Xi3's big announcement first teased on Friday is that the Piston Mini PC will be made available on November 29, 2013. The company originally opened the doors for pre-purchasing back in March, asking PC gamers to sink $999 into the easily modifiable system. Currently there's no mention of this device serving as an official Steam Machine, but the company said Piston will ship with a bundle of pre-installed games.
On Monday the company said that in addition to the installed 128 GB SSD, a second SSD connector has been added to the original Piston specs, allowing owners to cram up to 1 TB of SATA 3 (6 Gbps) storage inside the little gaming rig. The Piston also now includes a second SD card slot for even more storage, and an Ethernet controller that can recognize and prioritize PC gaming to help speed up response times. Xi3 said additional details will be provided soon.
The Piston Mini PC features a grapefruit-sized, matte black aluminum chassis with chrome trim, measuring 4 inches square. What's interesting here is that the announcement not only arrives after Valve revealed its Steam Machines initiative all last week, but AMD's own "Hawaii" GPU announcement and the Mantle API. The processor card that ships with Piston includes a quad-core AMD "Trinity" chip clocked at 3.2 GHz and a Radeon Series GPU, indicating that this Piston box will play into AMD's big scheme of connecting PC gamers and console gamers.
The AMD tech also means Piston will be capable of resolutions up to 4096 x 2160, and displaying content on three simultaneous displays. As previously stated, Piston has a modular design providing not only the processor card, but two I/O cards. That means owners can simply pull out one of the cards when it's time to upgrade rather than wait another seven years for a complete hardware set.
"Some games just play better under certain circumstances," reads the new product page. "We get it. That’s why the PISTON Console gives you three ways to play. Kick back on your couch with a controller if you want. Immerse yourself in the game with a mouse and keyboard at the desk if that’s more your style. In fact, if a virtual reality peripheral is your thing, then go right ahead. Since the PISTON works in any setting, we’re going to give you a nice sampler of pre-loaded games to play. The PISTON Console is the only console on the market that caters to any gamer’s preference."
As to whether Piston is an actual Steam Machine, the company's official FAQ provides this statement: "Xi3 has never described its PISTON Console (PC) as the Steam box or a Steam Box, especially since it appears that Steam Box is a term created by journalists and not by Valve. To be clear, however, PISTON Console owners will be able to access and play games on/through Steam since it is a Web-based platform open to anyone with an Internet connection and a Steam account, either on a Windows- or a Linux-based system. So in this regard, PISTON could be considered the first commercially available Steam Box."
Alright, so if Piston comes with pre-installed games, what OS will be shipped on Black Friday? "It’s a bit premature to answer this question, especially since few details have been disclosed about the SteamOS," the FAQ states. "However, according to the SteamOS announcement page, the SteamOS will '. . . run on any living room machine'. Therefore, SteamOS should be able to run on PISTON Consoles (PCs) as well, but we’ll have to wait until SteamOS is available to confirm this."
The new product page for Piston can be found here. The page to pre-purchase Piston for $999 will be available here when xi3 gets it up and running again (it's down for the moment). Additional Piston details will be released between now and Nov. 29. Meanwhile, Xi3 customers who pre-ordered a Piston mini-rig during or before the SXSW 2013 Gaming Expo will receive their device on or before November 15, 2013.
All the SteamOS, Steambox, Steam Machine, Steam Controller news so far: