also allow other companies to create their own I/O Boards (if the opportunity makes sense to all involved).”


Xi3 Corporation are looking to have the grapefruit-sized Piston out in time for the 2013 holiday season. Prices will start at $1,000, although pre-ordering a Piston before March 17th will knock $100 off the price.


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  • gerald

    Still not sure whether this is the Steambox, or if Valve dropped their brand name from it, or if all reports are wrong and the Steambox is something else entirely… but either way, these overpriced PC-console hybrids are a joke, if not an insult to gamers.

    • This is not the official “Steambox”. Valve will be releasing their own Steambox with Linux installed on it (although, you will be able to put Windows on there yourself) sometime this year.

      This is a separate Steam-optimized PC/console hybrid (ie; “Steambox” in that sense of the term) being developed by a third-party company that Valve have invested in. But it isn’t the same as Valve’s own Steambox.

      • gerald

        That sounds like Valve distancing themselves from this in case it’s a disaster. Why would they invest in what would be a direct competitor to their supposedly different Steambox? They’d also need a third-party manufacturer either way, and this is the only one that’s had Valve’s name tied to it.

        • They were always going to be doing their own Steambox, so that’s really no surprise. If anything, them investing in Xi3 shows that they do see something worthwhile in the company.

  • idrawrobots

    Okay, I kind of want this.

    • Wanting and affording are two different things.

      Course, I bet there’d be loads lined up to buy this thing if this came with TF2 Hats.

    • Testsubject909


      I’m curious why. I’d actually enjoy hearing why you’d want this.

      • idrawrobots

        I am very intrigued by this whole Steambox thing, I want to get one or maybe an Ouya. This is cool looking, and it would easily allow me to do what I want in the realm of pc gaming, But perhaps someone will make one that is a little bigger and a little cheaper, something that will fit on tv stand nicely next to my xbox, ps3 and Wii U.

  • Tenshiken

    I’ll stick with the PlayStation 4 for now, thanks.

    • DarthDiggler

      Interesting, I thought Gabe would shed Windows for Linux.

  • Pyrotek85

    I can’t say I’m not interested at all since I’m building a new box for gaming in the next few months, but I really need to know what kind of CPU/GPU it’ll have and what it’s capable of. I’m not going to pay that kind of money if I have to settle for medium settings on new games.

  • Suicunesol

    So to upgrade this computer, you have to buy Xi3 Corporation branded cards rather than any old processor or ram stick. No buying corei7s and putting them in there. You have to buy the Xi3 modular card version of the i7… which will probably cost quite a lot. This goes for RAM too. If I’m assuming correctly, only ram sticks from Xi3 Corp will go into this machine.

    I should’ve known because of the machine’s size… but this makes me very cautious.

    • Pyrotek85

      I don’t know why it has to be so small. It could be 2-3 times as big and be able to fit standard components, and it would still be tiny for a desktop computer.

      • Tsunamori Nanashi

        because they want to give it the “handleability”, if that’s even a word, of a gaming console, making it the size of a regular PC tower would defeat the purpose of the SteamBox

        • Pyrotek85

          Yeah, but they’re saying it’s the size of a grapefruit. Now how big would a device with the volume of 2 or 3 of those grapefruits be? Still pretty small, like a Shuttle computer chassis or something, but it’d be large enough to fit standard components in. It would still be near the size of consoles, which I understand is important to them.

          In it’s current form it’s a fraction of that size, and from the reading I’ve done the integrated cpu/gpu is maybe on par with the PS3/360, except it’s really expensive.

  • TheDarkEmpress

    I’m simply not seeing the practicality in purchasing this over a standard PC…I can essentially build an upgradeable platform that outshines this PC easily in every regard for half the price with all subsequent upgrades GUARANTEED to be cheaper.

    All of these people that are pushing the overall size to me as a reason are simply not reaching me. Has anyone heard of a micro atx mobo and case? Understandably not as small as this unit but…why does that even matter? My buddy comes over all the time with his mid-tower and we don’t have a problem…you can fit a mini tower in a backpack…honestly how much more portability do you need? I’m sorry but for the price point there is absolutely nothing about this machine that justifies it. Grapefruit-sized or not, don’t make me laugh.

    • Pyrotek85

      Yup, as I said below you can make a pretty small LAN-party style mini tower without crippling your upgrade options. It’s a cute box I’ll give them that, but with proprietary boards for upgrades it’s basically another console, not a PC that’s known for flexibility.

    • This lol^

    • Testsubject909

      I’d argue: “You want portability? Just… get yourself a good laptop.”

      If they argue using a TV monitor, I’d argue “Then… if you’re going to have yourself bound to a large monitor, why not just a regular PC?”

      To which anything else they’d say would most likely be easily dismissed.

      • Sunbro

        Comparing to PC:
        -Upgrading is more approachable to regular people.
        -Portable, you can walk from your living room to your room with it, take it to a friends house or to work.
        -It’s interface it’s made to run with joysticks
        -It’s 2 or 3 times more expensive

        Comparing to Notebook:
        -Upgrading it’s even easier compared to notebooks
        -Unnecessary hardware unused during gameplay can be disconnected and save energy (As keyboard and touch pad in certain games)
        -Smaller and Lighter
        -It’s 1,5 or 2 times more expensive
        -Can’t run on places without a monitor or a tv.
        -Doesn’t have internal batteries

        Comparing to Console:
        -Upgrading is possible
        -Multifunctional for work/gaming/slacking as it’s a computer
        -Multifunctionalty costs processing power
        -It’s 1.5 more expensive
        -Infinite array of joysticks to choose from
        -Games are able to install non-official mods and patches
        -Digital Distribution from more than one source.

        They wouldn’t throw something in the market without any reason to be sold. They are not stupid. Like any new product is has it’s pros and cons.

        • Tom_Phoenix

          “They wouldn’t throw something in the market without any reason to be sold.”

          Well, nobody does, but that doesn’t mean that the reason is good and/or well thought-out.

  • NimbusStev

    And people freaked out when the PS3 was $600. Who is going to buy this? If you have $1000 to blow, why not just build an actual PC?

    • Testsubject909

      At 1000$ I could pre-order a PS4 AND build myself a decent PC that can run just about everything.

  • Bob Stockalockapoulos

    Hot diggity, a grand? Shoot, I’d rather buy myself a PS4 and get off my butt and build myself a decent PC. If the Piston was half that price, I’d see the value in it. Laziness knows no bounds!

    But not for one thousand.

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